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IU School of Journalism

Last modified: Monday, August 25, 2008

Elizabeth Gilbert, Nina Totenberg and Leonard Downie to speak at IU Journalism lecture series

All lectures free and open to the public

Aug. 25, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A broadcast journalist widely respected for her coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court and legal affairs, a magazine and book writer who is one of Time magazine's "100 most influential people in the world" and the former executive editor of the Washington Post will speak at the Indiana University School of Journalism's fall speaker series.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Photo by: Deborah Lopez

Elizabeth Gilbert

Print-Quality Photo

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of several acclaimed books, including "Eat, Pray, Love (Viking, 2006)," will speak at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 8, at the IU Auditorium, 1211 E. Seventh St.

Nina Totenberg, National Public Radio's legal affairs correspondent, will speak a week later at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 16 at the IU Audtorium.

Leonard Downie, executive editor of the Washington Post since 1991, will wrap up the series with a presentation at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 28, at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., in downtown Bloomington.

All of the lectures are free and open to the public.

Here is more information about each speaker:

Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert has been called a "rock star author" by Oprah Winfrey, and Annie Proulx called her "a writer of incandescent talent." A New York Magazine editor calls her the "Queen of Quirk," and goes on to say, "She has an awful lot of humor and charm, and she's one of those few writers who writes the way she talks."

Gilbert is most famous for her recent book "Eat, Pray, Love," the story of the year she spent traveling around the world in search of personal restoration after a difficult divorce. The result is a book which has exploded in popularity with women across the planet. Published in more than 30 languages with more than 4.7 million copies in print, "Eat, Pray, Love" is embraced as warmly by critics as by readers.

Hailing from an educated, ascetic rural Connecticut upbringing, Gilbert came to her writing career with fearless reporting skills and an abiding appreciation for working-class values. Her journalism during the years has been published in a variety of publications including Harper's Bazaar and The New York Times Magazine, but it was her work for Spin Magazine that caught the eye of the editors at Gentlemen's Quarterly, who featured a run of her colorful profiles and stories that eventually turned into books and movies.

Her first article for GQ, "The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon," chronicled her experience as a waitress at the New York City bar of the same name, and was the basis for the 2000 motion picture, "Coyote Ugly."

Gilbert also is the author of four books. Her first, a collection of short stories, "Pilgrims (1998)," was a New York Times Most Notable Book and a finalist for the PEN-Hemingway Award. This was followed by the novel "Stern Men (2000)" and the critically acclaimed "The Last American Man (2002)," a nonfiction account of the back-to-basics woodsman Eustace Conway.

Nominated for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, "The Last American Man" compellingly explores America's long-standing intrigue with a luxury-free, pioneer lifestyle. But it was "Eat, Pray, Love" -- Gilbert's fourth book and first memoir -- which contributed to her being named this year as one of the 100 "Most Influential People in the World" by Time magazine.

Nina Totenberg

Totenberg has been with National Public Radio since 1975 and appears regularly on its three newsmagazines, "All Things Considered," "Morning Edition" and "Weekend Edition." Her NPR coverage of the Supreme Court has brought her widespread recognition, and she also appears on "Inside Washington," a syndicated public affairs program produced in the nation's capitol.

Nina Totenberg

Nina Totenberg

Print-Quality Photo

In 1991, her ground-breaking report about University of Oklahoma Law Professor Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment by Judge Clarence Thomas led the Senate Judiciary Committee to re-open Thomas's Supreme Court confirmation hearings to consider Hill's charges. NPR received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for its gavel-to-gavel coverage -- anchored by Totenberg -- of both the original hearings and the inquiry into Hill's allegations, and for Totenberg's reports and exclusive interview with Hill.

That same coverage earned Totenberg additional awards, among them: the Long Island University George Polk Award for excellence in journalism; the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for investigative reporting; the Carr Van Anda Award from the Scripps School of Journalism; and the Joan S. Barone Award for excellence in Washington-based national affairs/public policy reporting, which also acknowledged her coverage of Justice Thurgood Marshall's retirement.

She has been Broadcaster of the Year and in 1998 became the first radio journalist to receive the Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcasting from the National Press Foundation. She is also the recipient of the American Judicature Society's first-ever award honoring a career body of work in the field of journalism and the law.

In 1988, Totenberg won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for her coverage of Supreme Court nominations. The jurors of the award stated, "Ms. Totenberg broke the story of Judge (Douglas) Ginsburg's use of marijuana, raising issues of changing social values and credibility with careful perspective under deadline pressure." She also has been honored seven times by the American Bar Association for continued excellence in legal reporting.

Leonard Downie

Downie has spent nearly his entire journalism career at the Washington Post, which he joined as a summer intern in 1964. Prior to becoming executive editor in 1991, he was the paper's managing editor the previous seven years. He is stepping down as the paper's top editor on Sept. 8 and will become a Post Co. vice president at large, a title also held by his predecessor as editor, Ben Bradlee.

Leonard Downie

Leonard Downie

Print-Quality Photo

Early in his career at the Post, Downie became a well-known local investigative reporter, specializing in crime, courts, housing and urban affairs. His reporting won him two Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild Front Page awards, The American Bar Association Gavel Award for legal reporting and the John Hancock Award for excellent business and financial writing.

He worked on the paper's metropolitan staff as a reporter and editor for 15 years, and ran the staff as assistant managing editor for metropolitan news from 1974 until 1979. As deputy metropolitan editor, he supervised the Post's Watergate coverage. In 1979, he was named London correspondent, and three years later returned to Washington as national editor.

In 1984, he became managing editor. Downie also is a director of The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service.

In 1971-72 he spent a year on leave from the Post on an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship, studying urban problems in the United States and Europe.

He led the newsroom to 25 Pulitzer Prizes, including three gold medals for public service. The list includes a 2005 prize for disclosing the existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe used to interrogate terror suspects, despite a White House meeting at which President Bush asked that the story be killed.

Downie is the author of four books: "Justice Denied (1971)," "Mortgage on America (1974)," "The New Muckrakers (1976)," a study of investigative reporting; and (with Robert G. Kaiser) "The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril (2002)." He was also a major contributor to "Ten Blocks from the White House: Anatomy of the Washington Riots of 1968," a Washington Post book. In 2003, "The News About the News" won the Goldsmith Award from the Joan Shorenstein Center at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

For more information, please visit the School of Journalism's Web site at