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Leonard Downie Jr., who led The Washington Post to 25 Pulitzer Prizes during his 17 years as executive editor, will be the Flinn Foundation Centennial Lecturer this fall at Arizona State University.
Downie will spend a week at ASU in October, one month after stepping down from the Post. He will deliver the Flinn Foundation Centennial Lecture on Oct. 16 at the Galvin Playhouse on the Tempe campus and will visit with students and professors during the week.
“The Flinn Centennial Lecture was established to bring some of the world’s most influential intellects to ASU’s campus,” said Dean Mark Jacobs of the Barrett Honors College. “Len Downie’s remarkable record at the helm of one of the world’s best newspapers makes him a perfect choice for this lectureship.”
The lecture series was established in 1985 by the Flinn Foundation to commemorate ASU’s 100th year. Past Centennial lecturers include journalists Anna Quindlen, David Halberstam and James Fallows and playwrights Edward Albee and Susan Sontag as well as scientists, diplomats, poets and legal scholars.
“I'm looking forward to delivering the Flinn Centennial Lecture and visiting with students and faculty at Arizona State,” Downie said. “With the November election only a few weeks away, it will be a good time to discuss the political, national security and economic challenges facing the nation as well as the news media’s crucial role in keeping Americans informed while the media are facing stiff challenges of their own.”
A graduate of Ohio State University, Downie started at The Washington Post as a summer intern in 1964. He emerged as an award-winning local investigative reporter and began moving up the editorial ranks. He helped supervise the Post’s groundbreaking Watergate coverage as deputy metro editor and later worked as assistant managing editor, London correspondent and national editor. After serving as managing editor for seven years under executive editor Ben Bradlee, he was named Bradlee’s successor in 1991.
Downie announced his retirement last month shortly after his paper won a record six Pulitzer Prizes.
During his week at ASU, Downie will meet with students and faculty across the university, including the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, which is home to three other journalists who led their newspapers as the top editor: Tim McGuire (Minneapolis Star Tribune), the Frank Russell Chair in Journalism; Rick Rodriguez (Sacramento Bee), the Carnegie Professor of Journalism; and N. Christian Anderson (Orange County Register), the Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professor in Journalism Ethics.
“I can’t think of anyone better to talk with aspiring young journalists about the importance of in-depth, investigative and highly objective reporting,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “Len Downie has led the remarkable journalists of The Washington Post in producing that kind of journalism for many years, and he will be an inspiration to our students.”
Downie is the author of four non-fiction books, including “The News about the News” with Robert G. Kaiser. His first novel, “The Rules of the Game,” will be published in January.