On Aug. 25, 2006, NBC Executive Producer Jeff Fagan poked his head into the dressing room at CBS studios.
“Good luck, you’ve come a long way to get here. You’ve earned it,” he said to Byron Pitts.
Pitts was about to make his first on-camera studio open for the CBS News Broadcast “60 Minutes.” Pitts thought to himself, “if only Fagan knew.” His mind flashed back to elementary school, when a therapist informed his mother, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Pitts, your son cannot read.
Known for his thought-provoking coverage and his commitment to exceptional storytelling, Byron Pitts is a multiple Emmy Award-winning journalist. As chief national correspondent for “CBS Evening News” with Katie Couric, Pitts was an embedded reporter covering the Iraq War and was recognized for his work under fire. Pitts was also CBS’ lead correspondent at ground zero immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks and won an Emmy for his coverage. A news veteran with over 20 years of experience, other major stories include the war in Afghanistan, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the military buildup in Kuwait and the refugee crisis in Kosovo, to name but a few. Pitts realized a lifelong goal when he was named a contributing correspondent to CBS’ “60 Minutes” in 2009.
Pitts will share how his faith saw him through his many struggles and how a few key people “stepped out on nothing” to help him change his life at 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 20 in the Clement Auditorium on campus at Austin Peay State University. His talk is free and open to the public. His memoir, “Step Out On Nothing: How Family and Faith Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges,” released in 2009, will be available for sale, and he will conduct a book signing following his talk. His memoir was praised by “60 Minutes” Correspondent Lesly Stahl as “truly moving.” Katie Couric also praised Pitts’ work, saying, “No wonder he is such an inspired storyteller—his own story is inspiring.”
Pitts’ many achievements are all the more extraordinary when he tells of the many obstacles he faced as a child.
Raised by a single mother in a working class neighborhood in Baltimore, Pitts was illiterate until the age of 12 and had a persistent stutter. Capitalizing on his desire to play football, his mother mandated he receive Bs or above in school in order to play. With that focus, Pitts learned to read and went on to attend Ohio Wesleyan University. With the help of his roommate and a college professor, Pitts found the support and encouragement necessary to pursue a career in broadcast journalism, a field that demands excellence in writing and speaking. By staying focused, setting simple and achievable goals and finding strength in faith, Pitts overcame his powerful odds and his disability. He graduated in 1982 with a B.A. in journalism and speech communication.
Pitts has won several prestigious awards including a national Emmy Award for his coverage of the Chicago train wreck of 1999, a National Association of Black Journalists Award and second national Emmy Award for individual reporting of Sept. 11. He is also the recipient of four Associated Press awards and six regional Emmy Awards.
Pitts lives with his wife in Upper Montclair, N.J.
For more information about Pitt’s speaking event, call the APSU Office of Student Affairs at 931-221-7341.