*Byron Pitts was born on October 21, 1960 in Baltimore, Maryland where he was raised by a single-mom who saved to send him to Catholic school on a modest seamstress’ salary, despite the fact that they were churchgoing Baptists.
Although he would eventually embark on an enviable career on TV as a well-respected news journalist, Byron had to overcome illiteracy and a host of other seemingly-insurmountable childhood challenges en route to turning himself into a great success story.
That admirable endeavor was intimately recounted in his revealing memoir “Step Out on Nothing,” a best seller which earned the #2 spot on my annual Top Ten Black Books list.
Earlier this year, he became the heir apparent to Ed Bradley’s coveted spot on 60 Minutes when CBS named him a contributing correspondent to the long-running, television newsmagazine. Byron lives in New Jersey with his wife, Lyne, and their 6 children, and recently sat down to speak with me about his new job, his autobiography, his faith and his family.
Robertson Treatment: I’m going to start off with a question from children’s book author Irene Smalls. She says in many ways yours is a true rags-to-riches story. What guidance can you offer young people today?
Byron Pitts: I think there’s real value in remaining optimistic and in having a plan for your life. I was raised to believe that strength only comes through struggle, and in seeing obstacles as stepping-stones, as teachable moments. By asking, what can I learn to improve myself from this experience? That’s a sphere of optimism I got from my mother
RT: How did you overcome the obstacle of illiteracy? What did you do to rebuild your self-esteem?
BP: A remedial reading program in East Baltimore that broke things down for me so I could grasp them in small bites. I think that reinforces the need for the kinds of resources you mentioned in your earlier question which should be made available to young people at an early age. In terms of rebuilding my self-esteem, my mother and immediate family deserve a great deal of credit for that. They were always supportive and kind, and knew the power of laughter as a real ointment to heal what hurts you.
RT: we are a part of something much greater than ourselves. If this is true, when did you discover this truth and what has it meant to your success?
BP: That’s a great question. I’m sure that I became fully aware of that by my 40s. That’s something that became clear to me as I was working on the book. It took so many people investing in me for me to do the things I’ve been able to achieve. And I’m very mindful of the few gifts that I’ve been given and of the value in sharing them with others. When I think about my journey, learning to read was certainly huge. Learning not to stutter was incredibly important, as was coming to understand the power of prayer and having a family which was incredibly supportive. If you take away any one of those things or one of about 50 others, would I be where I am now? I tend to doubt it.
RT: shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report illustrate a convergence and permeability of news, entertainment, politics and marketing called “discursive integration.” She wants to know, if you think this confluence will have more of a positive or negative impact on news in the future?
BP: Great question! It concerns me, because there is a generation of people growing up who think that shows like The Colbert Report are news programs. While what they do is entertaining, I wouldn’t consider it covering the news. There’s certainly a place for what they do in our great society, but there should also a place for people to find the sober truth about what happened today.
RT: how we can achieve greater integrity in journalism today?
BP: I think accountability is important, that news organizations should be held accountable by their readers, listeners and viewers. And I believe it speaks to the value of having more diverse voices, of people bringing different life experiences to news organizations.
RT: Aspiring actor Tommy Russell asks, as a black man who is also a very public figure, do you think black male celebrities, entertainers, sports figures and politicians get treated more harshly for their transgressions and mistakes than others?
BP: I was raised to believe that much is required of those to whom much has been given. I think anyone in a position of importance has a responsibility to carry themselves in a certain way.
RT: Tommy continues with, since the election of Barack Obama, do you think America has entered a post-racial period in our history?
BP: No. I think race still matters in our country, although perhaps not as much as it used to. I think race, class and ethnicity are things that still matter.
RT: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
BP: No, but my all-time favorite question is, what’s the one thing in life you know for sure?
RT: Okay, what’s the one thing in life you know for sure?
BP: That God is good.
BEST BETS – Home Entertainment “Hurt Locker”
Although I didn’t screen this film when it was in the theatre because of reservations about another Iraqi War film, the buzz around Hurt Locker is well-deserved. Like another great war film, “Black Hawk Down,” this film does deliver some well-executed tense moments. It also benefits from solid acting and cinematography that really underscores the drama that American. Anthony Mackie as Sergeant JT Sanborn delivers an especially strong performance that should earn him an Oscar nomination. – B+
2009 Dodge Journey
After a long travel day I finally made it to Washington DC’s National Airport. Totally exhausted and ready to complete the last leg of my journey, I was ready to get into a smart and reliable car, which is exactly what I found with the Dodge Journey.
Wow Factor: From its smooth exterior, roomy interior space and solid on the road handling, the Dodge Journey satisfied all of my driving needs during a series of test drives that took me from DC to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and back.
Ride: Outfitted with a V6 engine, a solid transmission and superior shock system, the Dodge Journey was able to handle both big city and open road drives with ease. My ride had great responsive steering and equally responsive brakes, which provided me with good confidence on the road.
Comfort: I made several 100+ mile drives in the Dodge Journey and must report that my rides benefited from ssupportive seats and ample headroom and legroom for my 6ft 4inch frame. . Another plus were the control gauges that were large and generally easy to read. However, the greatest asset of this ride is undoubtedly its storage space, which in my ride included an under-cushion front-passenger seat compartment, two good sized storage compartments in the second row, and a large, deep storage tray beneath the rear load floor
Spin Control: The Dodge Journey provided me with a supremely functional ride that delivered on all of my expectations. Starting with its on-the-road reliability, competitive gas mileage and affordable price tag, it should have great drivers across various demos.
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