RIP Anthony Lewis

March 27, 2013|By Dave Rosenthal

I was saddened to read the obituaries for Anthony Lewis, the Pultizer Prize-winning reporter, columnist and author.

He may be most familiar for his decades of work at the New York Times. But his book, "Gideon's Trumpet," was one of the first -- and best -- examples of literary journalism, which has flourished in the half-century that has followed its publication.

In classic story-telling style, it explored a landmark Supreme Court case that granted legal representation to the poor, and was a forerunner of more current works such as Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" or Rebecca Skloot's "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." As Yale Kamisar, an authority on criminal procedure, noted in the New York Times obituary, “There must have been tens of thousands of college students who got it as a graduation gift before going off to law school.” I'd recommend it to anyone who cares about the craft of non-fiction writing.

As an aspiring journalist myself, I was lucky enough to audit a course that Lewis taught on media law at Harvard Law School. He was very gracious in giving me a spot in a class that provided lessons I still draw upon. As a teacher, he was smart, incisive and entertaining. I vividly remember him standing and lecturing in front of the rows of seated students, reviewing major cases such as the fight over the Pentagon Papers or New York Times v. Sulllivan, a landmark in libel law.


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