Journalist and author Eyal Press, who has made a career of writing about controversy and moral dilemma, will give a speech titled “Telling the Story That Divides Us” Tuesday night on the campus of SUNY New Paltz.
With two successful books under his belt and dozens of articles published, Press’s work concentrates on controversial social issues and the intersection of morality and politics.
His first book “Absolute Convictions,” focused primarily on his father Shalom Press, an abortion specialist near Buffalo, and the moral battle over abortion in America.
His second book, “Beautiful Souls,” is dedicated to those who go against the pressure of societal norms, legal or ethical, and use their own judgement of character to do what they think is right.
His contentious work and its success helped Press land the esteemed Ottaway Visiting Professor at SUNY New Paltz for the spring 2016 semester.
Press will give his speech at 7p.m in the Coykendall Science Building Auditorium at SUNY New Paltz. The event is free and open to the public. A reception and book signing will follow. Before the public event, Press will hold a salon-style conversation for the college community
Lisa Phillips, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz and the coordinator of the James H. Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professorship, believes Press had the perfect credentials for the position.
“We like to look for someone in a distinguished place in their career. In the past we’ve had Columbia-duPont award winning writers, book authors and NPR journalists, and we felt that Press fit that mold but also offered something new. His focus on ethics and controversy was something we had not seen before from Ottaway professors,” Phillips said.
Press received the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, a prize presented annually by Hunter College of the City University of New York in recognition of original reporting that brings to light widespread injustices, examines their causes and searches for possible reforms.
The James H. Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professorship, is the first endowed professorship at SUNY New Paltz. It was created from a generous donation in the honor of James H. Ottaway Sr., the leader of the American Press Institute and a highly respected figure in news publishing across the country.
Each spring the endowment is used to pay a full semester’s salary to a selected visiting professor in the realm of media and journalism. Past professors include New York Times investigative reporter Andrew Lehren and NPR foreign correspondent Deborah Amos
Now, well into the semester, Press is teaching an upper-division journalism course titled “Reporting on Divisive Subjects.” Although he has taught before and has won numerous writing awards, including the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, Press regards his Ottaway professorship as a truly gratifying experience.
“I’m very honored to have been selected as the Ottaway Visiting Professor,” said Press. “I love the course I have put together for my students and I hope they’re enjoying it too.”
According to Phillips, the response to Press’ class has been impressive. “The students really enjoy what he brings to the table and they like the real world practice they get from the class,” she said.
While there are similar programs in other departments, the Journalism Department at SUNY New Paltz is the only one with an official endowed professorship. This funding is dedicated to not only the salary of the visiting professor, but also guest speakers, equipment for classes and special events held throughout the semester.