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Telling Others What to Think

Recollections of a Pundit

Media & Public Affairs

312 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 15 Halftones

Media Studies

  Hardcover / 9780807130339 / September 2004

A Pulitzer Prize–winning editorialist and a former syndicated columnist, Edwin M. Yoder Jr. spent forty years as a newspaper journalist. Telling Others What to Think, he writes, is about "an education in its broadest sense," the experiences and personal influences that formed him.

Yoder became a full-time editorial writer at the early age of twenty-four, and he traces his aptitude for punditry to the southern storytelling tradition, a long family heritage of scholars and schoolteachers, and his father's being "opinionated"—in the better sense of that word. Journalism, Yoder says, was a way to be a writer and still put bread on the table, and throughout his career, he would excel as a prose craftsman.

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—where he edited the Daily Tar Heel—he studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and then returned to his home state, a place celebrated for lively newspaper editorial writing. First at the Charlotte News and then at the Greensboro Daily News, Yoder took on the Birch Society and segregation, among other targets. Throughout his memoir, he credits unbidden good fortune—rather than any planned path—with shaping his destiny. The call to go to Washington, D.C.—a "Mecca for journalists"—as editorial page editor of the Star was more good luck in Yoder's view. He won a Pulitzer at the Star in 1979, and when that paper folded in 1981, he joined the Washington Post Writers Group as a syndicated columnist. For fifteen years his column appeared in many major regional newspapers around the country and abroad in London and Paris.

In his book, Yoder is most compelling when describing the pleasures and hazards of maintaining professional and social relationships with people in the arena of politics and public life—including Washington Post editorial page editor Meg Greenfield, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, writer and editor Willie Morris, and Georgetown University president Father Timothy Healy. Circumspect, forthright, and generous in his reflections, Yoder the man and the pundit prove to be the same. An appendix presents a portfolio of his past columns, sage advice to the aspiring opinion writer, and thoughts on the tabloidization of news in recent years.

A rich and intriguing personal story of someone whose job it was to comment on the events of the day, Ed Yoder's Telling Others What to Think speaks eloquently as well of the wider world of American politics and culture. 

A native North Carolinian, Edwin M. Yoder Jr. was born in Greensboro in 1934. He was educated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in English and history and edited the student newspaper, and at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, earning bachelor's and master's degrees in philosophy, politics, and economics.

Yoder was acting editorial page editor of the Greensboro Daily News from 1960 to 1961, associate editor and editorial page editor of the Charlotte News from 1965 to 1975, and of the Washington Star from 1975 to 1981, where he won the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism in 1979. After the closure of the Star in 1981, he wrote a syndicated column for the Washington Post Writers Group which appeared in the Post and in some 75 newspapers in the United States and in Europe from 1982 to 1997. From 1991 to 2002, he was professor of journalism and humanities at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. There he taught courses in opinion writing and seminars in politics and recent English and European fiction.

Yoder has been published widely in various magazines, including Saturday Review, National Review, New Republic, Harper's Magazine, South Atlantic Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, Sewanee Review, Diplomatic History, and Washington Post Book World, where his reviews have appeared regularly since 1969. His short story, "Blackmail," won the 2002 Andrew Lytle Memorial Award for the best short story published in the Sewanee Review. Yoder is the author of four books, including The Night of the Old South Ball and Joe Alsop's Cold War. His memoir, Telling Others What to Think: Recollections of a Pundit, will be published in September 2004 by Louisiana State University Press.

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