Emmy-Nominated PBS Documentary “Walt Whitman” to Be Screened during Upcoming Celebration

Award-Winning Filmmaker Will Discuss Project and Method after Screening

Columbia, Mo. (Sept. 3, 2008) — A PBS documentary on the life of poet Walt Whitman, created by Missouri School of Journalism graduate Mark Zwonitzer, BJ ’84, will be shown from 2-4 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 10, in Jesse Auditorium on the University of Missouri campus. A discussion with the filmmaker will follow from 4-5 p.m.

Mark Zwonitzer, BJ '84
Mark Zwonitzer, BJ ’84

The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of the celebratory activities that will commemorate the centennial of the Missouri School of Journalism and the dedication of the Reynolds Journalism Institute. The MU Department of English is a co-sponsor of the “Walt Whitman” documentary showing.

When his epic and seminal work of American poetry, Leaves of Grass, first appeared, Walt Whitman was denounced as “vile,” “beastly,” a “lunatic, raving in pitiable delirium.” One critic suggested Whitman be publicly whipped, another that he commit suicide. The first edition of Leaves of Grass sold a few dozen copies, which encouraged Whitman to speak louder, sounding his “barbaric yawp from the rooftops of the world.”

The film has been nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards, one for Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking and the other for Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming. The 2008 Creative Arts Awards ceremony will be held Sept. 13 in Los Angeles.

Zwonitzer, who is from Columbia, Mo., has produced, directed and written award-winning documentary films for public television for more than 15 years. His work includes “Battle of the Bulge;” “The Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson;” “The Irish in America: Long Journey Home;” “All Across America;” “Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life” (with Richard Ben Cramer); “Transcontinental Railroad;” and “The Massie Affair.” He was the series producer and writer of a four-hour history of the United States Supreme Court, which won the 2007 International Documentary Association Outstanding Limited Series, the Cine Golden Eagle Special Jury Award and the American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award.

Over the past decade, Zwonitzer’s work also has been recognized with a duPont-Columbia Award, a George Foster Peabody Award, a Writers’ Guild of America Award and the Japan Foundation’s President’s Prize. Zwonitzer’s first book, with co-author Charles Hirshberg, Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American Music, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and an American Library Association’s Booklist Editor’s Choice in biography.

Another MU graduate played a key role in the “Walt Whitman” film. Academy Award-winning actor Chris Cooper, BGS ’76, is the voice of the poet, telling Whitman’s story and his unlikely mission to redeem a faltering America through poetry.

The centennial/dedication event will feature more than 35 Futures Forum sessions, 27 Technology Summit sessions, two evening meal events, four musical and theatrical performances, 11 exhibits and displays, book signings, tours and numerous networking opportunities. Alumni, students, citizens, journalists, communicators and academics from all over the world have registered for the three-day event. Visit https://journalism.missouri.edu/2008/ for more information.

About the Missouri School of Journalism and Reynolds Journalism Institute:
Since publishing the student-staffed University Missourian on Sept. 14, 1908, the Missouri School of Journalism has been the international leader in hands-on journalism education, also known as the “Missouri Method.” The first to offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in the field, the School is also the distinguished home of several national journalism organizations, mid-career professional programs and a thriving research agenda. Its advanced curriculum takes advantage of new technologies and practices, a tradition of innovation that will be intensified with the opening of the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI). This 50,000 square-foot facility, created with an initial $31 million gift from the Las Vegas-based Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, will house state-of-the-art resources to test and demonstrate new technologies, experiment with convergence news production and delivery systems, and conduct real-time and virtual seminars and conferences.

Updated: April 29, 2020

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