Hedrick Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter and editor and Emmy award-winning producer/correspondent, has established himself over the past 50 years of his career as one of America’s most distinguished journalists.
In 26 years with The New York Times, Mr. Smith covered Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights struggle, the Vietnam War in Saigon, the Middle East conflict from Cairo, the Cold War from both Moscow and Washington, and six American presidents and their administrations. In 1971, as chief diplomatic correspondent, he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that produced the Pentagon Papers series. In 1974, he won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting from Russia and Eastern Europe.
His book The Russians, based on his years as New York Times Moscow Bureau Chief from 1971-74, was a No. 1 American best-seller. It has been translated into 16 languages and has been widely used in university and college courses. His next book, The Power Game: How Washington Works, was also a major best-seller. It became a bible for newly elected members of Congress and their staffs and was bedside reading for President Clinton. His newest book, Who Stole the American Dream? published by Random House in September 2012 , has been hailed by critics for brilliant analsysis of political and economic trends and changes in the U.S. over the past 30-40 years.
For PBS since 1989, Hedrick Smith has created 26 prime-time specials and mini-series on such varied topics as terrorism, Wall Street, Soviet perestroika,Wal-Mart, Enron, tax evasion, educational reform, health care, the environment, jazz greats Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck, and Washington’s power game.
Mr. Smith’s documentary work has won many of televisions major awards. Two of his Frontline programs, The Wall Street Fix and Can You Afford to Retire? won Emmies and two others, Critical Condition and Tax Me If You Can were nominated. Twice he has won or shared the Columbia-Dupont Gold Baton, or grand prize, for the year’s best public affairs program on U.S. television – for Inside Gorbachev’s USSR in 1990, and for Inside the Terror Network in 2002, an investigation of the Al Qaeda pilots who carried out the 9/11 attack and how the U.S. missed chances to stop them. Along with the George Polk, George Peabody and Sidney Hillman awards for reportorial excellence, his programs have won two national public service awards.
One distinctive feature of Hedrick Smith’s television productions is his focus not just on examining systemic problems in modern America but on seeking solutions, which was the title of his mini-series on teen violence and hate crime, used by the Justice Department and members of Congress. His PBS reports have probed the costs and causes of poor health care, failures in education, the collapse of traditional pensions and the flaws of 401k plans, and the modern burdens of working couples juggling work and family. He couples that analysis with vivd grass roots success stories, giving audiences concrete examples of how others have confronted and overcome obstacles.
Mr. Smith’s career began in print journalism in the 1950s, with summer jobs as a cub reporter for The Greenville (S.C.) News. After graduating from Williams College, doing graduate work as a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University, and serving three years in the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Smith joined United Press International in Memphis, Nashville and Atlanta, 1959-62. He moved to The New York Times, 1962-88. He was chosen for a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard in 1969-70.
Mr. Smith began creating documentaries for PBS in 1989 with an adaptation from his best-selling book, The Power Game. His second documentary series, Inside Gorbachev’s USSR, broadcast on PBS in 1990, built on his experience as Moscow Bureau Chief for The Times in the 1970s, on his best selling book, The Russians, and on his subsequent coverage of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika.
As a documentarian, Mr. Smith has ranged widely. Before the 2000 election, PBS devoted an entire prime-time evening to his three-hour pre-election special on the quality of U.S. health care, Critical Condition With Hedrick Smith. He has produced two four-hour mini-series on the impact of the global economy on the American middle class, Challenge to America and Surviving the Bottom Line. For Black History month in 2000, he gave PBS viewers Duke Ellington’s Washington. A year later, he created Rediscovering Dave Brubeck, an intimate portrait of the legendary jazz pianist.
In September 1999, after deadly violence at several U.S. public schools, Hedrick Smith Productions created a three-hour prime-time special, Seeking Solutions, that broke new ground by showing effective grass roots responses in six American communities to teen violence, gangs, street crime and hate crime.. This program won a national public service award from Sigma Delta Chi, the jouralistic honorar society.
He subsequently led Frontline investigative reports – Bigger Than Enron, The Wall Street Fix, Tax Me If You Can, Is Wal-Mart Good for America? Spying on the Home Front, and Can You Afford to Retire? These programs probed accounting scandals, conflicts on Wall Street, corporate fraud and tax evasion, the collapsing private pension system, and data mining and domestic eavesdropping by the NSA and FBI.
Making Schools Work, Mr. Smith’s two-hour special on education in October 2005, won a second national public service award from Sigma Delta Chi. In two previous series, Challenge to America in 1994 and Surviving the Bottom Line in 1998, Hedrick Smith Productions compared the performance of American schools with such other countries as Germany, Japan and China.
Over 25 years, PBS viewers saw Hedrick Smith as a principal panelist on Washington Week in Review and as a special correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Mr. Smith has received seven honorary doctorate degrees. He is well known as an effective speaker to college commencements, civic groups, business conventions, and lecture series nationwide, admired for cogent analysis and compelling story-telling.
For more on Mr. Smith and on his views about the current media environment find a recent profile here.