Penn alum creates a "buzz" at Writers House

Jessica Yu
Daily Pennsylvanian
November 9, 2010

Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, shares his thoughts and opinions on the future of journalism at a lunchtime lecture at the Kelly Writers House on Monday. (Mordechai Treiger/DP Senior Photographer)

If H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger is not the "wild man on Twitter" who once wrote great books, some days he can even give great writing insight.

Bissinger, a Penn alumn and former Daily Pennsylvanian editor, took a day off from writing to give his take on what he called "serious journalism." The author, best known for Friday Night Lights, came as part of a lunchtime lecture series at the Kelly Writers House.

Bissinger is no stranger to the Writers House. On his fifth visit yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize-winner gave advice to aspiring writers: from his decision to stay in Philadelphia to why his book-length portrait of Gov. Ed Rendell came out in retrospect "too soft" and his recent move from denouncing blog-writing in 2008 to embracing Twitter.

In weeding out "the raft of shit that is out there," the author offered his own opinions on current media landscape. But, "I am somewhat dark, I think," he qualified.

The talk centered on why journalism has become "all about noise," and, in typical Bissinger fashion, included rants that touched on everything from trend stories to book-writing to blogging.

"I thought about inviting Buzz for a long time," writer-in-residence Dick Polman, who organized the event, said. "I also knew that his take-no-prisoner conversation style would make a big splash."

The writer has recently published Shooting Stars, written with NBA baskeball giant LeBron James, and is currently at work on Father's Day, a book about his twin sons whose physical disparity caused them to lead opposite lives.

Even if the paradigm for writing will change, Bissinger encouraged writers to follow the mystique about storytelling and writing.

"The opportunities for young people in journalism are good," Bissinger said, turning to his young audience. "But why, do you think?"

"Because you're cheap, because you won't die, so you don't need the health benefits, and they'd much rather hire you than some old fart like me who needs health benefits because I'll have heart attacks in a matter of a few weeks."

College senior Rivka Fogel said it was refreshing to hear a writer who's been in the trenches say that print journalism is not dying, when you expect to hear the opposite in the digital age.

"He's not the nicest person, but I think he's brilliant," Fogel said. "It was interesting to hear him talk about his new book. It gave us a glimpse of his human side.