December 17, 2014

Elyria
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New York Times reporter returns to speak in Elyria

ELYRIA — He turned Elyria into Everycity, USA, a place that anyone struggling with job loss and a sour economy could identify.

On Tuesday, New York Times columnist, author and Pulitzer Prize winner Dan Barry returns to Elyria to discuss the five-part, multi-media series “At the Corner of Hope and Worry,” published last fall.

Barry is the featured speaker for the Elyria Public Library Foundation’s spring fundraiser. This is the first time the foundation, which formed in 2010, has hosted a speaker.

It’s the foundation’s mission to make sure the library in Elyria continues, particularly in light of budgetary cuts and other hardships, said Debbie Pillivant, public relations officer for the library.

“We are all struggling to make due with less,” Pillivant said. “We’re just trying to survive. That struggle is very similar to what he wrote about. That underlying survival theme was the appeal of the articles. It had to do with small towns and it could have been any town. As the economy is going down, we are struggling to come back up, especially those towns in the Rust Belt.

“The theme was ‘this is our community and we are trying to make a go of it,’ ” she said. “That was the appeal and it continues to be the appeal.”

Barry will discuss how the series came to be, his time spent here in Elyria, and why the series was worth writing, said Rhonda Smith, president of the Elyria Public Library Foundation.

“We are thrilled with the response we’ve seen from the community,” Smith said. “This New York Times reporter put little ol’ Elyria on the map and really brought the small town to New York City.”

Tickets for the dinner with Barry are sold out, however, about 100 tickets are still available for the speaking portion of the program.

“Anyone can come,” Smith said. “All of the money raised will be used for the betterment and advancement of the library.”

While this is the first time the foundation has hosted a speaker, Smith hopes to continue the event annually, although it may be difficult to find another speaker like Barry.

“We have to set our expectations high,” Smith said.

The New York Times “This Land” columnist joined the newspaper in 1995. Barry has written extensively as the “About New York” columnist and about many topics including the World Trade Center disaster and the damage to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Previously working for the Journal Inquirer and The Providence Journal, Barry shared a George Polk Award and a Pulitzer Prize. He received the 2012 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing for “Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball’s Longest Game.’’

Of course, it’s one thing to read what someone writes. It’s another thing to actually meet them, according to Pillivant.

“I’m always interested in the author of those words,” Pillivant said. “He is very readable. He makes you pause and think about things.”

Contact Christina Jolliffe at 329-7155 or ctnews@chroniclet.com.