Journalist and author Mark I. Pinsky was born in Miami, Florida, in 1947, and raised in the southern New Jersey suburbs, in a Conservative Jewish home, where he was active in United Synagogue Youth. In 1967 he was a civilian volunteer with the Israel Defense Force in and around El Arish, Sinai, immediately following the Six Day War, where he helped to salvage captured Egyptian army tanks, trucks, and armored personnel carriers from the desert.
Over four decades, Pinsky’s journalism career has been composed of two strands: writing about social justice as a complement to political activism; and straight reporting for traditional, establishment outlets, bringing social justice issues – sometimes diluted – to broader audiences. On occasion, these strands have been integrated and intertwined. At other times they have been strained and in conflict. For him there was – and is again – a time to demonstrate, march, rally, and get arrested. And a time to write.
Pinsky began as a journalist in the mid-1960s at the Duke University Chronicle (“The Readable Radical” was one of his columns) and, after graduation, he moved on to the local underground press (protean/RADISH, Carolina Plain-Dealer). He also free-lanced for national leftist and progressive publications, including the Nation, the Progressive, New Left Notes and the Village Voice.
Contemporaneously, he covered the North Carolina legislature as a probationary staff writer for the Associated Press in Raleigh, until he was fired for being arrested at the May Day anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C., in 1971, while on his day off. During this time, he was also contributing book reviews to the Raleigh News & Observer and Greensboro Daily News.
After graduating from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1972, he started stringing from North Carolina and around the Southeast for the national desk of the New York Times and other major East Coast and UK newspapers, wire services and commercial all-news and public radio stations. Throughout the 1970s, his reporting specialties were racial justice (Joan Little, Wilmington 10, Charlotte 3, Tarboro 3, Dawson 5), murder (Ted Bundy, Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald, the Greensboro Massacre, where several Duke friends and classmates were among the victims), capital punishment, economic development and occupational health and safety (brown lung), and Judaism in the South.
Pinsky reported from Northern Ireland in 1973, in Belfast, Derry and Armagh, again as a free-lance. In 1982-83, he worked for the Xinhua (New China) News Agency in Beijing as an editorial adviser, traveling widely in Asia and contributing stories to U.S., UK and international publications on cultural topics, including cinema. His wide-ranging free lance career has taken him to Cuba, Haiti, Turkey, and Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, as well as the Vatican.
From 1984 to 1995, he was a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times Orange County Edition, specializing in religion and televangelism, before returning to the cops and courts beat in Santa Ana. From 1995-2008 he was a Senior Reporter and religion writer at the Orlando Sentinel, covering the political rise of Sunbelt evangelicals, popular culture (Disney, The Simpsons, etc.), until his layoff in 2008.
Pinsky is probably best known as the author of the bestselling The Gospel According to The Simpsons: The Spiritual Life of the World’s Most Animated Family. He is also author of The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust; A Jew Among the Evangelicals: A Guide for the Perplexed; and Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability and Inclusion.
In addition to his academic degrees, Pinsky was both a Sloan Fellow in Economics Journalism at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs; and a Templeton-Cambridge Fellow in Science and Religion. He has taught as an adjunct at the University of Central Florida and Rollins College, and has lectured widely at colleges and universities, including Princeton, Cambridge and Indiana University. He has written for both the Columbia Journalism Review and the Harvard Divinity Bulletin.
In 2012 and 2013, coincident with completion and publication of Met Her on the Mountain, Pinsky returned to the murder beat and the courtroom, covering the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, near his home, for the Nation, the Guardian, Religion News Service, cnn.com, and Huffington Post.
Pinsky is married to the social worker and photographer Sarah M. Brown, and is the father of two grown children (and, like their parents, Duke graduates) Asher and Liza Brown-Pinsky. Mark and Sarah live in Durham, N.C.