Ted Gup

Award-Winning Journalist; Professor
Author, A Secret Gift

Rediscovering the Great Depression though ground-breaking investigative journalism.

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Biography

Ted Gup has made a career of seeking out the truth and uncovering secrets. Mentored by the legendary investigative reporter Bob Woodward at The Washington Post, Ted has spent his life arguing for more open government and the public’s right to know.

In his latest work, however, he reveals a different and more personal kind of truth: the suffering and hardship inflicted upon Americans by the Great Depression — and the kindness and generosity of one man who tried to lighten the burdens of poverty for some.

The book is A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness — and a Trove of Letters — Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression.

This "secret history" of the Great Depression is heart-wrenching, heartwarming, and inspirational. Weaving stories of Depression-era families who were anonymously aided by gifts from the author’s own grandfather with his grandfather’s own secret history, Ted gives readers new insight and understanding into an America at its best and at its worst.

In these pages readers experience the painful realities of lives lived in poverty, unemployment, and despair — the truth behind the economic statistics usually used to portray America’s worst economic disaster.

Ted's previous books uncover how the preoccupation with secrecy at the CIA and other federal agencies does more harm than good, endangering democracy and inhibiting individual freedom:

Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life

"A frontal attack on secrecy... It should be the cornerstone of a concerted effort to build a defense against the encroachment on the public's right to know."
The Chicago Tribune

"Makes clear the danger of out-of-control secrecy."
The Plain Dealer

The Book of Honor: Covert Lives and Classified Deaths at the CIA
Named "Book-of-the-Year" by Investigative Reporters and Editors.

"Stirring...A well-written example of masterful investigative reporting..."
The Washington Post

Ted speaks in a variety of venues, including Harvard, Columbia, Williams, Duke, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, The Asia Foundation, The National Archives, The FDR Presidential Library, The European Fulbright Commission, The United Nations International School, The Association of Former Intelligence Officers, The Defense Intelligence Agency, The Center for Public Integrity, The Smithsonian, and many more.

He is a frequent guest on network news programs including CNN, PBS and NPR. His work has appeared in numerous national publications, including Smithsonian, National Geographic, The New York Times, Boston Globe, Columbia Journalism Review, NPR, Chronicle of Higher Education, Far Eastern Economic Review, and Newsweek.

Ted Gup currently is the chair of the journalism department at Emerson college.

He has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist and has received more than twenty awards, including the George Polk Award, the Worth Bingham Prize, the Gerald Loeb Award, and the Book-of-the-Year Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. Nation of Secrets won the 2008 Goldsmith Book Prize. He’s been a Fulbright Scholar, a MacArthur Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow, among his many other honors.

Credentials

  • Professor and chair, Journalism Department, Emerson College.
  • Formerly Professor of Journalism, Case Western Reserve
  • Former staff writer, Washington Post, Time Magazine
  • George Polk Award for foreign reporting
  • Worth Bingham Prize for investigative journalism
  • Gerald Loeb Award
  • Fulbright Scholar
  • Grantee of the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation
  • BA, Brandeis University JD, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Books

A Secret Gift

How One Man's Kindness — and a Trove of Letters — Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression

Ted Gup

An inspiring account of America at its worst-and Americans at their best-woven from the stories of Depression-era families who were helped by gifts from the author's generous and secretive grandfather.

Shortly before Christmas 1933 in Depression-scarred Canton, Ohio, a small newspaper ad offered $10, no strings attached, to 75 families in distress. Interested readers were asked to submit letters describing their hardships to a benefactor calling himself Mr. B. Virdot. The author's grandfather Sam Stone was inspired to place this ad and assist his fellow Cantonians as they prepared for the cruelest Christmas most of them would ever witness.

Moved by the tales of suffering and expressions of hope contained in the letters, which he discovered in a suitcase 75 years later, Ted Gup initially set out to unveil the lives behind them, searching for records and relatives all over the country who could help him flesh out the family sagas hinted at in those letters. From these sources, Gup has re-created the impact that Mr B. Virdot's gift had on each family. Many people yearned for bread, coal, or other necessities, but many others received money from B. Virdot for more fanciful items-a toy horse, say, or a set of encyclopedias. As Gup's investigations revealed, all these things had the power to turn people's lives around- even to save them.

But as he uncovered the suffering and triumphs of dozens of strangers, Gup also learned that Sam Stone was far more complex than the lovable- retiree persona he'd always shown his grandson. Gup unearths deeply buried details about Sam's life-from his impoverished, abusive upbringing to felonious efforts to hide his immigrant origins from U.S. officials-that help explain why he felt such a strong affinity to strangers in need. Drawing on his unique find and his award-winning reportorial gifts, Ted Gup solves a singular family mystery even while he pulls away the veil of eight decades that separate us from the hardships that united America during the Depression. In A Secret Gift, he weaves these revelations seamlessly into a tapestry of Depression-era America, which will fascinate and inspire in equal measure.

Penguin Press HC, The (October 28, 2010)

Reviews

Professor uncovers secrets of a caring grandfatherThe Boston Globe
Kindness of a Stranger That Still ResonatesThe New York Times
A Suitcase of Secrets, Good and BadThe Wall Street Journal
'A Secret Gift'Los Angeles Times

Nation of Secrets

The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life

Ted Gup

In The Book of Honor, Ted Gup uncovered some of the CIA's closest-held secrets: the names and stories of the seventy-one undercover operatives who were killed in the line of duty. Now he turns his attention to a broader range of American institutions, exposing how and why they keep secrets from the very people they are supposed to serve. Drawing on original reporting and startling analysis, Gup argues that a preoccupation with secrets has undermined the very values — security, patriotism, privacy, the national interest — in whose name secrecy is so often invoked.

Gup shows how the expanding thicket of classified information leads to the devaluation of the secrets we most need to keep, and that journalists have become pawns in the government’s internal conflicts over access to information. He explores the blatant exploitation of privacy and confidentiality in academia, business, and the courts, and concludes that in case after case, these principles have been twisted to allow the emergence of a shadow system of justice, unaccountable to the public.

Drawing on Gup's decades of work as an investigative reporter, Nation of Secrets will shake our faith in some of our most trusted institutions, piercing the veil of secrecy to reveal an alarming new threat to democracy in America. Gup presents a vision radical in its clarity, conservative in its roots, of a country teetering on the brink of losing its identity.

Doubleday (May 29, 2007)

Reviews

"Nation of Secrets is an eye-opening and very important book. Ted Gup provides many new illustrations of the excesses of governmental and corporate secrecy but he also does something even more significant. He connects hundreds of items from the news of recent years into a pattern that shows how unbalanced America's approach to secrecy has become. I thought I was familiar with the issues Ted Gup addresses, but I learned something from every chapter of this book."
— James Fallows, correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly

"A generation ago, 'the public's right to know' was a U.S. media cliché, but today's silence is deafening. Nation of Secrets explains why."
— Kevin Phillips, New York Times bestselling author of American Theocracy

"Nation of Secrets brilliantly illuminates the landscape of secrecy in which we live. In a perceptive account illustrated with vivid case studies, Ted Gup shows how secrecy is corrupting our institutions and squandering our democratic heritage. Before the tide of secrecy overwhelms the tools of self-government, this gripping book may prompt readers to ask: Is a nation of secrets what we really want to become?"
— Steven Aftergood, Project on Government Secrecy, Federation of American Scientists

"Nation of Secrets sounds the alarm about America's frightening turn toward excessive secrecy and makes the case with powerful reporting and a diligent, fair-minded toughness. Ted Gup is a national treasure a shoe-leather reporter with the highest ethical standards and a passion for truth. He has no ax to grind, which makes the book's message all the scarier."
— Alex Jones, Director, Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

The Book of Honor

Covert Lives & Classified Deaths at the CIA

Ted Gup

This is a story of heroes and secrets.

In the entrance of the CIA headquarters looms a huge marble wall into which seventy-one stars are carved — each representing an agent who has died in the line of duty.  At the base of this wall lies The Book of Honor, in which the names of these agents are inscribed — or at least thirty-five of them.  Beside the dates of the other thirty-six, there are no names.  The identity of these "nameless stars" has been one of the CIA's most closely guarded secrets for the fifty-three years of the agency's existence.  Even family members are told little — in some cases, the agency has denied the fact that the deceased were covert operatives at all.

But what the CIA keeps secret in the name of national security is often merely an effort to hide that which would embarrass the agency itself — even at the cost of denying peace of mind for the families and honor due the "nameless stars."

In an extraordinary job of investigative reporting, Ted Gup has uncovered the identities, and the remarkable stories, of the men and women who died anonymously in the service of their country.  In researching The Book of Honor, Gup interviewed over four hundred current and former covert CIA officers, immersed himself in archival records, death certificates, casualty lists from terrorist attacks, State Department and Defense Department personnel lists, cemetery records, obituaries, and tens of thousands of pages of personal letters and diaries.

In telling the agents' stories, Gup shows them to be astonishingly complex, vibrant, and heroic individuals — nothing like the suave superspies of popular fiction or the amoral cynics of conspiracy buffs. The accounts of their lives — and deaths — are powerful and deeply moving, and in bringing them at long last to light, Gup manages to render an unprecedented history of covert operations at the CIA.

Doubleday (May 5, 2000)

Reviews

"Told against the backdrop of Cold War and superpower struggles, Gup's sleuthing is a remarkable coup, full of high-level intrigue, cover-ups and drama. He leaves it to readers to decide whether his subjects are heroes or knaves, and whether the CIA is a rogue agency that should be reined in or an essential survival tool in a treacherous world."
Publishers Weekly

"Gup may have succeeded in humanizing the CIA. He has done this by telling the stories of some of the deaths of CIA operatives."
— AudioFile, Portland, Maine

“Rich reporting...a fitting tribute.”
The Boston Globe

Topics

Ted tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

A Secret Gift

Videos

A Secret Gift

Secret Great Depression Benefactor Revealed | CBS

Articles

— The New York Times
— Smithsonian Magazine
— The New York Times