Derek Thompson to Deliver American Masters Lecture

Journalist Who Explored the Science of Popularity

A new phenomenon is at work in the world as things explode onto the scene seemingly from nowhere: It’s known as “going viral.”

Yet this sudden popularity isn’t an accident, according to Derek Thompson, a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine whose national bestseller, Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction, explores the web of economics, psychology, and marketing that makes some ideas take off, while others disappear.

Mr. Thompson will talk about his ideas when he delivers the Lackawanna County Library System’s 2017 American Masters Lecture on Thursday, September 7 at 7 p.m. in the Scranton Cultural Center.

Described as “one of the brightest new voices in American journalism,” Mr. Thompson is recognized for his work on economics, labor markets, and entertainment. His most recent articles in The Atlantic focus on how people are affected by economic trends beyond their control.

What on Earth is Wrong with Connecticut, published on July 5, examines how the richest state in the country came to have a serious fiscal crisis. The Paradox of American Restaurants, which appeared in the June 20 edition of the magazine, explored how restaurants in this country are struggling, despite the fact that more Americans now eat out than at home.

Earlier this year he wrote about Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods, the disappearance of teenagers from the summer job market, and the economic impact of government policies in addition to his ongoing interest in the popular culture.

Mr. Thompson graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a triple major in journalism, political science, and legal studies. In addition to The Atlantic, he has written for Slate, BusinessWeek, and the Daily Beast and has appeared as a guest on radio and television networks, including CBS News Radio, the BBC, and CNBC.

Mary Garm, director of the Lackawanna County Library System, said, “Mr. Thompson’s appearance continues a tradition of speakers who introduce new ideas and help the people of our community make sense of the world in which we live.”

“Derek Thompson explains timely concepts with clarity and wit. We are delighted to have him join the list of distinguished speakers who have been part of the American Masters series,” she added.

Previous American Masters Lecture speakers have included historians Douglas Brinkley and James McPherson, author, journalist and film maker Sebastian Junger, author, actress, social critic and humorist Fran Lebowitz, theoretical physicist and futurist Michio Kaku, undersea explorer and Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard, and legendary Dallas Cowboy running back Emmitt Smith.

Tickets for the free event are now available at Lackawanna County libraries and online at

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