Journalism is not just about reporting on individual "news events." More and more, it's about getting a handle on the complicated reality that frames those events - the ever-shifting patterns of culture that determine how we live and what we make of our lives. As the mainstream media expand their cultural coverage and alternative publications and websites proliferate, there has never been more need for engaging, knowledgeable cultural reporting and analysis.
In 1995, cultural critic and longtime Village Voice writer Ellen Willis responded to the rapid growth of this field by launching a concentration in Cultural Reporting and Criticism within the Institute's M.A. program. CRC is unique: the only graduate journalism program in the country specifically designed to prepare the next generation of cultural reporters and critics.
The arts and popular culture; the immense variety of social groups, from gay families to Pakistani cabdrivers to obsessive gamers; the explosion of social controversies, from the role of identity politics in the Obama presidential campaign to Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape case; the rise of religious fundamentalism, at home and abroad; the changing nature of war; the role of the critic in the age of the Internet: all this is fodder for the cultural journalist. Cultural journalism is for writers with an itch to understand connections—between news event and context, present and past, art and society, public and private. Over the last tumultuous decade, the need for such explorations has only intensified.
The CRC concentration is unique, too, in its emphasis on criticism. We are inspired not by the turgid academic criticism that is taught at some universities, but by the Partisan Review/New Yorker tradition: that is, well-informed, thought-provoking criticism that addresses a wide, non-specialized audience and that can intervene in a broader cultural conversation. The critics and journalists we study (pictured to the right) include James Agee, Hannah Arendt, Martha Gellhorn, George Orwell, James Baldwin, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, Greil Marcus, Laura Kipnis, Salman Rushdie, Philip Gourevitch, Henry Louis Gates, Joan Acocella, David Remnick, and Pauline Kael.
CRC students are trained to write in a variety of formats, including the critical essay, the profile, the review, the long-form narrative, the op/ed piece, and the blog post. Graduates have gone on to work as writers, critics, or editors for a bevy of publications, including, currently, the New York Times, the New Yorker, the New Republic, ArtForum,the New York Review of Books, the Los Angeles Times, the Daily News, Slate, Fader, Entertainment Weekly, Spin, and the Wall Street Journal, among other places. Several former students have published books: Lauren Sandler, Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement, and One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One; Katheryn Joyce, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, and Quiverfull; James Westcott, When Marina Abramovic Dies: A Biography; William Chatterton Williams, Losing My Cool: How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture; Juana Libedinsky, English Breakfast; Ray Huling, Harvesting the Bay: Fathers, Sons, and the Last of the Wild Shellfishermen; and Jason Bailey, Pulp Fiction: The Complete Story of Quentin Tarantino's Masterpiece.
If you are drawn to the big picture—if you suspect that neither conventional journalism training nor academic specialization is right for you—CRC may be what you're looking for. Our curriculum emphasizes the integration of journalistic skills with a distinctive individual writer's voice. The CRC program is deeply collaborative, and stresses close working relationships between professors and students and the creation of a supportive intellectual community. You can find links to publications by faculty and students here.
CRC director Susie Linfield's book "The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence" is a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism and for the Infinity Writing Award from the International Center of Photography. Click here to see select reviews.
Dennis Lim was hired as the director of programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Kathryn Joyce, CRC 2003, has published her second book, "The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption."
Lauren Sandler, CRC 1999, has published her second book, "One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One," in June 2013 on Simon and Schuster. The book grows out of a feature she wrote for Time magazine in 2010, and attempts "to re-draw the discourse on family size" to discover "how best to reconcile motherhood and modernity." She wrote an op-ed for the New York Times around the central topic of her book.
The work of several CRC alumni has been featured in the New York Times recently: Eric Hynes, 2009, reviewed "Drinking Buddies," the latest film by Andrew Bujalski; Jessica Gross, 2011, contributed two pieces to the Magazine's "Who Made That?" column; and Rob Brunner, 1995, explored the careers of fictional artists and filmmakers who exist only in novels.
Megan Labrise, CRC 2013, has been hired as a feature writer for Kirkus Reviews.
Margaret Eby, CRC 2010, was hired as the editor of the Page Views, the New York Daily News' book blog.
Jason Bailey, CRC 2011 — Flavorwire's film editor, and contributor to the Atlantic, Slate, Salon, and the Village Voice — has written a book about Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction," which chronicles the making of the film, and examines its enduring influence on modern cinema. It will be released this November by Voyageur Press, and can be pre-ordered here.
Meredith Blake has been hired as an entertainment reporter for the LA Times.
Willa Paskins was hired as a TV critic for Slate
Kent Russell published an extensive piece in the New Republic about Dave Glasheen, a man who went to a desert island to disappear. You can find the story here.
Clay Smith, CRC 2002, was hired as editor in chief of Kirkus Reviews.
Cultural Reporting and Criticism Bylines
Susie Linfield is the author of "The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence" (University of Chicago Press, 2010). She writes about culture and politics for a variety of publications including The Washington Post Book World, The New Republic, The Boston...
Rob Brunner was an editor and writer at Entertainment Weekly and EW.com for 16 years, most recently as Editor-at-Large. He has served as EW’s music editor, lead book critic and TV- and movie-review-section editor, and he was the launch editor of EW.com’s Music Mix blog.
Farai Chideya is an award-winning journalist and professor who has worked in print, television, radio, and digital media. Over the years, Chideya was a producer for MTV News; an on-air political analyst for CNN; a reporter and guest host at...
Shimon Dotan is an award-winning filmmaker with twelve feature films to his credit. He was born in Romania and in 1959 moved to Israel where he grew up in an agricultural cooperative, served five years in the Israeli military and...
Ruth Franklin is a book critic and contributing editor at The New Republic. She has written for many publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, Bookforum, Granta, and Salmagundi, to which...
Dennis Lim writes about film and popular culture for various publications including The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. He is currently Editorial Director at the Museum of the Moving Image and was formerly the film editor of...
Ben Ratliff is a staff critic at The New York Times, where he has been writing about jazz and pop music since 1996. He is the author of three books, including "Coltrane: The Story of a Sound" (FSG, 2007), which...
Mark Schone is an editor with NBCNews.com and the investigative unit at NBC News. Previously, he was the digital managing editor of the investigative unit at ABC News, the executive news editor at Salon.com and a senior contributing writer at...
Jennifer Szalai has written for The Nation, the London Review of Books, The Economist, and the New York Times Book Review, among other publications. She was a senior editor at Harper’s Magazine until 2010 and is currently a member of...
Charles Taylor has written on movies, books, popular culture and politics for a variety of publications including the New York Times, Salon.com, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Dissent, The Nation, the New Yorker, the New York Observer, Lapham's Quarterly and others.
Amy Waldman is a novelist and journalist. Her first novel, The Submission (FSG, 2011) won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction; was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Debut Fiction Award; and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.