Prospective applicants: please read this letter.
Journalism schools produce good reporters; MFA programs train beautiful writers. In the Literary Reportage concentration, we combine the best of both. Our students pursue their own long form projects, mentored by veteran writers in reporting classes, literature seminars, writing workshops and master classes taught by working editors.
Reporting is at the center of everything Literary Reportage students do. Whether you want to write a memoir, an expose, a portrait of a person or place, an extended consideration on the subject of your passion, it all starts with reporting. We’ll teach you how to do what Tom Wolfe once termed “stylish reporting.” Many writing programs teach memoir, and that's something you can do in Literary Reportage, as well. The difference here is that we stress reporting – adding value to personal experience by collecting relevant information from the world outside one's head. Did your sister join a cult? Part of your mission would be to learn about the cult, past and present. Are there acquaintances from days gone by who could help set a remembered story in context? Part of your job might be to find them. That way, when you sit down to fashion your narrative, you'll have a richer set of materials to work with.You will then channel that reporting into well-researched, compelling narratives, which you will publish in professional venues while at NYU and, of course, beyond.
How do you apply? Like an aspiring novelist who submits short stories to an MFA program in the hopes of writing a novel, you submit a sample of your existing work (articles, blogs, videos, podcasts, essays--published or not), and a description of what you want to do while at NYU, whether a specific project or a kind of project. Think big, but also think concretely: What particular works or authors have inspired you and your project? What journalistic forms could you imagine it taking? What models do you have in mind?
Projects can be local, national, or international in scope. But since much of your reporting will be done while in residence at NYU, your project should have an NYC dimension. Some students divide their time between their final international or national project and its local iterations. In addition, access is important. You can’t report on a subject if your subject won’t talk to you. We’ll help you as much as we can, but there are some worlds, like Hollywood, that simply can’t be covered by NYC-based reporters.
We don’t care if you change your mind later – experimentation is part of the idea. That goes for form, as well: Some Literary Reportage students want to write books, others want to write articles. Some want to combine podcasts, video, books and articles. We will teach you how to work in all of these forms. We’ll teach you how to use the technology (come visit and see our high tech facilities), whether in semester-long classes or intensive, week-long workshops. (All Literary Reportage students take a month-long, non-credit introductory multimedia course covering video, audio, slideshow and web skills.) But the most important thing we teach is how think in terms of “stories.” Rigorously reported, well-researched, imaginative, artfully written stories.
How does Literary Reportage work? The courses are divided between journalism seminars and writing workshops. The first semester leans toward the former, while the remaining semesters leans toward the latter. For an overview of the curriculum click here.
Literary Reportage became a full-fledged concentration in 2009, growing out of the Portfolio honors track, in which students learned how to build a coherent body of work over the course of two semesters. It worked well, and we suspected it would work even better if students applied with projects already in mind and had more time to complete their work.
How does Literary Reportage differ from other the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute’s other concentrations and programs? Our applicants must apply with a project in mind and, like the Global program, Literary Reportage students produce a master’s project in their fourth and final semester, during which you need not be in residence.
Here are some of the final projects Literary Reportage students have produced in our first three years:
- "We Were All Going To Be Queens," a reported memoir about the Catholic cult Regnum Christi
- "Ballerina 2.0," about dancer Drew Jacoby's use of new media for self-promotion
- "Mother of Invention,” a reported memoir about a single woman's decision to have a child
- “On Trails,” a meditation on the twists and turns of human navigation
- “Alone in America,” a report on Korean students studying abroad
- “Sikhing for God,” a report on a New Mexican yoga cult
- “Wrecking the House that Ruth Built,” a proposal, sample chapter and outline for a book about corruption and Yankee Stadium
- “Christianity 2.0,” a report on home worship and the reaction against the mega-church phenomenon
- “When the Facts of Life Aren’t Facts,” a report on sex education for students with special needs
The Banff Centre for the Arts and the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute are pleased to announce a fully funded fellowship for students in, and alumni of, the Literary Reportage concentration. The fellowship offers an opportunity to develop a major essay, memoir, or feature piece during a month-long residency. Writers will work on their manuscript during weekly consultations with faculty editors, and round-table discussions with the other participants. By placing writers in a situation designed to challenge and stimulate their creativity, the program encourages the exploration of new ideas in journalism and experimentation with writing a piece that might otherwise be difficult to complete. The fellowship covers round trip airfare to Banff, and food and lodging during the month at the Banff Centre for the Arts. More information is available here.
Portfolio 2007 Alumna Sabine Heinlein wins the 2011 Richard J. Margolis award.
Lit Rep 2011 student Robert Moor wins Middlebury College Fellowship in Environmental Journalism. The program supports intensive, year-long reporting about environmental issues. Moor’s project: Trails — topographical and cognitive — in contemporary society, human culture and the mind. Read more about it here.
Lit Rep 2011 student Patrick Arden wins multiple awards for his piece on NYC's "fake grass gamble." Read more about it here.
"My time at the Banff Centre was incredible, and I feel remarkably lucky to have participated in the Literary Journalism Program. This fellowship provided me with the necessary structure, freedom, and support to create a piece that I might not have completed otherwise—in my case, a piece of challenging, personal writing. Besides room and board, the Centre gives each writer a private cabin in the forested Leighton Artists’ Colony, and plenty of time to write... I did not want to leave."
- Cody Upton, recipient of the NYU/Banff Fellowship, Lit Rep '13
Literary Reportage Bylines
Robert S. Boynton
Robert S. Boynton is the director of NYU's Literary Reportage concentration. He was graduated with honors in philosophy and religion from Haverford College, and received an MA in political science from Yale University.
Ted Conover is the author of five books, most recently The Routes of Man, about roads, and Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, an account of his ten months spent working as a corrections officer at New York's Sing Sing Prison.
Perri Klass, M.D. has been writing as a medical journalist dating back to her years as a student at Harvard Medical School in the 1980s, when she published a series of essays, reflections on medical training, in the Hers column...
Brooke Kroeger directs Global and Joint Program Studies and is the faculty liaison for The Local East Village, the collaborative community news and information site of NYU Journalism and the New York Times.
James McBride is a writer and composer. His memoir, The Color of Water (Riverhead/Putnam), is an American literary classic. It rested on the New York Times bestseller list for more than two years, and is read in colleges across America.
Suketu Mehta is a journalist and fiction writer. His nonfiction book "Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found" won the Kiriyama Prize and the Hutch Crossword Award, and was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, the Lettre Ulysses Prize, the...
Michael Norman, is the co-author of TEARS IN THE DARKNESS: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath (2009), a work of narrative non-fiction that was on the New York Times bestseller list for eight weeks and was...
David Samuels, contributing editor at Harper's Magazine and regular contributor to The New Yorker, was named one of 50 "Writers to Watch" by Editor and Publisher in 2000 and named one of the "Top 10 feature writers 35 and under...
Lawrence Weschler, a graduate of Cowell College of the University of California, Santa Cruz, has been, since the early '80s, a staff writer for The New Yorker, where his work has shuttled between political tragedies and cultural comedies.