2014 - Fall: Advanced Reporting: Writing About Home

Day & Time: Friday 10:00am-1:40pm
Location: 20 Cooper Square, room 750
Course ID: JOUR-UA 301, Section 003
Instructor: Frank Flaherty

Prerequisites: Foundations, The Beat

This is the Capstone course. Subject matter varies from section to section, but the basic skeleton of the course is the same across sections: the emphasis is on development of the ability to produce writing and reporting within a sophisticated longform story structure. The course involves query writing, topic research and reading, interviewing, and repeated drafts and rewrites, leading to a full-length piece of writing aimed at a publishable level and the ability of the student to present the reporting orally.

The topic of this Capstone course is home, in all its guises. Home is a rich journalistic topic because it sits at the convergence of so many important things — shelter, aspiration, self-expression, family, love, hate, childhood, adulthood. Home is where the hearth is, but also where the heart is.

In this course, a student might write about a lighthouse keeper and his life of solitude, nuns in a convent in the Bronx, a family that lives on a bobbing houseboat by the Hudson River piers, or a young couple who work as live-in caretakers at the Edgar Allen Poe House. Homes and their inhabitants are infinitely varied. There are nursing homes, squats, and artist communes; there are immigrants whose homes are statements of their foreign cultures and values; there are nannies whose homes are in fact other people’s homes.

Because our homes reveal our values, dreams and interests, an article about a person’s home is also an article about that person. Imagine a young techno geek, gripped by his ambition to launch an Internet startup; his distracted, obsessed consciousness is perfectly reflected in his apartment strewn with software code and electronic devices and hardly a place to sit. Or imagine a group of nuns who decide to put a green roof on their convent to satisfy their ecological beliefs. Or imagine an artist who lives for her art, who has an all-white apartment — and who is happy to explain what her vision of beauty is.