2014 - Fall

The Beat: Hyphenated New York

Course Number: JOUR-UA 201, Section 002

Day & Time: Thursday 2:30pm-6:10pm

Location: 20 Cooper Square, room 653

Instructor: Vivien Orbach-Smith

Prerequisites: Foundations, Inquiry

This course is designed to hone the student journalist’s ability to research and report deeply and to be able to imagine and develop fresh ideas, test them with the strength of his or her reporting and resarch, and then to present them in story form. Students will be expected to keep weeky beat notes or blogs, exploring what is current in the topic and demonstrating week after week the shoeleather they have worn in pursuit of their subject matter. Out of this work will come four or five stories in narrative, explanatory or investigative style, depending on the instructor and the specific assignment. Syllabi differ by content of the course but all sections emphasize idea development, interview technique, reporting, background research and writing skills across genres. Broadcast sections vary only by medium.

Many New Yorkers live in two worlds: the cultures that spawned them, and the international city they call home. In this intensive skills course, you will zero in on a neighborhood/community in which New Yorkers determinedly straddle and embrace dual identities, bringing vibrancy and diversity to this city. You may cover your chosen beat through a variety of lenses, such as:
• Zeroing in on individuals who have achieved success and others who struggle;
• Profiling local institutions and businesses;
• Examining a neighborhood’s/community’s historical and political underpinnings;
• Focusing on a community’s or individual’s cultural/professional contributions.

Your beat may be a community defined by its residents’ lands of origin (the Russians of Brighton Beach, Koreans of “Koreatown” [Manhattan], Albanians of Arthur Avenue], Indians of “Curry Row” [Manhattan], Irish of Woodlawn [Queens]), or by their race, religion, ethnicity or identity (Harlem USA, Chassidic Crown Heights, Downtown LGBT). Whether your story is about a place or an individual, an organization or an event, your writing must always capture the human side of the news- the heart of feature journalism.
You will be guided in coming up with and pursuing great, fresh story ideas within your beat, in writing four graded pieces (three shorter ones and one more in-depth final), and in finding appropriate venues to pitch them. (Getting clips – not just grades – is one of the aims of this course.) The goal here is learning how to craft strong, captivating stories featuring memorable characters and settings – with much emphasis upon resourceful newsgathering and responsible presentation of facts and events, vivid color and detail, coherent and graceful structure, and impeccable mechanics (spelling, grammar, punctuation). A key focus of your reporting and writing will be to broaden your readers’ perspective (and your own) on the cultural/ethnic/socioeconomic milieu of your subjects.
This class will provide you with opportunities to write stories that are genuinely publishable, on subjects that genuinely interest you. You will be encouraged to write creatively and gorgeously, and even to try to change the world…but your product must retain the clarity, concision and precision that were drummed into you in your basic reporting classes, stopping far short of “fan-like,” gushy prose, blinding passions, or
fictional license.