2015 - Spring

Advanced Reporting: Fame: From the Past to the Pursuit

Course Number: JOUR-UA 301.0.2

Day & Time: Tues 2:00pm-5:40pm

Location: 20 Cooper, 653

Instructor: Mary W. Quigley

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.

Our culture is obsessed by fame, from celebrities to neon names in business, sports, education, medicine, encompassing virtually every field. The media help drive fame, from magazine covers—People’s celebs-of-the-moment,  New York magazine with Best Doctors, Esquire’s “75 Best People in the World”–to television with countless reality shows where anyone can be a “star” for a week or two or more. 

Andy Warhol famously predicted that everyone will get 15 minutes of fame. He could not have forecast how quickly that can happen in the 21st century on the Internet with viral YouTube videos, Facebook and Twitter. Social networking has made fame more accessible than ever and transformed fans into amateur paparazzi, thanks to digital cameras.

This course will focus on fame in all its manifestations including the cult of celebrity. We’ll begin by reading Leo Braudy’s “History of Renown,” which covers the subject from Alexander the Great to modern times. We’ll consider the question of how fame has evolved from being based on achievement to what historian Daniel Boorstin calls “well-knownness,” which is people famous simply for being famous.

Course requires include a 1,000-word analysis of a person’s climb to fame, a 1,500-word profile of a reality show contestant or viral video “star,” and a 3,000-word heavily researched and reported piece on a “big fish” in a small pond or, conversely, a small fish a big pond.

A major part of the course is polishing your work so it can be posted on the class webzine http://fameology.net/, where students can experiment with text, photos and video.  All students are all required to write a weekly blog on a subject area related to their final piece.