2016 - Spring

Advanced Reporting: The Quest

Course Number: JOUR-UA 301.003

Day & Time: Tues 4:55pm-8:35pm

Location: 20 Cooper Square, room 654

Instructor: Jessica Seigel

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 quest is at the heart of our greatest stories, from Odysseus returning home and Nellie Bly’s race around the world–to cooking every Julia Childs recipe in a year. In this course, students plot their own journey, inspired by classics old and new. You’ll learn quest hallmarks like the role of the challenge, obstacles, character, location, guides, gurus and skeptics, doubt and myth—and all-important narrative structure using present, past, future, suspense, and flashback. While teaching the long form feature, the course also emphasizes real-world skills, offering a chance to publish (for pay) through partnership with local media, which have included The Villager, The Brooklyn Paper, Village Voice, Vice/Broadly, and others.


Students warm up for their 3,000-word capstone magazine package with linked features that may include themes such as The Place, The Guide, The Big Dare, Fish Out of Water, and In-The-Footsteps. You’ll also write queries, learn pitch skills, and learn to package your stories with multi-media know-how including great photos and slide shows. Throughout, we’ll work on balancing first with third person, detailed reporting with personal experience, while finding your authentic voice. Past student seekers have learned to motorcycle, dressed in drag, tried stand-up comedy, conquered an addiction, lived with the homeless, and hunted diverse myths from J.D. Salinger’s New York to Bruce Springsteen’s New Jersey. What’s your Holy Grail? In this class, you may find it.