2018 - Spring

Advanced Reporting: Hype-Busting Health Storytelling (print track)

Course Number: JOUR-UA 301.003

Day & Time: Wed 9:30am-1:10pm

Location: 20CS, Room 655

Instructor: Ivan Oransky, MD

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.

Let’s face it: There’s a lot of really awful reporting on health and medicine out there. One day, coffee prevents diabetes. The next, it gives you cancer. The same is true for chocolate and red wine. We all know these stories are at best useless, at worst dangerous, and yet it’s hard to avoid them. In this class, you’ll learn how, by developing sources, busting hype, and telling great stories that will make editors forget about the latest flimsy health claim and buy your story instead.

While this class emphasizes critical thinking and skeptical reporting, it is also full of exercises in craft that will build with the goal of clips that we’ll pitch to smart glossy magazines as well as wonky, attitude-driven outlets like Slate and Vox. You’ll learn how to break down a study and ask the right questions, as well as find patient narratives that will make your work sing. We’ll also cover how to find data for deep investigative dives, and the kind of infographics that pop.