2019 - Spring

The Beat: The 21st Century Immigrant Experience (Print/Online track)

Course Number: JOUR-UA 201.001

Day & Time: Wed 11:00am-2:40pm

Location: 20CS, room 655

Instructor: Betty Ming Liu

Prerequisites:  Journalistic Inquiry: The Written Word (JOUR-UA 101)

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 research, and then to present them in story form. Students will be expected to keep weekly 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.


The Beat: The 21st Century Immigrant Experience

Nearly 27% of today’s U.S. population consists of immigrant parents and their American-born children. We are more brown and diverse than newcomers from centuries past. We are also witnessing the expanding influence of biracial and multiracial children from these families — an exploding, mixed population wrestling with identity issues of otherness, community and belonging that researchers are only starting to explore.

In this course, you are invited to discover how today’s immigrants and their families are both similar and different from those of earlier generations. Their experiences, so raw and real, are profoundly impacting American society — from politics, business and technology to music, fashion, food and the arts.

During the semester, you will report and write five stories about a specific community of your choosing. These submissions will vary in length from 500 words to 1,200 words and include one first-person article based on your own story. Your assignments will take you through city neighborhoods to find out what’s really going on.

You might hear Yoruba spoken in the South Bronx on a block filled with residents originally from Nigeria, or order a helping of mangú during a Dominican breakfast in a Washington Heights restaurant. Or maybe you’ll spend part of your weekend in Queens, interviewing people about politics and mental health issues at mosques, churches and temples.

Our two assigned books are about Asians, the fastest-growing population in the U.S. Wildly diverse – from crazy rich to desperately poor – they hail from countries that account for more than 20% of the world’s population. To get beyond stereotypes, we will read:

“Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen” is the 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir by journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. Originally from the Philippines, he shares what it’s like to grow up, live and love illegally in the U.S.

“Useful Phrases for Immigrants” is a 2018 short story collection about Chinese and Chinese-American families by former Associated Press reporter and memoirist May-Lee Chai, whose writing draws on her biracial heritage.

Because of the time, travel and time-travel demands of our class, The 21st Century Immigrant Experience is best suited for dedicated journalists who want to invest the hours and heart needed to interview, report and write their way to new truths about what America looks like today.