2019 - Spring
Ideas through People
Course Number: JOUR-GA 1182.013
Day & Time: Wednesday, 2:50 pm-6:30 pm
Location: Room 655
Instructor: Anand Giridharadas
The best journalism combines three things not easily blended: the voices of earthy human characters; the observations of a writer who sees what others do not; and larger ideas that place a moment or story in context. In this course, we will explore, through reading and practice, the complex art of giving voice to one’s subjects while finding your own voice, and of situating your writing in an intellectual tradition of yet more voices.
When journalists who write about living people return to their desks after reporting, they often find themselves with three piles of information to process: their tapes, their notes, and the books (and various other readings, from news reports to journal articles) that they hope will illuminate the story at hand. This course is organized around these three piles. It will explore various works of journalism, some voice-forward (leaning heavily on those tapes), others observation-forward (relying largely on notebooks), and still others idea-forward (propelled by what the writer has read), and some that are delicately balanced among the three piles.
While reading the masters every week (Katherine Boo, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Svetlana Alexievich, Tom Wolfe, V.S. Naipaul), students will analyze and discuss how these writers weave together the voices of others, their own observations, and larger ideas. They will study how some writers hide ideas while others lead with them. They will probe the difference between extracting ideas from close reporting on people and finding people who illustrate ideas formed from reading.
Over the semester, students will develop their skills with their own tapes, notes, and books. They will choose a subject or group of subjects to report on in a sustained way throughout the term. Exploring the tapes pile, they will produce an oral history of those subjects. Exploring the notes pile, they will write a report in their own voice chronicling their immersion in the subject’s world. Exploring the books pile, they will write a memorandum on the larger ideas implicated by their reporting. Finally, they will weave it all together into a piece combining voice, observation, and ideas in their own particular way.