2020 - Spring: WRRII – LitRep: Ethnography for Journalists

Course Number: JOUR-GA 1022.009

Day & Time: Monday, 2:00pm-5:00pm

Location: 7th Fl Library

Instructor: Ted Conover

Syllabus: Download

*Instructor permission required if not Lit Rep student.

Long-form journalism is often concerned with the story of people’s lives over time, and the work of many celebrated journalists has strong ethnographic components, whether pursued consciously or not. Adrian LeBlanc’s Random Family is one example. Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm and War are two more (and Junger, who majored in anthropology, more than once has cited his debt to the discipline). Leon Dash, William Finnegan, and Alex Kotlowitz are other writers who believe in the payoffs to their journalism of immersive, in-depth research that is essentially ethnographic.

Using that kind of research to do journalism is what this course is about. We’ll start with a look at some classic studies and learn how the ethnographic tradition arose. Next will be a short course in ethnographic fieldwork: How is it different from traditional journalistic research, and how does one do it? Early on, students will identify a person (it could be a bodega owner or a skateboarder), or small group of people (it could be a girls’ soccer team, a group of Masons, or political activists) whose lives they will study over several weeks; the final project will be a narrative article about them.

Please note: Equipment Insurance is required if you need to borrow equipment. Purchase equipment insurance for a full year through College Student Insurance (CSI) https://collegestudentinsurance.com/.  CSI covers the gear checked out from the Journalism Equipment Room plus personal items such as laptops and cell phones.  Our suggested CSI plan  costs $155 with a $500 deductible.