AAN/Medill Workshop Program Announced

Four professional trainers will address topics ranging from the value of skepticism to the writing of Joseph Mitchell.

AAN today announced the program for its 4th Annual AAN/Medill Alternative Journalism Writing Workshop. The workshop will be held Friday-Sunday, October 6-8 at Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

The AAN/Medill conference offers two full days of hands-on training and practical advice from experienced professional trainers who understand alternative journalism. Each session will encourage individual participation, and attendees will be provided with extensive pre-conference reading assignments that will serve as the common text for group discussions.

Most of the attendees of the first three AAN/Medill workshops have spoken highly of the experience. For instance, Cara Jepsen of the Chicago Reader, who attended last year’s workshop, said “I thought the conference was fabulous. It got me excited about writing again.”

The professional instructors this year will be Bruce Shapiro, Abe Peck and Ben Yagoda, and Steve Bogira.

Shapiro, a contributing editor at The Nation and national correspondent for Salon.com, will present two workshops incorporating small-group discussions in which participants will critique one another’s work:

o “Pushing The Limits: Innovative Approaches To Local News” will reveal how to more effectively mine neighborhoods and community organizations for the hot-button stories and sources the daily press is missing, and strategies to take these stories as far as they can go.

o “Tell It! Techniques To Revive, Restore And Resuscitate Your Prose (And Still Make Deadline)” will demonstrate fresh storytelling techniques, power tools for more effective revision and self-editing, and examples of how some of the liveliest writers on the journalism scene solve practical writing and storytelling problems.

Shapiro has taught writing and investigative journalism at Yale University since 1992. Although this will be his first appearance at the AAN/Medill Workshop, has been a popular presenter in the past at AAN conventions and the AAN West conference.

While Shapiro is presenting his local news workshop, Medill professor Abe Peck will present a concurrent seminar for arts and feature writers. Using classic pieces, winning AAN-contest entries and selected pieces from attendees who volunteer their work, Peck will examine elements of arts criticism and feature writing from critical position to the needs of particular arts genres. Peck has helped organize each of the AAN/Medill workshops, and also has been a highly-rated instructor at several AAN conventions.

Award-winning Chicago Reader reporter Steve Bogira, who was inspirational at last year’s AAN/Medill conference, will lead a discussion designed to demonstrate how journalists can cultivate a patient, persistent skepticism in their work. “The Importance of Being Doubtful” will help reporters resist the easy temptation to reach conclusions before they have reason to, and will demonstrate how to prevent “accepted truths” from slipping untested into stories.

Author, journalist and journalism professor Ben Yagoda, making his first appearance before an AAN audience, will present two workshops:

o “Finding Your Voice” will look at samples from writers with strong voices to supply some answers to the questions: When is it appropriate and valuable for a writer to have a distinctive voice? How do you get one?

o “Joseph Mitchell and New York” will take a look at one of the twentieth century’s greatest urban journalists. From the thirties through the sixties, Mitchell — who has gotten attention recently because of the movie version of his book “Joe Gould’s Secret” — turned out dozens and dozens of pieces of the highest quality about New York City, first for the New York World-Telegram and then for the New Yorker.

Yagoda, who is associate professor of English at the University of Delaware and a contributing editor at Philadelphia Magazine, recently wrote “About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made”. He also wrote “Will Rogers: A Biography” (chosen as one of the Notable Books of 1993 by the New York Times Book Review) and co-authored with Kevin Kerrane “The Art of Fact: A Historical Anthology of Literary Journalism.”

The AAN/Medill workshop will begin at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 6 and will end at noon on Sunday, Oct. 8. Tuition is $150 per person for AAN members, and $250 per person for non-members. Registration forms will be faxed and mailed to AAN members today and Monday.

AAN has reserved a small block of rooms at the Evanston Holiday Inn for the nights of Thursday, Friday, though Saturday, October 5-7 at the rate of $139 single or $149 double. To reserve a room, call 847-491-6400 or 800-EVANSTON. Be sure to ask for the AAN rate (mention group code ANW) when making your reservation. The cut-off date for reserving rooms at the special AAN rate is September 12, 2000.