Medill Writing Workshop Schedule Announced

A revival meeting for weary writers

AAN calls on writers who have lost their way and editors who have lost their minds to come and testify to the power of the word at the 6th Annual AAN/Medill Alternative Journalism Writing Workshop.

The workshop will be held Friday through Sunday, Sept. 27 – 29, 2002 at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill.

This year’s workshop sessions will be led “town hall” or, if you prefer, revival style by David Carr, media reporter for The New York Times and former editor of Washington City Paper. Distinguished invited guests and members of the AAN editorial committee will be seated with other attendees, while Carr invites testimony from the entire group on topics ranging from interviewing techniques to investigative journalism.

“We’re all working hard to make sure that the people who come to Medill will find religion by making sure that the workshops are full of lots of give and take,” Carr says. “We promise no speeches over 10 minutes. And we also promise to not discuss what makes journalism alternative or not.”

On Friday, Carr opens the workshop with a series of discussions:

— “Where to Look for Great Stories”
— “The Best Story I Ever Did (And How I Made It Happen)”
— “Deconstructing an Instant Classic: William Langewiesche’s ‘American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center,'” the first two parts of which were recently published in The Atlantic.

Concurrent sessions Saturday morning focus on arts writing and investigative reporting.

At the arts sessions, Abe Peck, from the Medill faculty, will moderate the following discussions:

— “The Elements of Great Music Reporting”
— “Covering the Local Music Scene Without Pandering to Boosterism”
— “How to Develop a Critical Gauge and a Style to Match”

Participants in these discussions will include Medill graduate Steve Albini, a musician and sound engineer who has recorded Nirvana, PJ Harvey, the Breeders, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant; and Jon Langford, musician, songwriter and founding member of the Mekons, The Waco Brothers, and The Three Johns.

The Saturday morning investigative track also has three sessions:

— “How to Do Local Investigations on Less Than $5 a Day”
— “Looking for Justice in the Criminal Justice System”
— “Performing Forensics on an Award Winner: ‘Fallout'”

Lisa Davis, author of SF Weekly’s award-winning series, “Fallout,” is one of the investigative track faculty, along with the Nashville Scene’s Willy Stern, and Pulitzer Prize winner David Jackson, an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune. They will be joined by criminal justice experts Steve Bogira, an award-winning reporter for the Chicago Reader, and Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, and former editor and publisher of Chicago Lawyer magazine.

Saturday afternoon’s sessions include:

— “Loosening Lips: Interview Techniques”
— “How Stories Are Built: Notes on Notetaking, File Gathering and Transcribing”
— “Getting It Right the First Time: Self-Editing Techniques”

The workshop wraps up Sunday morning with discussions on “Project Management and Time-Saving Techniques” and “Beat Reporting: Getting Started, the Care and Feeding of Sources, and How Not to Go Native.”

Other faculty include: Salim Muwakkil, a senior editor at In These Times magazine, Op-Ed columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and a member of the editorial board and columnist for the Madison-based Progressive Media Project; and Amy Silverman, a staff writer for Phoenix New Times whose work has appeared in, The New York Times Magazine and Playboy.

The following members of the AAN Editorial Committee will also bear witness in these sessions: Erin Sullivan, news editor of Baltimore City Paper, Ken Edelstein, editor of Creative Loafing Atlanta, Caryn Brooks, arts and culture editor of Willamette Week, Andy Newman, editor of Pittsburgh City Paper, Marc Eisen, editor of Isthmus, Mike Lenehan, executive editor of Chicago Reader, Cary Stemle, editor of the Louisville Eccentric Observer, Janet Reynolds, editor and publisher of the Hartford Advocate, and Patricia Calhoun, editor of Westword.

For the first time each participant will have a group critique opportunity. Everyone who registers by Sept. 3 (Ed.: An extra week has been added to the deadline published in the registration materials) will have an opportunity to participate in the group critique sessions with two or three writers and an editor/moderator.

Dinners Friday and Saturday night are included in the conference tuition of $150 for members (increasing to $175 after Aug. 26) and $200 for non-members. Friday night the group will dine at the Firehouse Grill and Saturday night’s dinner (limited to the first 60 registrants) is at Roxy Café.

Winners of the John Bartlow Martin Awards for outstanding magazine journalism will be honored at the Friday night dinner (Ed. Correction: They will be honored at the Saturday dinner.) : Katherine Boo of The New Yorker and The Washington Post, a former writer for Washington City Paper, SF Weekly’s Davis and Phoenix New Times’ Silverman.

Participants in past AAN/Medill Alternative Journalism Writing Workshops have gone home recharged with enthusiasm.

“Often it’s easy to slip into a formulaic, tired, fill-in-the-blanks style of writing, especially when you’re covering the same rotation of arts subjects week after week or you work in a market where your own personal individualism isn’t, um … appreciated,” says Kristen Sherwood, listings editor for the Colorado Springs Independent. “Getting to kvetch about style and content with other writers and editors from across the country during the Medill workshops was a great opportunity to swap ideas about keeping stale things fresh. Plus, the campus is beautiful!”

The most inspirational aspect of the workshop for Sherwood was the “no bullshit” interaction with “some of the best writers and editors in the industry.”

“I learned how to distinguish the real stories from the fluff, and came back more motivated to write, edit and create new features than I’ve ever been before,” says Sherwood, who attended the 2001 workshop.

Due to space limitations, a limited number of registrations are available. Registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration forms were mailed today or can be downloaded from this site. Click here to download a pdf version.

Workshop registration deadline is Sept. 3, 2002, (Ed.: An extra week has been added to the deadline published in the registration materials.) or when the workshop is sold out, whichever comes first.

Tuition is $150 per person for AAN members received by Sept.3, 2002, (Ed.: An extra week has been added to the deadline published in the registration materials.) and $200 per person for non-members.

You can also register over the phone and pay with Visa or MasterCard by calling the AAN office at (202) 822-1955.

AAN has reserved a small block of rooms at the Best Western University Plaza, (847) 491-6400 or (800) 382-6786, for the nights of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Sept. 26-29 at the rate of $89 single or double. Be sure to ask for the AAN rate when making your reservation. The cut-off date for reserving rooms at the special AAN rate is Sept. 3, 2002. (Ed.: An extra week has been added to the deadline published in the registration materials.)