Workshop to Address Not Sucking and Other Topics

“[Writers] conferences can be too esoteric and big picture, looking at trends and theories,” says Steven T. Jones, city editor at the San Francisco Bay Guardian. “At [the AAN/Medill Writers Workshop], you hear writers talking about the steps they took in reporting and writing stories, details that you can apply directly to your work.”

Julia Goldberg, editor of Santa Fe reporter, has also found the workshop to be a valuable experience. “The combination of nuts and bolts programming along with freewheeling discussions on everything from undercover ethics to interviewing techniques gave me new ideas and vigor,” she says. “I returned to work armed with handouts galore and pages of notes I’d made to discuss with my staff.”

Why might alt-weekly editors and writers find the workshop so rewarding?

Creative Loafing Editor Ken Edelstein puts it succinctly: “It’s one of the few writers workshops in the country that are tailored to alt-weeklies.”

The workshop will be held at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., on Aug. 12-13. Traditionally, the workshop has been held after Labor Day, but this year’s has been scheduled in conjunction with the final weekend of the Academy for Alternative Journalism (AAJ), AAN’s summer program for minority journalists. This will provide AAN members attending the workshop an opportunity to meet AAJ’s graduating class.

Here’s a rundown of what’s on tap:

Chicago Reader’s Steve Bogira, author of the critically acclaimed book “Courtroom 302,” will lead two workshops: one about crime and justice reporting and another about the art of interviewing. Mike Sager, Esquire contributor and bestselling writer of “Scary Monsters and Super Freaks,” will examine the techniques and disciplines that make narrative journalism sing. Syndicated columnist Dan Savage will head a session concerning just what its title, “On Not Sucking,” might suggest. And Westword editor Patricia Calhoun will team with award-winning reporter Julie Jargon to talk about how a tip can lead to exposing a major scandal.

Every writer who registers for the workshop by Friday, July 29, will have an opportunity to have one of their stories critiqued by at least two experienced alt-weekly editors. Critiques will be conveyed in small-group settings, with several reporters and at least two editors assigned to each group.

“The big advantage we have over competitors like daily newspapers, faux alts and citizen journalism Web sites [is that] we deliver good writing. So I’m always looking to sharpen my writing skills,” says Cathy Resmer, a writer at Seven Days (Burlington, Vt.) who’s already registered for the workshop. “I’m also looking forward to hearing what Dan Savage has to say about saving journalism and ‘not sucking.’ I find his workshop description rather ironic, considering his career as a love counselor.”

Dan Eldridge, Pittsburgh City Paper’s music editor, has also registered. “I’m a huge fan of Mike Sager’s work, and I’m really curious to hear what he has to say,” Eldridge explains, adding, “I hope to meet some new people and maybe make some new connections, but, more importantly, I hope to pick up some writing tips and/or tricks that I hadn’t considered before.”

To download a complete schedule and registration materials, click here.

Evanston is approximately equidistant from Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports. From either one, cab fare is around $40. Public transportation and airport shuttles are alternate options. For detailed information about transportation between Evanston and O’Hare, click here. Between Evanston and Midway, click here.