Archive for September, 2012

Class schedule

September 20, 2012

Sept. 27

Narrative method: “Hitler ” by Janet Flanner

Oct. 4

Scenic Method: “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” by Gay Talese

DUE: Introduction with background and outline 700 words.

Oct. 11

Scenic Method: “Mr. Hunter’s Grave,” by Joseph Mitchell

Oct. 18

Essay Method: “Down at the Cross” from The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

First academic papers due (1000 words: Brandi Neal on Flanner, Dwayne Adams on Baldwin. Immanuel Nwachukun on Tracy Kidder

Oct. 25

Mark Singer on Profiles, with his stories on Stephen King and the magician Ricky Jay

Nov. 1 

Tom Wolfe and the New Journalism “The Last American Hero”

DUE DATE: Introduction (revised), background and beginning of chronology (1500 words)

Nov. 8

John Hersey, Hiroshima, an examination of structure

Story conferences this week

Nov. 15

Second  academic papers due (Brandi, Dwayne and Immanuel)

Nov. 22 (Holiday)

Nov. 28 Last day of class

Week of December 6: No class, but individual conferences

Final drafts of stories due no later than December 14.


How to Write a Paper for Literature of Journalism

September 13, 2012

I want you to take a journalistic approach to the writing of your papers. By that I mean: do some research and tell me a story. Put it in a story form.

In the research paper I’m not looking for opinion.  I’m looking for the skilled presentation of information. You might even use the feature form that I’ve put in the links on the blog.

So let’s say you’re writing about Hiroshima. Think of your lead as being the latest news or information about the book, and that would be that it’s been voted the number one story on the list of journalism’s 100 great stories. That’s the hook.

Now, if you’ve read a lot of journalism, you might quarrel with that assessment, but that’s not the point. This is not about opinions. I’m looking for facts. Tell me in the opening why Hiroshima has been the overwhelming choice. Quote some of the experts.

Then you might describe the book a bit, its understated style. The way it traces the fates of several (six as I recall) characters on the terrible day. Describe how the book works and quote a couple of particularly moving passages.

Once you’ve established what the book is about, you could go back in time.  Tell us about Hersey’s background at the time he wrote the book. Describe the circumstances under which he wrote the book. Find anything you can in Hersey’s own words about how he did it. I believe he had only six weeks to do this. Gather all the facts you can about the creation and editing of the story and how it was run in one issue of The New Yorker.  Then move the story forward. How the book has been reprinted. How Hersey updated it many years later. (When?)

He wrote other books, but this was the one that is considered his masterpiece. You could write a paragraph about the other books. You might end the paper with something Hersey said about the book. Maybe he has said something about the matter of luck and timing and preparation.

As you write, tell how you know what you know. If you are working from Internet sources, provide the links. At the end of the story, provide a list of sources. Annotate according the APA (American Psychological Association), which is required mode for graduate students in the School of Communication.  This method is called the “In-text Citation.” Instead of using numbered notes, you provide a list of sources at the end of the paper, and provide a reference to the source in brackets in the text. This makes for a particularly ugly manuscript. For example, say you’re citing  Frank Bergon’s book on Stephen Crane,  you would put his book in your list of sources, and then when you used something from him, you would write: [Bergon, p. 30] or the like. Here’s a link to a guide

A word of warning, though. I don’t think of us as social scientists. I think of us as humanists. This is a literary class, not a social science class.  We’re not writing social science papers or describing an experiment. .  Write this as a journalistic narrative.  Ignore the other APA recommendations except the In-text Citation. You might as and get the hang of it, because you will have to use it for your thesis and other papers.

The pitch for the whooping crane story

September 6, 2012

Hi Mimi,

In July or August a Corpus Christi federal judge will rule on whether the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality killed 24 endangered whooping cranes during the drought of 2008-2009. Environmentalists say the cranes died because the TCEQ did not allow enough freshwater to flow from the Guadalupe River into San Antonio Bay and sued under the Endangered Species Act. During the first two weeks of December, expert witnesses for the state made a series of astounding claims about whooping cranes, including that they did not need to drink fresh water. Their experts also said the blue crabs, the essential food of the cranes, reproduce better under high saline conditions produced by drought, a claim that runs against all evidence in the field. The dueling science was produced by Texas A&M, which was awarded a million-dollar grant in the mid-nineties by San Antonio water authorities to study the effects of freshwater outflows on the cranes. The water authorities got the results they paid for, but they have been scathingly criticized by top scientists, including the federal wildlife official who knows most about whooping cranes.  I am studying the transcript of the trial in preparation for a book. There are moments of high comedy in which the judge, a former registered nurse, catches out the state’s witnesses in factual errors and flat tells them they are wrong. Her ruling could force the state to reserve fresh water inflows for the iconic whooping crane and change the way the TCEQ does business.


If TM is interested, I could turn out a story by the end of  May.


Thanks for your interest. If there is one bird that makes Texas known throughout the world, it is the whooping crane.




For an overview of the issues, see my stories for Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine, and more recently, Texas Climate News: