Course Descriptions


Spring Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor
Reading of selected texts to explore the ways in which literary journalism and related nonfiction modes formulate experience. Students write several short papers and one final project. The required prerequisite for either section of LJ 20 is satisfactory completion of the lower-division writing requirement.
No detailed description available.
To write convincingly and tell powerful stories that resonate, writers need to be meticulous, thorough reporters. LJ21 teaches students how to report their literary journalism articles accurately and thoroughly, focusing on the three basic means of gathering information for a story: interviewing, observing and reading. Early in the quarter, students will select a topic, or beat, as it is known in news parlance, from which they will develop contacts and story leads. Students will cover an event, conduct an interview and generate articles related to their beats, also learning ways to use Internet resources and databases to find facts and information and examining investigative and legal documents. The required prerequisite for either section of LJ 21 is satisfactory completion of the lower-division writing requirement.
Advanced Reporting asks students to complete a series of writing and multimedia assignments that require proficiency in varied reporting strategies such as interview, observation and research. Assignments will include profile, photo story, social problem/community reporting, and a final group digital project on a subject of our choosing. Guest speakers will offer insight into professional paths.
Magazine writing takes many forms: the in-depth piece, the insightful personality profile, the short impressionistic story that usually runs in the front of the publication. When written with style and insight, all of these stories can embody the best of literary journalism. Many of America's finest nonfiction writers perfected their style when they were crafting these kinds of pieces. Students will have the opportunity to sharpen their storytelling skills by writing several types of articles. The foundation of this class is weekly one-on-one meetings with your editor (professor) where you will discuss how to come up with story ideas,how your stories were edited and how to improve them. This will give you the experience of shaping story ideas and honing your pieces with an editor. A number of accomplished writers will visit the class and talk about how they research and write. We will focus on the importance of insightful interviewing and dogged reporting. Students will learn to develop their own writing style by reading and analyzing a wide range of stories. The required prerequisite for this course is LJ101A.
We live in California, arguably the most beautiful state in the union. Yet all around us every day, we see degradation and despoliation of our incredible natural environment. We also see man's efforts to protect and enhance nature, in the form of zoos, aquariums, parks, preserves, landscaping, etc. This workshop will provide students with the writer's tools to depict both the grandeur and complexity of nature, and also humanity's vexed relationship with the natural world, as our complicated and often perverse species tries to control and develop what nature has provided. What problems and dilemmas occur when people confront nature? Rather than write broadly about issues like climate change or pollution, we'll try to find particular and local instances of environmental conflicts and crises that offer us opportunities for narrative and thematic drama. We will learn to write both appreciatively and analytically about the nature we see around us -- which can include anything from rabbits to wildfires to the kennels of the ASPCA -- and we will attempt to keep our work as local as possible. One of the best things about this workshop is that it gives writers an opportunity, often, to return to subjects that interested them when they were younger, but that they now can study in an organized, reflective, and serious way. An alternate title for the course might be "Bugs, Birds, Fish, Whales, Rivers, and Trees." Among the many whose works we will be reading are the classic naturalists, like Rachel Carson, John Muir, and yes, even Thoreau, as well as more recent environmental writers like Annie Dillard, John McPhee, Bill McKibben, and Elizabeth Kolbert.
Narrative writing provides the foundation for much of what we call literary journalism. Writers in this field want to tell stories. They want to bring to nonfiction the sense of inner life usually found only in novels. How to write nonfiction prose that adopts the aims and techniques of the finest fiction? How to tell tales that read as if they were nonfiction short stories? These will be the central questions students in this class face. Students will look to nonfiction writers such as Gay Talese, Joan Didion and Michael Paterniti. Students will also do a good deal of their own narrative writing. This course is an advanced writing workshop: Students will regularly share their work with classmates in a constructive process of peer-review, then revise based on that feedback. By the end of the quarter, students will have produced a vignette, a character sketch and a major example of narrative writing.
This workshop will concentrate on writing about food so that it matters. “The way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world,” writes Michael Pollan, the food author and thinker. In Food Writing, we want to think, write, and report about food in the world, and about local food. We want to consider poverty and scarcity, as well as abundance and even surfeit. We will try for thoughtful, culturally savvy essays in this workshop, essays that do more than report out a story, essays that give our ideas and reporting weight and significance. What do our ways of eating tell us about the people we are?

Subjects for our essays might include labor struggles in the fast food industry; raising and eating organic; good and bad foods and who eats them; the farm to table movement; a reconstructed history of an Orange County farm; a portrait of a local farmers market from farm to customer; the politics of trendy eating: vegetarianism, veganism, and the gluten-free diet; PETA’s tactics and the treatment of livestock; a profile of a smart restaurant; Thanksgiving dinner over the years; the Costco/Walmart food chain; how flavor works; the life story of a rising restaurateur; eating, splurging, feasting, and starving in young adult literature – from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games; fake foods: from Spam to Tang to Plumpynut; the science and/or the political implications of GMO foods, etc. etc. Authors we’ll read will include MFK Fisher, Julia Child, Michael Pollan, Yotam Ottolenghi, David Foster Wallace, Adam Gopnik, Jonathan Safran Foer, Eric Schlosser, and others.
From the slums of Mumbai, to the gang neighborhoods of Watts; from the classrooms of South Central Los Angeles and the remote villages of the Amazon, to the war-torn streets of Iraq, journalists seek out places most people avoid, and they return to tell stories that shed light on important issues and serious social problems. The books we read follow the paths of these journalists who enter dangerous and unfamiliar areas, report at their peril and return to illuminate misunderstood parts of the world. As we shadow the writers on these journeys, we discuss how they were able to obtain access into these worlds, gain the trust of the residents, transcend stereotypes, and tell stories that were not simply dry recitations of facts, problems and solutions, but compelling narratives. We discuss poverty, discrimination, and inequality in this class. We also study the art of storytelling, including how to engage the reader, how to create a page-turning story arc, how to make characters come alive. We break down the books in order to understand the writers' styles and their approaches. This class will be helpful for those who are interested in becoming writers, as well as students who simply love good writing and good storytelling. Several of the writers we read will visit the class and discuss the dangers they faced, the risks they encountered and their research methods and writing techniques.
On September 16, 2001, days after the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington, DC, vice president Dick Cheney sat down for an interview with Meet the Press host Tim Russert. “We’re going to spend time in shadows in the intelligence world,” he told Russert. “A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies.” This course will explore how writers have told the stories of these “shadows” and this covert “world.” How have journalists investigated and reported on national security in an age of heightened state secrecy? How have they rendered sometimes opaque government activities––counterterrorism, mass surveillance, cyber war––in narrative form? As a story?

Through the work of photojournalists, documentary filmmakers, and the writing of such print journalists as Jane Mayer, Glenn Greenwald, and Fred Kaplan, we will consider the growth of the United States’ national security infrastructure since the onset of the cold war and the struggle to tell (and conceal) that story in the twenty-first century. After two weeks devoted to contemporary narrative journalism that “re-reports” the cold war, we will move through three interrelated units on military prisons, state surveillance, and cyber war. From now until June, we will ask how writers, faced with the challenges of secrecy and complexity, have constructed stories out of material that may, at first glance, seem to resist storytelling.
Students interested in covering local news and issues will develop news,feature, investigative or enterprise articles for potential placement in local publications. Students will spend part of class meetings on the phone, researching, pitching and writing. Class will explore the work of reporting on communities facing a variety of social, political and economic challenges, with help from guest speakers representing local media. There may be a final project in which class members collaborate on a multimedia publishing endeavor.