2009 Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism: Telling True Stories in Turbulent Times

Snatching Narrative Power

Close to 600 journalists joined us at the Sheraton Boston March 20-22 for our eighth annual narrative conference. Keynoter Connie Schultz, columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, addressed the elephant in the room: the crisis in our industry and the loss of jobs across the country. Schultz made us laugh, reminded us of the power of stories, and noted that even if the business model is broken we “are not broken.”

In session after session, speakers generously offered more insight and inspiration. Highlights:

  • Jon Lee Anderson on the value of the outtake: Early in his career, he said, “everything that seemed valuable … was still in me and never saw the light of day"; years later, those outtakes have found a place in four narrative books;

  • Writer/psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo on the psychic dangers all writers face ("liberating and encouraging,” said one attendee);

  • New York Times multimedia guru Amy O’Leary  on narrative form for audio geeks;

  • Tom French from Indiana University on reporting that makes a story sing;

  • Jennifer Crandall and Richard Koci Hernandez on the art of the interview;

  • Adam Hochschild on suspense, showing how flat “The Three Little Pigs” would be if told in who-what-where fashion;

  • Jane Kamensky, Tina Bennett, and Wendy Wolf on how authors, agents, and editors work together;

  • Gwen Ifill on the former NAACP chairman Julian Bond telling young Turks to “snatch power” from elders.

By the time the conference was over, we all snatched some power back to sustain our passion, intellect, and drive.

View a slideshow from this year's conference »

Want to keep the conversation going?

Join us on the Nieman Narrative Digest to read inspiring narrative journalism and commentary about what makes it work.

Read the Nieman Journalism Lab, where we write every day about the future of journalism and where we will be posting sessions from the conference and interviews of speakers.

Order full conference sessions from Cambridge Transcriptions.


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