Description   |   Syllabus

The Long Fact: A Workshop
UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
Spring, 2011


The Long Fact - A Workshop

Spring 2011

Tuesdays 6 — 9   North Gate 104

Mark Danner

This workshop intended to guide and support those who are at work on a long-form reporting project, particularly those embarking on a written master's thesis. Working closely with one another - the workshop will be limited to twelve - we will explore the various skills demanded in long-form reporting and writing, from development of story ideas, to shaping the pitch, to roughing out a reporting plan, to crafting a lead, to drafting, editing and writing the story. Readings will include selected works of long-form journalism drawn from The New Yorker, Harper's, The Atlantic and other publications. During the course of the term students will be expected not only to bring their own pieces to fruition but to work actively as editors on those of their colleagues.

Requirements. At the heart of this course is the work we will do around the table during our weekly meetings. This will include collective reading and editing of drafts, planning writing strategy, and in general the kind of collaborative work that can support writing a long-form piece of journalism. The goal is to improve your writing, and your editing.  Thus faithful attendance is critical. So is thorough preparation.

Grading.  Students will be graded on their participation in class, the quality of their written work and the effectiveness and thoroughness of their editing the work of their colleagues.


Required Texts

William Strunk Jr and E.B. White, The Elements of Style

George Orwell, A Collection of Essays

Ian Jack (editor), The Granta Book of Reportage

James B. Stewart, Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction

Norman Sims and Mark Kramer (editors), Literary Journalism

Roy Peter Clark, Writing Tools

Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia

Mark Danner, The Massacre at El Mozote

Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year

Michael Herr, Dispatches

Ryszard Kapuscinski, Shah of Shahs

Ryszard Kapuscinski, The Emperor

Janet Malcolm, A Silent Woman

V.S. Naipaul, The Writer and the World

George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

William Vollmann, Rising Up and Rising Down

January 18, 2011 - Introducing the Long Fact

What we're doing here (and why I don't claim to be absolutely sure of the answer). What is "the Long Fact"? Can it be taught? If it can't, what (again) are we doing here? Discuss… 

A trip around the room: surveying the long facts…

Reading: George Orwell, "Marrakech" in Orwell,  A Collection of Essays

January 25, 2011 - On Words, Sentences and Rules

Writing clearly: What to forget and what to remember. The war against cliché.  Why committing journalism can be dangerous to your prose. On slicing through jargon, and other editing strategies 

Reading: George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"

              Strunk and White, The Elements of Style

Workshop: Noemie Bisserbe, Carbon Credits Pitch

                    Puck Lo's Immigration Piece Draft

February 1, 2011 — On Power and Truth

Reading: Ryszard Kapuscinski, The Emperor

Workshop: Deia de Brito, Ragpickers Draft


Noemie Bisserbe, Carbon Credits Pitch

February 8, 2011 - On Negotiating the Long Fact, Retrospectively

A possibly embarrassing discussion of how a "long fact" piece supposedly gets written, or anyway how it is remembered. Reporting, Structure, Writing, Editing.

Reading: Mark Danner, The Massacre at El Mozote

Workshop: Fabiane Stefano, Angola Farmers Pitch

Reporting, and What It Is — February 18, 2011 (Note: Thursday class)

Ryszard Kapuscinski, "The Soccer War" in Ian Jack, The Granta Book of Reportage

Richard Preston, "The Mountains of Pi" in Sims and Kramer, Literary Journalism

James B. Stewart, "Curiosity," "Ideas," "Proposals" in Follow the Story

Workshop: Leah Bartos, Medical Examiners' Conference Draft

February 22, 2011

Reading: Adrian LeBlanc, "Trina" in Sims and Kramer, Literary Journalism


Joseph Mitchell, "The Rivermen" in Literary Journalism


James B. Stewart, "Gathering Information" in Follow the Story

Workshop: Leah Bartos, Medical Examiners Conference draft

March 4, 2011 

Reading: Ian Jack, "Gibraltar" in The Granta Book of Reportage


John LeCarre, "The Unbearable Peace" in The Granta Book


James B. Stewart, "The Tipster" in Follow the Story


James Stewart, "Leads" in Follow the Story

Workshop: Fabiano Stefano, Angola Farmers Pitch


Leah Bartos, Medical Examiners Draft

March 1, 2011

Gerald Marzorati discussion on "Future of Mainstream Journalism," with Mark Danner and Michael Pollan

March 8, 2011

Reading: Janet Malcolm, The Silent Woman

James B. Stewart, "Transitions" and "Structure" in Follow the Story 

March 15, 2011

Reading: John McPhee, "Atchafalaya" in Literary Journalism

Sheri Fink, "The Deadly Choices at Memorial," in The New York Times Magazine, August 30, 2009

James B. Stewart, "The Battle for the Sny" in Follow the Story 

James B. Stewart, "Descriptions," "Dialogue," "Anecdotes" in Follow the Story

March 22, 2011: Spring Break 

March 29, 2011

Reading: V.S. Naipaul, "Michael X and the Black Power Killings in Trinidad" and "The Return of Eva Peron" in The Writer and the World

James B. Stewart, "Humor and Pathos," "Endings," and "Conclusions" in Follow the Story

Workshop: Scott Bransford, "Join Up or Go Home: Ethical Dilemmas…," draft

April 19, 2011

Reading: Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year

Workshop: Scott Bransford, "Stasio's War: An Introduction," Draft

April 24, 2011 (Liaisons Dinner Meeting)

Reading: George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

Workshop: Deia de Brito, "God is My Alarm Clock [Brazil Draft]"

April 26, 2011 (978 Grizzly Peak Meeting)

Reading: William Vollmann, Rising Up, Rising Down, pp. 598-705 

                                                 "Where Are All the Pretty Girls?"

                                                 "Let Me Know If You're Scared"

                                                  "Dey Bring Dem Bloodstains up Here" 


Workshop: Puck Lo, "The War That Didn't Happen," Master's Project 

May 3, 2011 

Reading: John Simpson, "Tianamen Square," from The Granta Book 


Suketu Mehta, "Mumbai," from The Granta Book


Elena Lapin, "The Man with Two Heads," from The Granta Book

Mark Danner, "Iraq: The War of the Imagination," The New York Review 

Workshop: Fabiane Stefano, "Land of Generals" draft


Josh Wolf, Police Surveillance Video Pitch


Scott Bransford, San Francisco Bay Guardian Pitch

© 2021 Mark Danner