Description   |   Syllabus

The Editor as God: Shaping the Words, Guiding the Story
UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
Spring 2004

Mark Danner and Michael Pollan Journalism 298
Tuesday 3 - 6
North Gate 104 (and library) Description: In the journalistic universe, editors are the sun: they assign the story, decide how it must be shaped and recast, determine how prominently it should appear. Yet for many journalists, the way editors work - the process by which they assign, edit, package a piece; the way they make the critical decisions that lead to the finished newspaper or magazine - remains a mystery, and often a frustrating one. In this class, part seminar and part workshop, we'll work closely on student manuscripts, wielding the blue pencil on one another's manuscripts as we follow the editing process from story inception to final cut. We'll read newspapers and magazines closely, analyzing how editors shape stories and how magazines organize the world for their readers. We'll come to understand what makes a New Yorker "fact piece" genetically different from a Harper's "report." In making you editors, we hope to make you better writers - and better journalists. Readings will include works by Renata Adler, Roland Barthes, Edward Jay Epstein, David Halberstam, A.J. Liebling, Janet Malcolm, Willie Morris, Walter Murch, and Maxwell Perkins, among others.

*Class Requirements.* The critical work of this course will be conducted in the classroom; its heart is active participation in weekly class sessions. Extensive reading will be assigned, as will periodic, mostly short, writing and editing assignments. There will be no formal exams and no final paper, however there will be a final project. 

The class requirements are: 
* Attend class 
* Take active part in exercise and discussions 
* Keep up with the reading 
* Read the New York Times every day 
* Do all writing and editing assignments 
 *Class Structure.

The semester will be divided into three parts: micro, macro, and global. During the first, or micro, section, we will focus closely on line editing, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. We'll learn the hard work of making writing better, our own and that of our colleagues. We will find and fix troubled sentences, blue-pencil text, and read closely the work of exemplary writers. 

During these five weeks we'll seek to develop, from the level of the sentence and paragraph, our ability to discern a publication's 'editorial DNA' ' to 'see' the philosophy of a magazine or newspaper in the rhythms of its sentences. During the second, or macro, section of the course, we will focus on magazines, training our critical eyes on different periodicals each week. How do they compare at the level of sentence, paragraph and lead; in editorial voice, structure and packaging? We'll interrogate each magazine to understand how it 'edits' the world ' selects, organizes and packages it - for its readers. 

In the third, or global section, we'll look at the broader editorial issues raised, including the slippery notions of objectivity and bias, the problem of fraud in journalism, and finally the concept of a 'free press' in the world of commercial journalism. How, finally, does 'the business of journalism' shape the role of the editor?

*I. January 20. 
What do editors do? What is it to be an editor? The plan of the course. Strategies and expectations. Course Requirements. Weekly reading and projects. Stories we'll be following for the next week. Introductions of teachers and students. Working on sentences and how to do it. 1st half of class: Mark and Michael spoke about their editing experiences and vision for the class. Students introduced themselves. 2nd half: The class edited excerpts from the San Francisco Chronicle as a group. 

Part I: The Text *II. January 27: The Sentence and the Paragraph* Editing the World (weekly opening discussion on story we're tracking) Students pair off and choose their "foster-magazines": Newsweeklies, Harper's, Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Esquire, The Nation, The Weekly Standard, The New Republic, New York Review of Books, Slate, Mother Jones, others to be named. You'll be responsible for a meticulous reading of each issue, presenting your magazine's world-view on demand, developing a grasp of its history, and delivering a final project that will involve critiquing and 'editing" a hypothetical issue. 1st half of class: Editing role-play by students. Michael and Mark describe the Interactions editors have both with writers and fellow editors and well as management. Discussion of Orwell's "Politics of the English Language." 2nd half of class: Discussion of the arc of the story for the week: the Dean scream. Examining the sentences that students edited. Reading for class: Strunk and White. The Elements of Style, Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 2000 (entire book) George Orwell: The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, Volume 4, In Front of Your Nose 1946-1950, (edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus), Nonpareil Books, David R. Godine, Boston, 2000 read the 'Politics and the English Language" p.127-p.140 Zinsser, William. On Writing Well, Quill/Harper Collins, New York, 2001 (pages 1-95) Assignments: 1) Find five "sick" sentences of various sorts: jargon, passive voice, bad metaphors, clich', run on, etc. Heal them. 2) Avidly read all major papers (NYT, Wash. Post, LA Times, WSJ) and news sources (CNN, Google News) for coverage of the upcoming presidential primary In New Hampshire. Look for the arc of the story and how these various new organizations cover It. Write one page, double-spaced in which you describe this coverage. 

*III. February 3. The Lead* Editing the World. Discuss your magazine's distinctive use of leads. What is a magazine lead, and how does it differ from a newspaper lead? Where does it stop? What must it do? The role of 'nut graphs" and 'billboards" or 'set-ups" 1st half of class: Discussion of Gottlieb piece and Perkins letters. 2nd half of class: More discussion and collective editing of "sick" sentences. Readings: Danner, Mark. "Beyond the Mountains" The New Yorker, November 27, 1989 Pollan, Michael. "How Pot Has Grown," The New York Times Magazine, February 19, 1995, p. 30-35, 44, 50, 56, 57. Graves and Hodge. The Use and Abuse of the English Language. Marlowe and Company, New York, 1990. "The Graces of Prose," p.142-172, "Part II Examinations and Fair Copies," p.175-189. Robert Gottlieb: The Art of Editing I, (Interviews with Robert Gottlieb compiled by Larissa MacFarquhar), The Paris Review, November 1993, p.182-223 Maxwell Perkins: Editor to Author: The Letters of Maxwell E. Perkins, (edited by John Hall Wheelock, Scribner's, New York, 1987, (cover, table of contents, preface, introduction and index, plus pages (ordered per Pollan's request and as it appeared in the photocopied handout): 38-41, 74-77, 68-73, 88-89, 92-99, 182-183, 174-181, 192-195, 226-231, 248-249, 264-265, 258-263, 286-295) Written Assignments: 1) Find one more bad sentence and correct it. 2) Write one page describing the arc of the story in the news this week. 3) Choose one monthly and one weekly to track this semester with a partner. (e-mail your request to Instructors by Friday) 

*IV. February 9. Voice* The implied character narrating the world at The New Yorker is very different from the character doing it at The New York Review of Books or Esquire. What exactly is voice? How does it differ from style? Where does the writer's voice leave off and the magazine's begin? The varieties and uses of the first and third person. 1st half: Discussion of Pollan's pot article and the news arc of the week. 2nd half: Students begin to present their magazines and share leads that reveal their magazine's style. Required Readings: (previously assigned) Danner, Mark. 'Beyond the Mountains' The New Yorker, November 27, 1989 (previously assigned) Pollan, Michael. "How Pot Has Grown," The New York Times Magazine, February 19, 1995, p. 30-35, 44, 50, 56, 57 Lapham, Lewis. 'Essay: A Political Opiate,' Harper's Magazine, December 1989, p.43-48 Written Assignments: Researching your magazines by looking at back issues. Look for the voice and bring in leads that are typical of your publication. 1 page story arc covering the week's news Edit Jason Felch's piece (mark copy and write up a memo) 

*V. February 17. Packaging the Article* Editors are responsible for every aspect of the presentation of an article, decisions that probably have a bigger impact on how that article is received than anything done to the text. Art choices can amplify or overwhelm a story; headlines and pull quotes can change the way it's read. Every magazine has its own deeply-engrained style for display type, and much of its editorial voice resides right there. 1st half of class: Discussion with Gerry Marzorati about the book he edits: The New York Times Magazine. He discusses the controversial prostitution story. 2nd half of class: Further examination of the NYT magazine and how he finds young new talent, how he tackles timely stories, graphics editing, especially with recent soldier story, and general challenges. Guest: Gerald Marzorati, editor, New York Times Magazine Readings: Sunday New York Times, cover to cover, paying special attention to the magazine. Read from the editor's point of view. Barthes, Roland. Mythologies, Hill and Wang, New York, 1972 (entire book) Written Assignments: Write the news arc using a story that the NYT broke. How does the news circulate through the system? Think about the transition from fact to narrative/myth. Find a headline and deck from your magazine that presents the magazine's angle/style. Bring it into class to share. 

*VI. February 24. Structure* Different ways to structure a long magazine piece: narratives of event and idea; argument; history; analysis; quest, etc. Who supplies the structure? Helping writers reorganize. Making the assignment. Organizing stories as microcosms and macrocosms. From subject to story. 1st half of class: Group editing of Jason Felch's piece 2nd half of class: Discussion of Roland Barthes Mythologies Readings: 1) (previously assigned) Barthes, Roland. Mythologies, Hill and Wang, New York, 1972 (entire book) With special attention to (page # will vary slightly with edition): Soap Powders and Detergents (p.36-38), Operation Margarine (p.41-42), Photography and Electoral Appeal (p.91-93), Novels and Children (a.k.a the Elle piece, p.50-52), Wine and Milk (p.58-61), Steak and Chips (p.62-64) 2) (previously assigned) Danner, Mark. 'Beyond the Mountains' The New Yorker, November 27, 19893) (previously assigned) Lapham, Lewis. 'Essay: A Political Opiate,' Harper's Magazine, December 1989, p.43-48 Written Assignments: 1) Write your own Myth a la Barthes. 2) Write an International vs. Domestic story arc. Part II: The Publication Each of the next five classes will look at a specific magazine or category of magazine, with an eye toward teasing out the underlying editorial perspective it brings to the world: how it uses the tools we've been examining ' sentences and paragraphs, leads, voice, structure, and packaging'to shape events for its readers and support its implicit philosophy of life. Editors and writers internalize these values almost unconsciously. How does this happen? Students will be responsible for leading the discussion of their magazines. 

*VII. March 2. A Martian Visits The Newsstand.* Taken together, what picture of the world do the periodicals found on a typical newsstand present? What's not there? Along what lines do they divide the world? How does the marketplace of magazines match up with the marketplace of ideas? Are publishers in the business of selling magazines to readers, or readers to advertisers? Advertising, ownership, and media concentration. Required Readings: Bagdikian, Ben. The Media Monopoly, Fifth Edition, Beacon Press, Boston, 1997, Preface to the Fifth Edition (pages have Roman numerals) and Afterward (p.239-252) Liebling, A.J. The Press, Pantheon Books, New York, 1964, p.1-72 Karp, Walter. Buried Alive: Essays on Our Endangered Republic, Franklin Square Press, New York, 1992, p.253-269 McChesney, Robert. Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics In Dubious Times, University of Illinois Press, Chicago, 1999, (part of "The History of Communication" series), Introduction, Part I: Politics (chapter 1 and first two pages of chapter 2) Massing, Michael, "Now They Tell Us," The New York Review of Books, Volume 51, Number 3, February 26, 2004 Picard, Robert G. "Delusions of Grandeur: The Real Problems of Concentration In Media," Turku School of Economics and Business Administration Written Assignments: 1) The Arc: Creating the candidates. Consider television, newspapers and radio coverage of Bush and Kerry. Is the press treating Kerry and differently now that he has effectively gotten the nomination? Can Bush change his Image? 2) Newsstand Assignment: If the modern day newsstand was the only remaining evidence of humankind what would you conclude about our society? Visit any large local newsstand, for example at the Barnes and Noble on Shattuck Avenue In downtown Berkeley and write up your Impressions. 

*VIII. March 9. The Newsweeklies* A look at the tactics, techniques, techniques and procedures of Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report. Their history and their evolving function. The newsweeklies at the level of the sentence. Structure of the books. Required Readings: Halberstam, David. The Powers that Be. University of Illinois Press, Chicago, 2000. (sections on Time Inc., pages 45-93, 351-363, 445-485, 549-552, 663-673, 687-694, 723-728. Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report. Read the current Issues of each magazine and also the editions published Monday. Pay attention to the structure. Carefully examine the table of contents. How long Is the well? What are the front-of-the-book and back-of-the-book sections? What attention do the writers receive? Who seems to control the book, advertisers or subscribers? Written Assignments 1) The Arc: what's the narrative arc of the news this week? 2) Mark-up each of the magazines as you read. Bring In you're annotated copies. *IX. March 16. Harper's Magazine and The Atlantic Monthly* The intellectual background of America's 'thought leader' magazines. The rise of Nineteenth Century intellectual America. New Journalism and where it came from. The Sixties, the Golden Age of Magazines. 1st half of class: Jason Marsh and Jeff Nachtigal give a presentation on the Atlantic. Group discussion of the current Issue follows. 2nd half of class: Sarah Broom and Adam Shemper present Harper's Magazine. We compare and contrast the two publications In discussion. Required Readings: Harper's Magazine, current Issue The Atlantic Monthly, current Issue Halberstam, David. The Powers that Be. University of Illinois Press, Chicago, 2000. Sections on The New York Times (pages 205-225) and The Washington Post (pages 158-201, 299-315, 363-383, 515-549, 563-586, 603-631, 641-650, 673-683, 709-718) Karp, Walter. Buried Alive: Essays on Our Endangered Republic, Franklin Square Press, New York, 1992, "Reflections (After Watergate) on History," (pages 39-45) Written Assignments: 1) Write two story pitches: One for Harper's Magazine (Sarah and Adam editing) and one for The Atlantic Monthly (Jason Marsh and Jeff Nachtigal editing). The pitches should be a half-page each and should be aimed at the September 2004 Issue of each magazine. 2) Obtain an unedited copy of your magazine partner's newsstand assignment. Edit this and write a brief cover letter addressed to your partner. 3) No news arc this week. 

*March 23. Spring Break* No class 

*X. March 30. Magazines of Opinion: Nation, New Republic, Weekly Standard, Mother Jones, Slate* The rise of opinion journalism. Herbert Croly, Walter Lippmann and The New Republic ' the vessel of Progressivism. The Nation and the Left. Reaganism, Fox News and the Rise of The Weekly Standard. When is objectivity relevant? When can it be discarded? What are the journalistic obligations of a 'journal of opinion'? Guest: David Shipley, editor, New York Times Op-Ed Page Former editor, The New Republic First half of class: David Shipley describes his work at The New York Times. Students pitch him their op-ed story Ideas. Second half of class: We talk to David about how he will handle current political stories In his section. Required Reading: Current Issues of: The Nation The New Republic The Weekly Standard Read op-ed pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times. Bring In one or two that strike you as good examples of the genre. (previously assigned) Halberstam, David. The Powers that Be. University of Illinois Press, Chicago, 2000. Sections on The New York Times (pages 205-225) and The Washington Post (pages 158-201, 299-315, 363-383, 515-549, 563-586, 603-631, 641-650, 673-683, 709-718) Circle sentences that impress you by their length or complexity. Shipley, David.' And Now a Word from Op-Ed," The New York Times (copy In your box) Karp, Walter. Buried Alive: Essays on Our Endangered Republic, Franklin Square Press, New York, 1992, "The Hour of the Founders," p.193-207 Epstein, Edward Jay. Between Fact and Fiction: The Problem of Journalism, Random House/Vintage Books, New York, 1972 "The Pentagon Papers: Revisiting History," p.78 - p.100 Look over Jeff Nachtigal and Stream Wier's recent homework assignments (these are In your boxes). Written Assignments: Write a pitch for an op-ed piece for David Shipley. When reading op-ed pieces in the weeks before class consider which ones are the most effective? Which leave you with a sense of voice and stay in your thoughts? Which ones just seem to pass through your mind as you read and then fall away? Bring In examples of op-ed that really work. When reviewing the Halberstam reading, circle sentences that stand out as typical of his style of prose. 

*XI. April 6. The New Yorker* Two inimitable institutions. The economic roots of The New Yorker. 'Hiroshima' and the making of The New Yorker 'fact piece.' The rise to riches during the Sixties; the fall. Conde Nast and Tina Brown. Out of Tennessee: the coming of the Ochs and Sulzburgers and modern New York Times. 1st half of class: student presentation on The New Yorker magazine. 2nd half of class: discussion of the editing process at The New Yorker and Mark's experience with his recent Talk of the Town piece. Discussion of characteristics of the Talk of the Town columns generally and how we would alter the Barrios piece to fit. Required Readings: Menand, Louis. 'A Fan Writes: The Old New Yorker' and 'The Popist: Pauline Kael' (both in American Studies, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, New York, 2002, p.125-145 and 180-197 ) The current Issue of The New Yorker magazine (the March 29th, 2004 edition). Read this Issue cover to cover. Danner, Mark. 'Comment: Campaigns' The Talk of the Town, The New Yorker, March 29, 2004. Read the series of drafts that led up to the final edit. Epstein, Edward Jay. Between Fact and Fiction: The Problem of Journalism, Random House/Vintage Books, New York, 1972 "Did the Press Uncover Watergate?" p.19-32 Written Assignments: Edit Jennifer Barrios' New York Times Magazine piece (previously distributed via e-mail). Edit her article so It becomes like a "talk of the town" piece In The New Yorker. 

*XII. April 13.* No class. 

*Part III: Global Issues* *XIII. April 20. Boys and Girls: Celebrity Journalism in Men's and Women's Magazines* Sexual personae in journalism; the implied reader; service journalism. The rise of gossip and celebrity. 1st half of class: student presentations on Vanity Fair and Esquire. 2nd half of class: discussion of Trow and Boorstin readings and the relationship between media and society. Required Readings: Current Issues of: Vanity Fair, Esquire Trow, George W.S. Within the Context of No Context. Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 1980. Trow, George W.S. "Profiles: Eclectic, Reminiscent, Amused, Fickle, Perverse - I and II," (Profile of Ahmet Ertugan). The New Yorker, May 29, 1978 and June 5, 1978. Boorstin, Daniel J. The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events In America. Vintage/Random House, New York, 1987. Chapters 1 and 2 (pages 1-77) 

*XIV. April 27. The New York Times* 1st half of class: Group editing of Michael's genetic pollution piece. 2nd half of class: discussion of Howell Raines editing style and the recent trajectory of The New York Times. Required Readings: Auletta, Ken. Backstory: Inside the Business of News. The Penguin Press, New York, 2003. Introduction and Chapter on "The Howell Doctrine." Salisbury, Harrison. Without Fear of Favor. Times Books, New York, 1980. Max Frankel Note at the end of the book: (note referring to page 285 In the book: "The essence of Frankel's affidavit") p.607 -611. Raines, Howell. "My Times," The Atlantic Monthly. May 2004, p.49-81. Webcast of the journalism school's hosting of the New York Times, Fall 2002: 

*XV. May 4. Bias, Prejudice and the Idea of Objectivity* Where do periodicals get their politics? The short history of objective journalism. The cult of objectivity. Comparison to the world of English and continental journalism. Where does 'press bias' come from? The rise of Fox News. 1st half of class: discussion of Franken and Goldberg's arguments and tactics. 2nd half of class: discussion of our own analysis of bias In the media. Required Readings: Goldberg , Bernard. Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. Perennial/HarperCollins, New York, 2002. Franken, Al. Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Dutton, New York, 2003. Written Assignments: Write a 700-word opinion piece explaining how the media Is biased In an unexpected way.XVI. May 11. The Rise and Marketing of Journalistic Fraud What do the cases 'and fictions'of Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke, and Stephen Glass tell us about the institutions involved? These stories get published because they gratify their editors' view of the world, so we'll give them a close reading as editorial fantasies, and explore the editor's role in assuring the veracity of what he or she publishes. Assignment: write a plausible but entirely fictitious article for your magazine. 1st half of class: Discuss Jack Kelly and what leads to fraud. 2nd half of class: Discuss Jayson Blair and the specific case of The New York Times and race.Required Reading Blair, Jayson. "Aftereffects: The Missing; Family Waits, Now Alone, for a Missing Soldier." The New York Times, April 26, 2003. Blair, Jayson. "A Nation at War: Military Families; Relatives of Missing Soldiers Dread Hearing Worse News." The New York Times, March 27, 2003. Barry, Dan, Barstow, David, Glater, Jonathan D., Liptak, Adam, and Steinberg, Jacques. "Correcting the Record; Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception." The New York Times, May 11, 2003. Editors' Note, May 11, 2003, The New York Times. Siegel, Al, et al, " The New York Times: Report of the Committee on Safeguarding the Integrity of Our Journalism." (The Siegal Report) July 28, 2003 (available through The New York Times) Kelley, Jack. "Explosion, then arms and legs rain down." USA Today, August 10, 2001. Kelley, Jack, "Quest for freedom carries a price." USA Today, March 10, 2000 Morrison, Blake. "Ex-USA Today reporter faked major stories." USA Today, March 18, 2004. Morrison, Blake. "Woman who died In Cuba story alive In USA." USA Today, March 19, 2004. Morrison, Blake and Schmit, Julie. "Unbelievable timing, Incredible account." USA Today, March 19, 2004. Hillard, Bill, Kovach, Bill and Seigenthaler, John. "The Problems of Jack Kelley and USA Today." (28 report submitted April 12, 2004 and available through USA Today) Stephen Glass, assorted New Republic articles Glass, Stehpen. "Don't You D.A.R.E." The New Republic, March3, 1997. Glass, Stephen. "Spring Breakdown." The New Republic, March 31, 1997. Malcolm, Janet. The Journalist and the Murderer. Vintage/Random House, New York, 1990. Written Asssignment: Final Project Typically a finalist for a senior editorial position at a national magazine will be asked to prepare a long memo describing what he or she would do with the magazine. The editor in chief wants to see that the candidate really understands what makes the publication tick'i.e., can see the world through its unique lens. Pretend you are applying for a senior position at your magazine. Prepare a sample table of contents. Accompany it with a memo to the editor-in-chief, critiquing the magazine and, implicitly, explaining why you've proposed what you have. Also, propose one new department or feature that would improve the magazine. 

*Final Dinner, May 12, 2004:* Screening: Shattered Glass

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