OnPoint Radio Series on the Conference

Press Release From On Point

Earlier this month, some of the country's best writers met in
Cambridge, Massachusetts for the 2003 Nieman Conference on
Narrative Journalism to share their best work. As part of a
continuing tradition, On Point brings you a selection of their stories
from across the country, delivered in the authors' own voices. The
conference was organized by Harvard University's Nieman
Foundation for Journalism

In Part I of the series we hear from New Yorker writer Susan Orlean,
UC Berkeley's Cynthia Gorney, author and journalist Adrianne
Nicole LeBlanc, and Pulitzer Prize winning journalists Thomas
French, Sonia Nazario, Jacqui Banasynski and Victor Merina.

In Part II of the series we hear from independent broadcast
journalist and four-time Peabody Award winner Jay Allison,
Washington Post's Anne Hull, director of the Neiman Program on
Narrative Journalism Mark Kramer, co-founder of Mother Jones
Magazine Adam Hochschild, Pulitzer Prize-winning author
Samantha Power, writer Arlie Hochschild and Columbia University's
Patricia Williams.

Posted in about the conference, speakers.Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, speakers.Anne Hull, speakers.Arlie Hothschild, speakers.Cynthia Gorney, speakers.Jacqui Banaszynski, speakers.Jay Allison, speakers.Mark Kramer, speakers.Patricia Williams, speakers.Samantha Power, speakers.Sonia Nazario, speakers.Susan Orlean, speakers.Tom French, speakers.Victor Merina on December 12, 2003 at 05:14 PM | Permalink

More Suggestions for the Blog

By Bob Stepno

Even after the pep talk from David Halberstam on Friday night, which had me up until 4 a.m. scribbling notes for new projects, I didn't make it to Saturday's session through the cold and snow, an unforseen curse of being "local" and not in the hotel. But I got a good burst of "can do" energy by walking 3.5 miles across digging-out Cambridge to get there in time for lunch on Sunday. It's great to have the weblog there
for pieces that I missed.

Here's another idea that didn't come to me until now -- along with the nametags, issue next year's conference-goers registration numbers they can use as personal passwords to the blogging system. If they can chip in from the beginning, you might even get "live" reports from the geeks in the back row with their wireless laptops and handhelds. Passwords also might eliminate the anonymous "this is a piece of crap"
comments--certainly sad to see that as the first note on any entry this week.

You also could give each timeslot in the conference an "anchor" entry for the blog -- just a repeat of the title and the particpants' bios would do. Audience contributions could branch off of there, in addition to being posted on the main page chronologically and cross-referenced with those category tags.

As Ted Nelson said, "everything is deeply intertwingled."

Print and online veteran Bob Stepno receives his Ph.D this month at UNC Chapel Hill. See his website. We welcome your suggestions for the blog.

Posted in about the blog, about the conference on December 12, 2003 at 05:14 PM | Permalink

Suggestions for the Blog

By Bob Stepno

First things first: The menus work! Kudos to all involved. I appreciate
being able to get at the messages from a variety of directions, and
would appreciate it even more if there were more messages. I read the
comments on Halberstam, for instance, then segued from Bill Mitchell's
comment to Neil Shea's entry on Barry Siegel in the Crime & Justice
topic, which I might have ignored otherwise. I like that kind of
serendipity and non-linearity, the "linkage by association" that
hypertext makes possible -- given time and human attention. That's one
"online narrative" technique worth attention: Selective link-making.

Here are some ideas for category-menu enhancements. I have no idea how
difficult they are to do in TypePad or Moveable Type, which I take it
is the engine underneath all of this. They're just "what if"
suggestions, not "bug reports":

1. Indicate on the menu when a category is empty. Better yet, indicate
how many messages are in that category. Readers are probably going to
go away after clicking on more than one menu item and getting "Return
to Search. There are no more items for this category. "

2. Tell people how to create a new message in those empty categories
instead of providing only the option to "return to search" --
especially since picking something from a main menu isn't really a

3. While you're at it, try to avoid using the word "Return" for
navigation on Web pages -- for all you know, the reader got there via
Google or some other route that does not involve your "Return to..."

4. Since this is a development system, with more planned for next year,
you might add some system for suggesting new categories, synonyms and
cross-references. For example, I don't see "tips," "backgrounding,"
"research," "interviewing," "public journalism," "civic life," "the
audience" or (ironically, given the empty "comment" fields on the
postings) "interactivity." (Any category system is subject to
quibbling: Is "Online Narrative," a "process" or "technique"? With the
word "narrative" in the description, I'd call it technique. With the
word "publishing," I'd call it process.)

5. Why do we need two steps -- select a menu item, then click "Go."
Shouldn't we be able to go there just by selecting the item?

6. If we have to have a "Go" button and a "top" title for each menu
(SUBJECTS & BEATS," "ETHICS," etc.), create a category page for each
group so that clicking the "Go" next to "ETHICS" really does go

7. One other cross-categorization that seems obvious would be
chronology: I wasn't able to get to the Saturday sessions, so I'd like
to scan summaries or comments on sessions I missed. Or, I did go to the
Friday and Sunday sessions and feel like seeing what others had to say
about them. The narrative/search.html page "Sessions" section helps,
but could use some indentations to separate the days.

8. Filter out "smart quotes" and curly apostrophes from the postings.
They will come through as gibberish on some browsers. (I noticed them
using a Eudora browser on my Treo, for instance.)

To see another experiment in adding categories to a site with tons of
archives, check out Dave Weiner's http://scripting.com Scripting News.
The "cats" are hidden under what looks like a "Search" button for now.

I'll see if I can get some discussion of your menus at his meeting on
Thursday. I added a mention to my own blog here.

One other addition to the page would be an online version of your
"Correspondents Wanted" handout or something to explain what the blog
items were. The "note to a friend, not a news story" concept would have
worked better in a few cases if there had been a straight summary of
the talk, or if readers had a glimpse of that original guideline. I
poked around the site trying to figure out whether I could post my own
after-the-conference item directly, decided I couldn't, then got
distracted by other snowy-week things.

Print and online veteran Bob Stepno receives his Ph.D this month at UNC Chapel Hill. See his website. We welcome your suggestions for the blog.

Posted in about the blog, about the conference on December 12, 2003 at 05:14 PM | Permalink