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

Come With Answers

By Robin Sloan

During the question and answer period of Samantha Power's Sunday afternoon session, she tossed off a phrase that I think is worth dwelling on:

"Win trust by knowledge."

Power spent many years reporting and writing her book "A Problem from Hell," a review of America's response to genocide in the 20th century, and became an expert on the subject. She often knew more about the subject than the government officials she was interviewing -- more about the history and about the personalities involved.

It sounds grimly sixth-grade: The low-level officials wanted desperately to know what their bosses, the national security advisors and secretaries of state, had told her. These high-level policymakers in turn asked her: Well, what did those below me say?

Power told former NSA Tony Lake about Prudence Bushnell, an deputy assistant secretary of state who was one of the first to warn of trouble in Rwanda. Lake asked: If this was so important, why didn't she call me at home?

Power mentioned this to Bushnell, who wondered: "Who does he think I am?" It would have taken an incredible amount of institutional self-esteem, Power says, for Bushnell to call the national security advisor at home and argue the case for Rwanda.

I think it's crucial that Power moved beyond surface explanations and down into the human gears of policymaking. It must have been a huge asset: Who wouldn't want to talk to a reporter who, besides posing questions, could also provide answers?

Robin Sloan works at The Poynter Institute.

Posted in book-length narratives, reporting, sessions.Against Neutrality, speakers.Samantha Power on December 12, 2003 at 05:14 PM | Permalink