Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What is Literary Journalism

I promised to B5 that I will try to explain briefly what literary journalism is all about.

First, here is the link to an article that I personally think is one of the best examples of literary journalism. It was written by an American journalist Anne Hull and is the second in the three part series about immigrants in the States.

LJ is in brief a journalistic text that reads like a novel. It seems to be an oxymoron but it is not. Literary journalism is firstly journalism. That means that the author needs to apporach its topic as any journalis would. The key difference is how he then writes about this topic. A literary journalist would also use literary or narrative techniques that would make the story similar to a novel or a short story. It would still be journalism, though. Every single sentence, every single word must be true, just like it should be in ordinary, traditional journalism. No scene can be made up, no dialogue invented. The literariness comes from the techniques not from fictionalized events.

To make it more clear, here is the abstract of my article Literary Journalism: the intersection of literature and journalism that was published in 2004 in Acta Neophilologica.


Literary journalism is a style of newspaper and magazine writing that developed as a reaction against factographic and objective journalism. Rather than answering the informational who, what, when, or where, it depicts moments in time. It has also managed to eschew the formula of newspaper feature writing, with its predictability and clichés. Instead, it appointed the techniques of realistic fiction to portray daily life. The author of this paper attempts to present the genre that belongs at the same time to literature and journalism; it combines the best of both practices in order to give the reader the most vivid and accurate picture of society. The author of this paper also attempts to present literary journalism as it exists in Slovenia.

I am also adding the link to an excellent feature story published in Spiegel which I would nevertheless not consider literary journalism, but rather as that: an excellent feature story. I think that the key difference is in the quality of writing and the time spent in researching the story. While reading a literary journalism story one would not think to oneself that this is journalism, rather that this is literature. Whereas with a feature story one can still feel that one reads journalism.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Finding Literary Journalism in Paris

Last weekend I flew to Paris to attend the second international conference on literary journalism, organized by IALJS.

As some of the participants said, I, too, felt like I finally found home. There were around thirty people discussing my favourite topic: literary journalism. I could join in the debate knowing that these people speak the same language, although they were in fact speaking different languages: they came from Portugal, Finland, Sweden, France, USA, Canada, Australia, UK, Ireland, and Slovenia.

To make it clear: IALJS is a scholarly organization. The practitioners of Literary Journalism can look for tips elsewehere, the best site now being Poynter and Nieman Narrative. At the beginning, I, too, intended this blog to be a tipshit for aspiring literary journalists. However, I soon realized that it won't work mainly for two reasons: first, there are much better sites for that; and second, I simply do not have enough time. So, I will keep the blog for my own pleasure and write it when I have something to say and when I find time.

Back to Paris: as indicated, this conference was not about tipsheets, rather we discussed the excellent works by its practitioners around the world. And that was truelly inspiring. Many participants had wonderful papers, my favorites being those that were more tightly connected to the journalistic part of literary journalism. Soon, te abstracts will be published on the internet and when that happens, I will post a link.

Meanwhile, I am proud to announce that my article on the topic has been published in Journalism Studies this april.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

My Apologies

By accident I turned on the comment moderation option and I didn't know it until now. That's why the comments did not appear. I am still not very familiar with blogger and sometimes I do things unintentionally and without knowing ...
Still no good news regarding the situation in the media in Slovenia (actually things are getting worse as procedings against journalists continue; besides more and more media organizations from abroad have noticed the appearance of censorship and selfcensorship in Slovenia and the loss of media freedom), but at least I find it extremely positive that a few weeks ago the constitution court ruled in favour of Breda Smolnikar, a writer who has been accused of insulting some women who said that they recognized their parents in one of writer's stories; they claimed that the writer was very offensive towards their parents. The constitution court finally decided that she is not guilty and the case is now closed. The process has been very long and I can't imagine what the writer must have gone trough during that time.
BTW: If you supposedly recognize your parents in a story that is offensive towards them (describing their sex life and so on), why do you tell this to the whole world? Only for money that you hope to extract from the writer?