The symposium is just one bridge Dale Rice is building between journalism students and the real world.
by Amber Cassady
The era of “just the facts” journalism has waned, as most new consumers prefer their reality blended with just enough diversion to make it recreational. “This is a period in which entertainment is a very important factor so it makes sense that a more narrative approach will be taken,” explains Dale Rice, director of Journalism Studies and senior lecturer at Texas A&M University. “Cold hard facts are no longer enough motivation for readers. This is why narrative non-fiction is having such a big influence in the world of journalism.”
To illuminate this trend for journalists-in-training, Rice has put together a solid list of literary talent to share their insights during a “Truth in the New Age of Non-Fiction” symposium to be held February 8 in the Rudder Tower at Texas A&M University. This all-day event, which is also open to the community, will focus on the trend in literary nonfiction, particularly maintaining truth when writing in a stylistic way that typically has been associated with fiction pieces.
The symposium will feature two distinguished keynote speakers: African American memoirist Catherine McKinley; and biographer James McGrath Morris, who also is president of Biographers International.
McKinley’s revealing memoir, “Indigo,” tells her story of journeying to West Africa to experience the textile and silk trades and to learn more of her ancestry after being adopted by Dutch parents. McKinley also authored “The Book of Sarahs” about the search for her Jewish and African American birth families.
The Wall Street Journal has singled out Morris as author of one of the five best books written about newspaper owners for his biography of Joseph Pulitzer entitled “Pulitzer: A Life of Politics, Print and Power.” His other works include “The Rose Man of Sing Sing: A True Tale of Life, Murder and Redemption in the Age of Yellow Journalism” and “Jailhouse Journalism: The Fourth Estate Behind Bars.”
The symposium is just one bridge Rice is building between journalism students and the real world. Likewise, he wants to make inroads into bridging the gap between the local community and the 50,000 college students who share the territory of Bryan/College Station. “We have the privilege of having people come here with tremendous amounts of knowledge who are acclaimed writers and journalists highly regarded in their field,” notes Rice. Recent speakers included Sonia Nazario, author of the national bestseller “Enrique’s Journey,” and 2010 Pulitzer prize finalist, David Philipps, who authored “Lethal Warriors” about the tragic implications of post-traumatic stress syndrome for soldiers returning home from duty.
“The ability to interact with professionals from the field – really wellknown people involved in influential roles in journalism – is significant for the students shaping their ideas of where they want to take their career,” says Rice. “And when the public can join in, it becomes a benefit for the community at large.
“Many [B/CS residents] view the college students as an isolated group, but this gives them the opportunity to meet some non-isolated journalism students. It is great for the different generations to see each other. Often participants are pleasantly surprised to find that there are many bright, articulate and respectful people making up the student body.”
Rice says this is especially true of students striving for bylines and mastering the art of reporting in the journalism minor (the university has not offered journalism as a major since 2008). “Journalism students are among some of the most involved and connected college-aged people in the community,” explains Rice.
The Journalism Studies Program has grown quickly since Rice because director. “Now in the last academic year, we registered 23 new students. The program went from 25 students to 65, more than doubling enrollment,” he notes.
Additional professionals will visit throughout the spring semester including Rick Dunham, former president of the National Press Club, and Aggie Rick Rojas, an established writer at one of the top publications in the country, the Los Angeles Times. Rice says other possible speakers will include film critics, food critics and art columnists. Speaking dates will be posted to the events calendar at journalismstudies.tamu.edu and the community is always invited to attend these presentations.
Where are these prestigious visitors from a variety of niches in the journalism field coming from? The speakers are a conglomeration of Rice’s wealth of connections from a life-long journalistic career that has includes working at The Dallas Times Herald and the Austin American-Statesman. Rice has maintained his ties within the professional journalism community with the result that these influencers are bringing their experiences to aspiring journalists while also inspiring those in the communities of Bryan/College Station and Texas A&M University.
Truth in the Age of Non-fiction Symposium
The public is invited to attend this symposium featuring Catherine McKinley author of the memoir “Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World,” and James McGrath Morris, author of the Pulitzer biography that the Wall Street Journal has named one of the five best books on newspaper owners, “Pulitzer: A Life of Politics, Print and Power.”
This all-day event will be broken up into morning and afternoon sessions.
Each panel will be followed by a question and answer session a break for lunch between. The event will be capped off with a reception and book signing.
When: February 8 Where: 401 in Rudder Tower at Texas A&M University How: To register
for the symposium, email firstname.lastname@example.org
. This free event is open to the public but space is limited and will be alloted to those who register first.