Ted Conover, author of Immersion: A Writer’s Guide to Going Deep, will describe his practice of immersive journalism, where writers learn their subjects by placing themselves in the world of their subjects for a time. Ted Conover teaches journalism at the Arthur L. Carter School of Journalism at New York University. His books include Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America's Hoboes (1984); Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders with America's Illegal Migrants (1987); Whiteout: Lost in Aspen (1991); Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing (2000); and The Routes of Man: Travels in the Paved World (2010).
Conover describes his journey as a writer: “I feel lucky to do what I do. I write about real people, often by living their lives for a while-visiting their lives, you might say. Trying them on for size. Though there are easier ways to make a living, I suppose, none strike me as a fraction so interesting.
My first real adventures were cross-country bicycle rides, and a summer’s work in a sausage factory in Pamplona, Spain. During time off from college, I did community organizing in Dallas as a VISTA volunteer. Then came riding the rails (Rolling Nowhere), which originated as another escape from college, but doubled as research for a senior anthropology thesis. A transcendant moment occurred in a freight yard in Bakersfield, California, where, as I spoke with a guy my age named Enrique Jarra, it dawned on me that Mexican illegals were the true, modern-day incarnation of the classic American hobo. Coyotes, my second book, recounts a year of work and travel with these men.
A smart guy I met in New York (he now edits the New Yorker magazine) introduced me at a party as a writer who “made a living sleeping on the ground,” which got me thinking and led me to Aspen and Whiteout, a very different sort of first-person ethnography. And then came Newjack, an account of immersion in a world that is tough and dangerous and–if a person’s not careful–soul-shrinking. That research was my hardest ever, but also paid an enduring dividend of knowledge.”
Co-sponsored by the Campus Climate Council, the Program in Literary Journalism, the Department of Criminology, Law and Society, the Center for Law, Culture, and Society, and the Forum for the Academy and the Public.