Narrative voice, point of view, extended dialogue, character development, story structure, scene construction, and personal style are some of the things that distinguish good long-form magazine writing.
What makes the J-School program so special is how we teach these building blocks of long-form magazine and newspaper feature writing and editing. In very small classes, students work one-on-one with seasoned editors, pitch by pitch, story by story, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word, until a piece is finally as good as it can be. They also create editorial blueprints for new publications and launch prototypes of their own magazines.
"I've been obsessed with magazines since I was a kid, but after spending years pursuing other journalistic endeavors, I didn't know how to land a magazine job without climbing my way up from the mailroom. And by the time I got to J-School, I knew I was way past the point of doing that. After taking a magazine class in which I conceived of a magazine from scratch—from a mock cover to a circulation strategy—I knew I belonged at the real thing. After graduation, I headed to New York City for an internship at BusinessWeek, where I produced a cover story with a former J-School classmate. Six months later I joined Marie Claire as an associate features editor. I now spend my days interviewing women around the world for the magazine's international section, reporting on health issues and brainstorming with colleagues. I'm exactly where I want to be at this point in my life—and the J-School definitely helped me get here."
Lauren Gard, MJ 2004, associate features editor, Marie Claire magazine
The School does not have a formal sequence of courses for writing, but suggested courses after J200 Reporting the News are J298 Writing Workshop: Short to Mid-Length Narrative, J243 Tackling the Longform. Students who wish to pursue writing are also encouraged to take topical reporting classes such as J230 Business Reporting or J228 Political Reporting to continue working on their writing skills in these and other courses.
Magazine courses are organized around the Felker Magazine Center, named after the legendary editor Clay Felker, an important animating spirit at such publications as New York Magazine, Esquire and The Village Voice. At Berkeley, Felker concentrated on creating new magazine prototypes in small classes that allow students to experience all aspects of magazine production from assigning, writing, and editing to graphics, layout and printing. Our magazine courses carry on Felker's important legacy.
Faculty members Cynthia Gorney, Deirdre English, Michael Pollan, and Mark Danner teach courses in long-form writing and editing, as do a revolving series of other distinguished working journalists from such publications as Harper's, WIRED, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Audubon, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones and The New York Times Magazine.
Magazine students also benefit from the Editing Workshop, a unique effort that pairs students with some of the best editors in the country to work one-on-one for a semester of intense editing and re-editing until a long-form piece is truly ready for publication. Several of our students have had their work featured in the New York Times and other publications due to this exposure.
Furthermore, throughout the year, top magazine journalists and editors come to campus to share their experiences with students, to teach mini-courses and run workshops. These have included Gerald Marzorati, editorial director of The New York Times Magazine and Jack Hitt, a former editor at Harper's.