NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Joseph T. Hallinan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Wall Street Journal and author of a book examining the growth of the prison system in America, will instruct a writing course at Vanderbilt during the spring semester.
Hallinan will teach the one-credit, two-hour Investigative Writing in America course every other Friday to about a dozen junior and seniors in the College of Arts and Science. He will continue his duties with The Wall Street Journal while teaching.
The unique partnership between a working journalist at the top of his field and Vanderbilt was developed primarily by Cecelia Tichi, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English, with additional input by College of Arts and Science Dean Richard McCarty, English Department chair Jay Clayton and Michael Schoenfeld, vice chancellor for public affairs.
Tichi interviewed Hallinan for her book Exposés and Excess: Muckraking in America, 1900-2000, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2004, and stayed in touch with him throughout the process of forming the class. Hallinan will be the first journalist to teach at Vanderbilt in a new scenario where a high-ranking media professional conducts a course for one semester each year, Tichi said.
“We’re thinking of this as a residential appointment, but that doesn’t mean the person packs a suitcase and lives on the Vanderbilt campus for X number of weeks. That’s just not feasible for a working journalist,” Tichi said. “But the idea is that person is regularly here. It’s not a correspondence or e-mail course.”
Hallinan will commute to Nashville from his home in Chicago while teaching, and Tichi is allowing him to use her office at Vanderbilt.
Hallinan, a 1984 magna cum laude graduate of Boston University, won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting in 1991 while working for The Indianapolis Star for a series of stories he co-wrote about the medical malpractice system in Indiana.
He also was a nationally syndicated correspondent for Newhouse News Service, covering the Department of Justice and criminal justice issues from his Washington, D.C., bureau before moving on to The Chicago Tribune in 1999 as an investigative reporter.
Going Up the River: Travels in a Prison Nation deals with the growing prison-industrial complex, looking for answers in a “prison nation” that has grown tenfold in 30 years while crime rates have remained relatively flat.
“We expect Hallinan, in a sense, to map out for our students what the world of professional journalism is all about from his vantage point,” Tichi said. “He’s going to have them reading and writing, going out and doing projects and producing work for him.”
During research on her book, Tichi became interested in the different techniques journalists and authors take in crafting their best-selling and critically acclaimed books. She quickly realized that Vanderbilt’s students, while not journalism majors, could benefit from this array of writing knowledge.
“I thought a reason for these books to be on the best-seller list is they’re all really good books,” Tichi said. “These are good writers. How did they learn to be good writers?”
Tichi said Hallinan – a fan of bluegrass music – has expressed an interest in the country music industry and could possibly do research for future articles while in Nashville.
For more information about Vanderbilt and the College of Arts and Science, visit http://www.vanderbilt.edu/cas/.
Media contact: Todd Vessel, (615) 322-NEWS