‘Participatory Journalist’ Ted Conover to Speak at Yale

Celebrated writer Ted Conover, known for going “undercover” to get firsthand experience about the topics he covers, will read from and discuss his works on October 23 at Yale University, as part of Yale College’s series of “Francis Conversations with Writers and Editors.”

The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 8 p.m. in the Branford College Common Room, 74 High Street.

“Participatory journalism is a risky and difficult genre, often reported undercover,” notes Ann Fadiman, the Francis Writer in Residence at Yale and coordinator of the annual “Conversations.”

Conover describes it as “living in other people’s shoes. 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.” He has jumped freight trains with hoboes (Rolling Nowhere, 1984) and dodged spotter planes with illegal Mexican migrants (Coyotes, 1987).

To research his best-known book, Newjack (2000), Conover spent a year working as a guard in Sing Sing Prison. Inmates spat on him, punched him in the head, and ultimately provided the material for what the Los Angeles Times called “a graphic and troubling window into society’s scrapheap.” Newjack won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Conover is currently at work on a book about five roads, each in a different country. He has described this book to The New York Times as “a meditation on the meaning of roads, now and in the past: how the same road that brings medicine allows for the spread of AIDS, how a road that helps develop the Andes speeds destruction of the rain forest. Every road is an intention; each is a path of human endeavor.”

The Francis Writer in Residence program, established by Paul E. Francis, Class of 1977, brings a distinguished writer of non-fiction to Yale to teach during the academic year, while serving as an academic mentor to students through seminars, readings and other activities.

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325