A program on narrative journalism has been added to the fabric of summer activities at Yale.
Thread at Yale will allow storytellers of essentially any media — from magazines to podcasts to photography — to converge at Yale from June 7 to June 10 to discuss careers in the field and their own pieces with high-profile mentors hailing from a variety of platforms. Announced in March, the program is a fusion of lectures, workshops and small discussions. It is open to anyone 21 or older.
“There are a lot of conferences about narrative journalism, but we felt that none of them go the extra step of including all the different kinds of storytelling that are so innovative and popular today,” said director of Thread and the Yale Journalism Initiative Mark Oppenheimer ’96 GRD ’93. “We wanted to bring together magazine writers, podcasters and other storytellers and multimedia artists.”
The program’s schedule, spread across four days, is divided into three components. On the second and third day, participants will gather in the morning for lectures from figures in the world of journalism — such as Glynn Washington, the creator of “Snap Judgment,” a popular NPR show. In the afternoon, small groups of roughly 10 students will workshop each other’s pieces with mentors such as writer, commentator and producer Jake Halpern ’97. Informal discussions, which Oppenheimer said will be similar to Master’s Teas, will be held in the evening with working journalists about their lives and careers.
Oppenheimer said Thread’s inaugural year has already been very successful, with over 25 applications or inquiries about the program within the first five days of the launch of its application. The program is anticipating approximately 50 to 60 students in order to create a small, informal setting.
Oppenheimer said a unique facet about the program is that it welcomes participants at any stage in their career, as Thread has already accepted applicants from their early twenties to into their sixties. He added that journalism conferences often target mid-career applicants, at the expense of younger candidates — a reason why the program offers more opportunities to this age bracket.
Plans for the program first began to take shape in January, Oppenheimer said. Ted Wittenstein, director of international relations and leadership programs in the Office of International Affairs said the program surfaced after informally talking with Oppenheimer about the Yale Journalism Initiative, which caters to current students. Together, Wittenstein said, he and Oppenheimer brainstormed how Yale could offer a storytelling program open to anyone.
“We saw the potential to bring writers from around the world and the U.S. to learn from talented Yale alumni and people in the industry about the ways in which storytelling is both changing and staying the same,” Wittenstein said.
The program also emphasizes the diverse mediums available to storytellers today by including speakers from different journalistic platforms — from radio, to print and online. Oppenheimer added that he thinks it is important to dabble in all mediums, because from his experience the best journalists are those who refuse to limit themselves to one platform.
Jack O’Malley ’17, who ran Parables, an Undergraduate Storytelling Society, said he thinks it is positive that the program has a focus on storytelling, because storytelling is the “glue” that binds diverse media platforms together. Compelling characters or narrative translate well into any medium, from a photograph to an essay, he added.
Though O’Malley said he is excited about the introduction of the program, he is disappointed that he cannot participate in it because of its minimum age requirement.
The Yale Journalism Initiative was established in 2006.