Portfolio is a two-semester honors track in which a student proposes a subject area or theme for his project. All projects must be NYC-based and idea-driven; a Portfolio can’t be merely a series of pieces on a phenomenon (carnival barkers, green grocers, etc.), but must pose a question, suggest a hypothesis or otherwise grow in scope and depth.
Portfolio is particularly designed for those students who have a specific idea — a theme or subject, a self-styled “beat” — they want to develop in depth during their time in graduate school. This they will do through a variety of stories and story forms that explore this theme or idea with the aim of publication. In Portfolio, we also study the work of important journalists and authors and we engage with them directly through the “Master Class” construct.
Graduates of the track have found the rigors of Portfolio to be of enormous value, even if they never again pursue the “beat” that brought them into Portfolio. What’s important is that they are able to present themselves to prospective editors and employers as emerging journalists who have engaged seriously with a body of thought or a body of information that they have expanded and hopefully advanced through their own reporting, thinking and writing. They are writers who distinguish themselves with their ideas, as much as their ability to turn them into solid, reported journalism.
The goal is to create a body of work — profiles, features, reports, short news stories, reviews, essays — which shows evidence that you have mastered the fundamental texts of your area, developed the sources to help you judge the quality of stories, and learned how to report thoroughly. You won’t emerge from Portfolio as an “expert” in a field. That’s not the point. However, you will be an expert at the process of mastering a new field — a skill that will help you in whatever kind of work you pursue.
How Does It Work?
Portfolio doesn’t add to the number of courses you take at NYU. Rather, it substitutes for two writing seminars, one in each of your last two semesters. Precisely which course Portfolio substitutes for is something you will arrange with the director of your area of study.
How Do You Apply?
The application process can begin as soon as you decide to attend NYU, and is due in November. It is, essentially, a long conversation with me, which you should initiate only after spending some time reading the work of current and past Portfolio students. Look for approaches and topics that are similar to the ones you might pursue and work from there. Send me an email as soon as you have an idea and we’ll start talking. The track only makes sense for students who have a well-thought out, thoroughly-reported project BEFORE the beginning of the spring semester. You are expected to put a lot of time and effort on your project this summer and fall. Your first assignment will be due the second week of class, so you need to have prepared beforehand. I can be reached at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Portfolio Publishing Record
Portfolio-generated projects have found print in such publications as The New York Times, City Limits, The American Scholar, Salon, Audubon, Time Out New York, The Brooklyn Rail, The New Haven Advocate, The Hartford Courant, Newsday, New York Daily News, The New Yorker, Publishers’ Weekly, Conde Nast Traveler, Architecture Week, Art News, The New York Observer, The Austin Chronicle, The Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Village Voice, Metropolis, Women’s e-news, The Austin American-Statesman, Wax Poetics, The Revealer, Gay City News, LA Weekly, and many others.
For instance, a student whose project was Garbage led to an investigative piece in The Wilmington Star News on a proposed landfill to be built on a suspected flood plain. That same student’s piece on the pneumatic tube that spews garbage away from Roosevelt Island appeared in The New Yorker’s “The Talk of the Town.”
The Master Class
Joseph Lelyveld, William Finnegan, James Traub, Lillian Ross, Pete Hamill, Lawrence Osborne, Darcy Frey and Ted Conover all conducted “Master Classes” with our students, setting the agenda and then doing one-on-one critiques of student queries and the stories that result.
The Digital Portfolios
The students are loading their published and best unpublished work onto their digital portfolios, which even those who have graduated are continuing to find useful. The digital portfolios provide an excellent way for students to get their clips and best unpublished work into the hands of editors and potential employers. You can view the portfolios here: . Every student must also maintain a blog on his or her topic. See recent entries to Blogfolio here: blogfolio/.
Where Are They Now?
Portfolio graduate have worked for, and published in, some of the best magazines and newspapers in the country. Here is where a few of them are currently employed: