David Varno has just posted to Critical Mass, the National Book Critics Circle blog, a summary and downloadable podcast of the second panel of “After Kapuściński: The Art of Reportage in the 21st Century.”
This panel, titled “Literary Reportage Between Fact and Fiction, Self and Other,” was moderated by Lawrence Weschler and featured Random Family author Adrian Nicole LeBlanc; long-time New Yorker writer and Borges translator Alastair Reid; and Wojciech Jagielski, Gazeta Wyborcza journalist and author of the recent and much-acclaimed reportage about child soldiers in Uganda, Nocni wędrowcy (Night Wanderers, WAB 2009) and Towers of Stone: The Battle of Wills in Chechnya (which, translated by Soren Gauger, was just published by Seven Stories Press in the U.S.). One point made early on in the discussion is that the questionability of Kapuściński’s “fact-checking” itself needs to be called into question. At any rate, it seems to me to be a moot point, but one that is troublesome for many people and probably won’t ever be resolved.
Susan Harris’s recent podcast interview on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Here On Earth” show brings the issue up again. Harris is Editor of Words without Borders, and talks about the journal’s October issue on international reportage, specifically about the thin line between objectivity and confirmatory bias — mainly on the example of Swedish writer Peter Fröberg Idling’s remarkable book Pol Pot’s Smile — which is often considered an ineluctable feature of journalism, and not only of the literary or long-form variety.
Critical Mass also has Varno’s summary and a downloadable podcast available for the first panel of “After Kapuściński: The Art of Reportage in the 21st Century.” Titled “The Art of Reportage on the Ground and on the Page,” the discussion was moderated by NBCC President Jane Ciabattari. and focused on its participants’ practical experiences as reporters. Those participants were: Polish journalist Paweł Smoleński, author of Irak. Piekło w raju (Iraq: Hell in Paradise, 2004, for which he was awarded a 2005 Kurt Schork Award); poet and current American Academy in Rome Fellow Eliza Griswold, whose reportage on the faultline between Islam and Christianity, The Tenth Parallel, is forthcoming with FSG; Arif Jamal, the Pakistani journalist and author of The Shadow War: The Untold War of Jihad in Kashmir (Melville House, 2009); acclaimed American journalist Elizabeth Rubin, just back from Afghanistan; and Joshua Clark, author of the Katrina memoir, Heart Like Water (Free Press, 2007).