Katherine Boo's frame of mind for the slums of Mumbai was anticipated by American reporters who told rich stories about Americans who were just scraping by. Examples include what immigrants wrote about in their own "undercities" in the nineteenth century; later reformers who published to document poverty; and pioneering photographers and film makers who showed an America far poorer than most citizens realized. Reporting today on this subject crosses the old borders of journalism to True Crime, non-fiction that illuminates how Americans cope in communities that may be as chaotic as the slums of Mumbai.
American observers studied in this seminar may include Jacob Riis, Abraham Cahan, Upton Sinclair, Edmund Wilson, James Agee, Walker Evans, and Dorothea Lange. Moving into the twenty-first century, David Simon with The Wire and Jill Leovy, Ghettoside, are proof that reporters can overcome barriers that are similar to the ones that stood in Katherine Boo's way. This seminar is part of the On the Same Page initiative.
Tom Leonard led both the Media Studies Program and the University Library during his long career as a faculty member in the Graduate School of Journalism. He has published three books and many articles on how American media took account of domestic political life and wars abroad, from the eighteenth century to the age of digital information. His current work explores piracy, both as a way of life in early America and as a catch-phrase for the borrowing of information in our time.