Povich Journalism Programs

February 17, 2016: Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman writes for the Plum Line blog at The Washington Post and The Week and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success. He is also a weekly columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect.

February 1, 2016: Karen Heller

Karen Heller is national general features writer for The Washington Post's Style section. She was previously a metro columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, where she also reported on popular culture, politics and social issues. She has won awards for investigative reporting, feature writing and criticism and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary.

November 9, 2015: Fred Bowen

Fred Bowen was a Little Leaguer who loved to read. Now he is the author of 21 action-packed chapter books for kids, including his most recent, Out of Bounds. He has also written a weekly sports column for kids in The Washington Post since 2000. For years, Fred coached kids’ baseball, soccer and basketball teams. Some of his stories spring directly from his coaching experience and his sports-happy childhood in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Fred holds a degree in history from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from George Washington University. He was a lawyer for thirty years before retiring to become a full-time children’s author. Bowen has been a guest author at hundreds of schools and conferences across the country, as well as the National Book Festival in Washington, DC, and The Baseball Hall of Fame. Fred lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife Peggy Jackson. Their son, Liam, is the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for the University of Maryland – Baltimore County (UMBC) and their daughter, Kerry, is in a Masters program in Denver studying to become a teacher and a reading specialist. Fred's website is fredbowen.com.

November 5, 2015: Matt Bai

Matt Bai is an author, journalist, screenwriter and Yankee fan. He’s also one of the nation’s leading voices on American politics. Matt is best known for stories that explore change in society — generational, technological, economic — and how that change is breaking down old institutions and transforming the politics of a new century. His second book, All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, was published in October 2014 by Alfred A. Knopf. Matt is the national political columnist at Yahoo News, which he joined in January 2014. Before that, he was chief political correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, where he covered three presidential elections, and a columnist for both the magazine and The Times. Everything you ever wanted to know about Matt (including his brief but stellar acting career) is in his official bio.

November 2, 2015: Todd Vanderweff

Todd VanDerWerff is the culture editor for Vox and the former TV editor of The A.V. Club. He's also worked at several newspapers and on a pig farm. He's suppose to write a book one of these days, so keep an eye out for that.

October 5, 2015: Sheila Weller

Sheila Weller is a bestselling author and multiple-award-winning magazine journalist specializing in women’s lives. She writes frequently for Vanity Fair and Glamour, she is a former Contributing Editor to New York and Self and Redbook, a reviewer for The New York Times Book Review, a feature writer for The New York Times Styles Section, and has written and writes for (among others) Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and Rolling Stone. Her seventh book, The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour – and The Triumph of Women in TV News, was in 2014. Her sixth book, in 2008, was Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon - And The Journey of a Generation. She has won 10 major magazine awards. A California native, she lives in New York City.

September 30, 2015: David Maraniss

David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post. In addition to Barack Obama: The Story, Maraniss is the author of five critically acclaimed and bestselling books, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton, They Marched Into Sunlight – War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967, Clemente – The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero, and Rome 1960: The Summer Olympics That Stirred the World. He is also the author of Into the Story: A Writer’s Journey Through Life, Politics, Sports and Loss, The Clinton Enigma and coauthor of The Prince of Tennessee: Al Gore Meets His Fate and "Tell Newt to Shut Up!"

David is a three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and won the Pulitzer for national reporting in 1993 for his newspaper coverage of then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. He also was part of The Washington Post team that won a 2008 Pulitzer for the newspaper's coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting. He has won several other notable awards for achievements in journalism, including the George Polk Award, the Dirksen Prize for Congressional Reporting, the ASNE Laventhol Prize for Deadline Writing, the Hancock Prize for Financial Writing, the Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the Frankfort Book Prize, the Eagleton Book Prize, the Ambassador Book Prize, and Latino Book Prize.

September 29, 2015: Careers in Journalism and New Media

This year’s annual Careers in Journalism & New Media panel featured as guests Penn alumni David Borgenicht (C’90), Jess Goodman (C’12) and John Prendergast (C’80), along with moderator Stephen Fried (C’79). As Jessica Lowenthal explained in her introduction, the program was inspired by former Penn writing professor Nora Magid, who Fried remembers as a mentor for aspiring writers: “whenever you were about to go to law school,” he recounted, “she sat you down and had the talk.” In Nora’s spirit, the panel members shared career advice with the audience of aspiring journalists. They encouraged students not to lose hope in their prospects too quickly: Borgenicht, currently the CEO of Quirk Books, spent his first year out of college waiting tables and canvassing for an environmental group. “That got me ready for book publishing,” he noted, “because I got rejected a lot.” A lively Q&A session followed the discussion. Audience members asked about applying for fellowships and jobs; assembling writing samples; and the relationship between new and old media. Reassuring students debating the qualifications required for job applications, Goodman advised, “people just want to hire really good people. Just be really good at your job.”

April 14, 2015: Blake Bailey

Blake Bailey is the author of biographies of John Cheever, Richard Yates, and Charles Jackson, and he is at work on the authorized biography of Philip Roth. In 2014 he published a memoir, The Splendid Things We Planned. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award and the Francis Parkman Prize, and a finalist for the Pulitzer and James Tait Black Memorial Prizes. He live in Virginia with his wife and daughter.

April 8, 2015: Tish Hamilton

Tish Hamilton started her career in journalism answering phones for the publishers of Muppet and Barbie magazines. She then worked for nearly a decade at Rolling Stone, as a copy-editor, line editor, and managing editor, and ran her first marathon. She spent a few years at Outside magazine, the New York Daily News, and Sports Illustrated for Women and ran many more marathons. Today she feels lucky to combine her professional experience with her personal passion at Runner's World, where she has been executive editor since 2003. Her essays have been included in Woman's Best Friend: Dogs and Tales From Another Mother Runner. She lives in Bernardsville, New Jersey, with her 10-year-old daughter and two small dogs. She has run 48 marathons and the misleadingly named Comrades Marathon in South Africa, which is actually 56 miles.

April 6, 2015: Michael Vitez

Michael Vitez is a human interest writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he has been a reporter for 30 years. Vitez has covered a wide variety of assignments, including presidential campaigns, health reform, the World Series, slaughter and elections in Haiti, and even the quest to grow the first 1,000-pound pumpkin. In recent years, he has concentrated on medical narratives. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism in 1997 for a series of stories titled "Final Choices," for which he followed five people as they approached the ends of their lives, and wrote powerful, intimate narratives about the decisions they made and the choices they faced. Vitez has also written two books. Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps (with photographer Tom Gralish) is a collection of interviews and photographs of people from all over the nation and the world who came to run those steps like Sylvester Stallone in the Academy Award winning film, Rocky. The Road Back chronicles the story of Matt Miller, a 20-year-old University of Virginia student athlete who survived a horrific bike accident.

March 16, 2015: Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman

A native of Kent, England, Barbara Laker came to the United States with her family when she was 12. In high school, as Watergate broke, Barbara knew she wanted to be a reporter. She graduated from the University of Missouri Journalism School in 1979. A reporter for more than 30 years, Barbara has worked for the Clearwater Sun, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Dallas Times-Herald and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, before joining the Philadelphia Daily News in 1993. She has written about everything from murder and corruption to AIDS and child abuse. At the Daily News, she has been a general assignment reporter, assistant city editor and investigative reporter. With Daily News colleague Wendy Ruderman, she won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism for their series, "Tainted Justice," about a rogue narcotics squad in the Philadelphia Police Department.

Wendy Ruderman got her start in journalism in 1991 when she became editor of a weekly newspaper in South Jersey. She earned a master’s degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1997. Before joining the Philadelphia Daily News in 2007, she worked as a reporter at several media organizations, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Trenton Times, the Associated Press, and the Bergen Record. She covered New Jersey government and politics from 1998 through 2002, reporting on the administrations of former governors Christine T. Whitman and James E. McGreevey. From June 2012—June 2013, she was the New York Times' Police Bureau chief. She returned to the Philadelphia Daily News in August 2013 and is now assigned to the newspaper's City Hall Bureau.

February 19, 2015: Signe Wilkinson

  • listen to an audio recording of this event

    Signe Wilkinson is an editorial cartoonist best known for her work at the Philadelphia Daily News. Wilkinson is the first female cartoonist to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning (1992) and was once named "the Pennsylvania state vegetable substitute" by the former speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She served as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists from 1994-1995. In 2005 she published a collection of her work entitled One Nation, Under Surveillance. In 2007, Wilkinson began a syndicated daily comic strip, Family Tree, for United Media. She decided to end the strip in August 2011, with the last strip appearing on August 27. In 2011, Wilkinson received a Visionary Woman Award from Moore College of Art & Design.

    February 4, 2015: Emily Nussbaum

    The TV critic for The New Yorker and creator of the New York Magazine approval matrix, Emily Nussbaum engaged in a conversation with Julia Schwartz (C'15) for a packed audience in the Arts Cafe. The discussion included informed commentary about television as an art form, the relationship between social change and the media, and of course, Nussbaum's favorite TV shows. Nussbaum read a blog post that she wrote for The New Yorker about an emotionally resonant episode of HBO's Girls before answering an array of questions from the audience. After the program, Nussbaum joined fans of her work and people of the Writers House in the dining room, where she talked animatedly about Breaking Bad over cheese and crackers.

    November 10, 2014: Marty Moss-Coane

    Only minutes into her conversation with Dick Polman, Marty Moss-Coane regaled the audience with a litany of her former job titles: waitress. Furniture salesperson. Counselor. Plant salesperson. Owner of a vegetarian macrobiotic restaurant. Crisis intervention specialist. Radio intern. Radio producer. Radio host. Her “crooked path,” as she described it, eventually brought her to the WHYY talk show Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, which she’s hosted since 1987. A seasoned interviewer, Moss-Coane found her typical roles reversed at this lunch conversation, the last fall guest in Polman’s lunch series: she’d hosted Polman as a radio guest just the week before. Now, she was interviewee instead of interviewer. The topic of conversation was, of course, interviews. After narrating the trajectory of her radio career, Moss-Coane shared a wealth of interview advice. She emphasized the importance of preparation, a point she drove home with a painful story about her first radio show. She peppered her talk with comical anecdotes about former guests—from the notoriously stealthy food critic Craig Laban, who shielded his identity by wearing a box over his head, to Maurice Sendak, who read Where the Wild Things Are aloud on air, complete with animal noises. Moss-Coane left the audience with encouraging words on interviewing, radio, and journalism, assuring them, “asking questions can be a really powerful thing to do”

    October 20, 2014: Covering the Pennsylvania Governor's Race

    Many observers say that the race between Gov. Tom Corbett and Democrat Tom Wolf has been a snore, but what’s it like to cover it from the inside—and to compete 24/7 with all the new media outlets and technologies?

    October 15, 2014: John Harris

    September 23, 2014: Careers in Journalism

    For students interested in pursuing careers in media, our annual "Careers In Journalism and New Media" is co-sponsored by The Daily Pennsylvanian, The Nora Magid Mentorship Prize, and The Povich Journalism Program, and features successful alumni writers with advice about preparing for jobs in journalism, nonfiction, radio, and online media. This year’s panel was moderated by award-winning journalist and teacher Stephen Fried (C’79), who led a fantastic discussion with group of alumni writers, including Sabrina Rubin Erdely (C'94), an award-winning feature writer and contributing editor at Rolling Stone; Maria Popova (C07), curator of the culture blog BrainPickings.org; and Melody Joy Kramer (C'06), digital strategist and associate editor at NPR. The panel discussed their diverse paths towards careers in nonfiction writing and shared common tips like building a diverse portfolio of samples and getting experience both in and out of the classroom. The panelists spent a lot of time grappling with how social media has shaped the current climate of journalistic writing and got into an impassioned debate over the viability of careers starting in "big" or "small" journalism gigs. The panelists also answered questions from students in the audience including how to break into media without being a writer, the role of collaboration in longform writing, and challenging yourself as a writer beyond the classroom.

    September 22, 2014: Matt Flegenheimer

    A star-studded alumni panel of journalists and media experts reveals what you need to know to get a job in print or broadcast journalism, book publishing, new media, and beyond. Panelists include Sabrina Rubin Erdely (C'94) an award-winning feature writer, investigative journalist, and contributing editor at Rolling Stone; Maria Popova (C07), an interestingness hunter-gatherer and curator of the culture blog BrainPickings.org; Melody Joy Kramer (C'06), digital strategist and associate editor at NPR; and moderator Stephen Fried (C'79), award-winning investigative journalist, essayist, and teacher.

    April 23, 2014: Lunch with JEZEBEL founder Anna Holmes: An Interactive Webcast

    Anna Holmes is the founder of the popular website Jezebel.com. She has written and edited for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, InStyle and The New Yorker online. In 2012, she won a Syracuse University Newhouse School Mirror Award for Best Commentary, Traditional Media. She speaks regularly on digital media, gender politics, and pop culture, and has appeared on various media outlets including The Today Show, CNN's Reliable Sources, and NPR's All Things Considered, The Takeaway, and Tell Me More. She is the editor of two books, including the Book of Jezebel, and was recently named a columnist for the New York Times Book Review. She lives in New York.

    April 9, 2014: SASHA ISSENBERG

    Sasha Issenberg is the author of The Victory Lab, a columnist for Slate and the Washington correspondent for Monocle, where he covers politics, business, diplomacy, and culture. He covered the 2008 election as a national political reporter in the Washington bureau of The Boston Globe, and his work has also appeared in New York, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Monthly, Inc., The Atlantic, Boston, Philadelphia, and George, where he served as a contributing editor. His first book, The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy, was published by Gotham in 2007.


    Daniel Jones is a contributing editor at The New York Times, where he has edited the popular "Modern Love" column since its inception in 2004. His books include two essay anthologies, and The Bastard on the Couch: 27 Men Try Really Hard to Explain Their Feelings About Love, Loss, Fatherhood, and Freedom. His novel, After Lucy, was a finalist for the Barnes and Noble Discover Award. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Elle, Parade, Real Simple, Redbook, and elsewhere. He lives in Northampton, MA, with his wife, writer Cathi Hanauer, and their two children.


    Journalist Tom Junod has published some of the most celebrated pieces in American magazine writing, including, "The Abortionist," "The Rapist Says He's Sorry," "The Falling Man," and a 2001 piece on R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe, in which he satirically fabricated information. Junod has worked as a writer for Esquire magazine since 1997, after following editor David Granger to the magazine from GQ. He also worked for Atlanta magazine, Life, and Sports Illustrated.

    March 17, 2014: LUNCH WITH LISA DEPAULO

    As a magazine writer for GQ, New York, and Vanity Fair, Lisa DePaulo has profiled everyone from Ed Rendell and Jamie Foxx to Liz Smith and Donald Rumsfeld. Before going national, she spent nearly a decade at Philadelphia Magazine, and returned to its pages last September with an epic story about Julia Law, the young paralegal who was found dead in the home of her boss and lover, Philadelphia defense attorney Chuck Peruto. The piece was turned into an e-book, titled The Dead Girl in the Bathtub. DePaulo has taught profile writing at NYU, and she's a University of Pennsylvania graduate, Class of '82.

    February 5, 2014: Feminism/s Presents: Sex in Journalism

    Join us for a discussion of sex in journalism, featuring a panel of journalists, current and former sex columnists, and scholars: Lena Chen, Julia Allison and Kelsey McKinney.

    Julia Allison, 32, is a nationally recognized journalist, relationship expert, public speaker, former BRAVO star and 2008 WIRED cover girl. She is currently at work writing her first book, Experiments in Happiness, to published Spring 2015 by St. Martin's Press. A veteran tv commentator and host, Allison has made hundreds of appearances on CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, E!, MSNBC, VH1 and MTV, and has published several hundred articles for publications as diverse as ELLE, Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan, New York magazine and The New York Post, covering everything from Burning Man to Comic Con to NY Fashion Week to the White House Correspondents' Dinner, as well as interviewing unconventional experts in the realm of happiness and relationships, and examining the impact of technology and social media on culture. She has spoken at conferences around the world as well as universities like MIT, Wharton, Harvard on new media, personal branding, unconventional purpose driven marketing, and hacking happiness. Allison got her start as the (sometimes controversial) dating columnist for Georgetown University when she was an undergraduate. A recovering social media addict with over 300k combined Facebook and Twitter followers, she's lived in New York, LA, DC and Chicago. Now she lives, loves, and experiments with happiness (and a lot of yoga) in San Francisco.

    Lena Chen (@lenachen) is a writer and activist working to advance intersectional feminism, reproductive justice, and sexual and bodily empowerment. Lena studied sociology at Harvard University, where she organized the Rethinking Virginity Conference and co-founded Feminist Pride Day. Since graduating in 2010, Lena has hosted educational programming for Alloy Digital, mtvU, and The National Campaign To Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy and has spoken about gender justice and youth activism at colleges throughout the country. She has been a member of Bitch Magazine's Leadership Council, recognized as a young feminist leader by More Magazine, and named a Progressive Women's Voices Fellow at the Women's Media Center.

    In 2006, Lena started the blog SexAndTheIvy.com, posting firsthand accounts of her experiences with sex and depression, and getting pegged by The New York Times and Newsweek as "a small Asian woman" and "a self-appointed poster girl for brainy girls gone wild" (respectively). After an ex-partner emailed websites like Gawker and IvyGate with "revenge porn", Lena stopped writing publicly about her personal life. Anonymous posters subsequently published the names and personal details of her new partner, friends, family, and readers across dozens of "satire" blogs and message boards in a five-year defamation campaign capturing the interest of media and law enforcement.

    In 2013, Lena relocated to Berlin, Germany to write a novel. She is becoming certified as a Registered Yoga Teacher and traveling through the U.S. to document the experiences of homeless youth and survivors of sexual violence and trauma. Her writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, The American Prospect, Marie Claire, Glamour, and Salon.

    Kelsey McKinney is a Plan II student at The University of Texas at Austin, and the online editor of Foxing Quarterly. Her writings have been published in Slate, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and The Millions. She likes big sandwiches and slim novels. While lifestyle editor at The Daily Texan, she implemented and edited a four-person sex column series that received national attention.

    Dan Reimold, Ph.D., is a college media scholar who has written and presented about the student press throughout the U.S., Southeast Asia and in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. As the Student Press Law Center Report notes, "Reimold's work allows him to track the pulse of America's college papers and identify student press trends." He is an assistant professor of journalism at Saint Joseph's University, where he also advises The Hawk student newspaper. His first book on college media, Sex and the University: Celebrity, Controversy, and a Student Journalism Revolution, was published in fall 2010 by Rutgers University Press.

    An excerpt from this program was featured in the 39th Kelly Writers House Podcast.

    February 3, 2014: A lunch Talk with Bob Ford

    Bob Ford is an award-winning sports columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary, Ford joined the Inquirer in 1987 as the beat writer for the 76ers. He became a general assignment feature writer, with an emphasis on Olympic sports and long-form narrative, in 1994, and was promoted to columnist in 2003. His work has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Press, the Keystone Press Association and the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, which has named him Pennsylvania Sportswriter of the Year five times. He is a fellow of the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He's a graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.

    November 13, 2013: a lunch talk with Matt Katz

    Matt Katz has been on the Chris Christie beat longer than any reporter in New Jersey. For three years, he covered Gov. Christie for The Philadelphia Inquirer, blogging about it all at The Christie Chronicles, philly.com/ChristieChronicles. This November he takes his beat to NPR, where he'll be covering Christie on the air for WNYC's New Jersey Public Radio and blogging at NJSpotlight.com. Prior to moving to the Statehouse, he spent time in Afghanistan, writing a series on reconstruction efforts that won the Livingston Award for International Reporting. In 2009 his four-part investigation about Camden, the poorest and most dangerous city in America, prompted an end to the state's takeover of city government. He has covered New Jersey for newspapers since 2000.

    October 30, 2013: Lunch with Robert Costa

    September 26, 2013: Fineman and Fineman: Media Then & Now

    Howard Fineman is an American journalist who is editorial director of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group. Prior to his move to Huffington Post in October 2010, he was Newsweek’s Chief Political Correspondent, Senior Editor and Deputy Washington Bureau Chief. An award-winning writer, Fineman also is an NBC News analyst, contributing reports to the network and its cable affiliate MSNBC. He appears frequently on “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” “The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell” and “The Rachel Maddow Show.” The author of scores of Newsweek cover stories, Fineman’s work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The New Republic. His “Living Politics” column was posted weekly on Newsweek.com. Fineman authored his first book in 2008, The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates That Define and Inspire Our Country.

    Meredith C. Fineman is the Founder and CEO of FinePoint Digital PR, a boutique tech, social media, public relations, and media relations agency. FinePoint specializes in national press and events for start-ups and tech, as well as social media strategy and implementation, blogger programs and strategic content. Meredith is also a connector and adviser to many sectors of Washington ranging from entrepreneurship to media to small business. She has a background in advertising and marketing for companies and brands such as Bloomingdale's, CBS, Young & Rubicam, and Nestle. Additionally, Meredith is a freelance writer in humor, technology, entrepreneurship, and business for outlets such as The Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, The Huffington Post, The Daily Muse, Gawker, and HelloGiggles. She is the founder and editor of two female-centric humor sites, TheFFJD, a satire of young Jewish dating life, and Girls Aren't Funny, a space to highlight female humor writers past and present. Meredith received a BA in Communications and Spanish from the University of Pennsylvania.


    Joel Siegel began his journalism career at the Red Bank Daily Register, covering cops, courts and Bruce Springsteen sightings. He wrote his first story on an electric typewriter. He then saw the world as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Trenton, where he was the Statehouse bureau chief. Next stop: The New York Daily News, where he worked for 15 years, mostly as the City Hall bureau chief and as the senior political correspondent. He covered President Clinton's impeachment, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign. In 2003, he joined ABC News as a writer for Peter Jennings, and later for Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer, on ABC's "World News." He also worked as a head writer and a producer for "Weekend World News." Joel returned to the Daily News last year as the managing editor for politics, overseeing the City Hall, Albany and Washington bureaus, and all campaign coverage.

    Stephen Fried ('79) is an award-winning author and magazine journalist, a lecturer at Penn's Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing and an adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A former contributing editor at Vanity Fair, GQ and Glamour, and the former editor-in-chief of Philadelphia magazine, he has written five nonfiction books--most recently "Appetite for America," one of the Wall Street Journal's top ten books of the year--and is currently working on a biography of Dr. Benjamin Rush for Crown.

    Maria Popova is the founder and editor of Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org), an inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness covering art, science, history, philosophy, design, and more. She has written for Wired, UK, The Atlantic, Nieman Journalism Lab, The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, and Design Observer, among others, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow. She is on Twitter as @brainpicker.

    Melody Kramer graduated from Penn in 2006 with a B.A. in English (Creative Writing.) While at Penn, she wrote the humor column for the Daily Pennsylvanian, edited The Punchbowl, tutored folks at the Kelly Writer's House and played trumpet in the Penn Band. After graduating, she received the Kroc Fellowship at NPR, where she learned radio reporting, editing, producing and web stuff. She then moved to Chicago to direct and produce Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, NPR's humor show. Three years later, she moved back to Philly to work as a producer and writer at WHYY's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She left Fresh Air to go to med school, dropped out in April, took a temp gig writing for and editing National Geographic magazine. She will soon announce a new job! Her email is melodykramer@gmail.com — and she's happy to offer advice or support for anyone thinking about this kind of career. Don't hesitate to get in touch.

    April 10,2013: A lunch talk with David Lieberman

    David Lieberman is the Executive Editor for Deadline Hollywood where he reports on several issues including business and finance, television news, media, public policy and technology. Prior to joining Deadline, David was Senior Media Reporter at USA Today for seventeen years and covered media, telecom and technology. He also managed the USA Today's CEO Forum, where he conducted one-on-one interviews with some of the nation's most influential business leaders including Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, General Electric's Jeffrey Immelt, American Express' Kenneth Chenault and Kraft's Irene Rosenfeld. Before working at USA Today, David covered television as a Reporter and Editor for TV Guide, served as Media and Entertainment Editor at Business Week and covered business and the economy for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. During his career, David free-lanced for several prestigious publications including the Media Studies Journal, The New York Times, the Columbia Journalism Review and The New Republic. He also contributed an essay on media mergers which appears in the influential book, Conglomerates and the Media, published by The New Press. In addition to his writing, David is an adjunct professor at the Fordham University Graduate School of Business where he specializes in business and media.

    February 18, 2013: A Lunch Talk with Mark Bowden

    Baltimore-area native Mark Bowden mused on the influence of the new journalists of the 1960s on his writing in this lively lunch conversation. A likeable and compelling speaker, Bowden described his discovery of long-form journalism in the magazines next to the pharmacy’s comic-book racks as a kid, noting that in contrast to the “abstract code” of the Baltimore Sun’s reportage, they were just as “full of character, and incident, and action” as the comic books. When he first abandoned his grocery-store cashier job to be a newspaper writer, however, Bowden struggled to find opportunities for writing in the style of his heroes (who included Tom Wolfe and Truman Capote); it was only after a colorful narrative piece about a local drug raid that he realized that even the most hardened “nuts and bolts” editors loved a good story. As he revealed in the question-and-answer session, Bowden eventually broke into the long-form journalism scene in full force, writing about the killings of Pablo Escobar and Osama bin Laden, the 1958 NFL championship game, and more. Bowden captivated the audience with his thoughts on the Internet age, the supposed “golden age” of long-form journalism, and literature as a representation of human experience, and entertained with anecdotes about winning the National Science Writing Award through journalistic ignorance and “a really cool story that I’m not going to tell you about” in Texas.

    February 13, 2013: A Lunch Talk by George Anastasia

    With an accent like the Philadelphia mobsters through which he earned his journalistic reputation, George Anastasia, former crime reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, had an immediate presence when he took the podium in this Povich lunch program. Dressed in all black, Anastasia didn’t hesitate to tread touchy territory as he lamented the Inquirer’s apparent loss of respect for content and criticized the practice of hiring recent graduates of journalism schools. His straightforward manner, though met with skepticism from some audience members, seemed nevertheless well intentioned as Anastasia outlined which strategies from the old days could rescue modern reportage. The journalist emphasized “zig[ging] when everyone else zags,” as well as the need for editors to provide ample “digging around” time for their writers. Anastasia convinced listeners of the validity of this philosophy through an animated account of his coverage of the disappearance and murder of Anne Marie Fahey, a crime whose conclusion, he noted, would be rejected by any editor of fiction. The writer also fielded counterarguments from audience members in a Q&A, particularly regarding his feelings towards underqualified twenty-two-year-old bloggers, and offered his thoughts on gangster movies, majoring in French, and pontificating in one’s underwear.

    November 27, 2012: A Lunch Talk With Jina Moore

    Jina Moore is a freelance journalist and multimedia producer who covers human rights, Africa, and foreign affairs. She is a regular correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor and her work has also appeared in Foreign Policy, Newsweek, The Columbia Journalism Review, and elsewhere.

    November 13, 2012: A Lunch Talk With Sam Stein

    Stephen Fried recognized the error of his ways as he introduced political reporter Sam Stein for this afternoon Povich program; Fried and other Columbia J-School professors had discouraged Stein from accepting a position at the fledgling Huffington Post upon graduation, skeptical of the publication’s future importance. Years later, both journalists could agree that online journalism is just as relevant as “brick and mortar media” in an era of instantaneous news nuggets, an era, they joked, in which it is dangerous to sleep for all of the missed reportage sleeping entails. Perhaps Fried’s favorite perk of Stein’s HuffPo rebellion was the young writer’s ability to impersonate Arianna Huffington in his lively storytelling, a talent solicited throughout the discussion. Stein stayed good-natured throughout despite difficult questions on factuality in the media, the stories the Obama administration preferred not to divulge, and the “weird new kid on the block” mentality surrounding online journalism (not to mention a particularly vocal front-row audience member), and delighted with his recollections of his first White House press conference, appearing on television the night before Thanksgiving, and the ’08 and ’12 elections on which he built his reputation. Indeed, Stein’s insight on both the trivial and tremendous sides of journalism compelled many audience members to approach with questions well after the program concluded.

    November 13, 2012: A Reading By John Jeremiah Sullivan

    Jay Kirk put his finger on John Jeremiah Sullivan’s genius in his hyper-eloquent introduction to this event; the essayist, he said, “probes down into the twisted apple core of the American psyche,” surprising his readers all the while with “bursts of technicolor hilarity.” Sullivan took the podium with slow, stuttery charm to read from his collection Pulphead on another genius: Michael Jackson. Sullivan’s remarkably thorough chronicle of the then-recently deceased pop star’s life never faulted audience attention as the author revealed, with dripping enunciation, those aspects of Jackson’s life — early prayers to Jehovah and dancing in the dark in the studio, the nickname “Smelly” (in accordance with his nervous habit of covering his nose self-consciously), the skeletal pre-lyrics of “Billy Jean” – that are overlooked in most reportage surrounding the singer. Sullivan’s immersion in this “unusually pure journalistic experience” was evidenced by his musical digressions as he imitated the “girlish peal,” the “drag voice,” that Jackson developed to survive in the music industry. The effect, however was far from condescending, and the essay leaned towards defense of the deceased — Sullivan suggested that Jackson’s alleged predatory behavior may never have existed, and in the face of much critical reception of Jackson’s surgical alterations, Sullivan asserted, “[Jackson’s] physical body is arguably… the single greatest piece of postmodern American sculpture.” Perhaps the only thing more intriguing than Michael Jackson was his captivating profiler, as evidenced by a fruitful question and answer session following the reading.

    November 11, 2012: A Lunch Talk with Amanda Bennett

    Amanda Bennett shared her expertise on merging the personal and political in this lunch talk, centered on her recent memoir, The Cost of Hope. Her reflections on the seven-year cancer struggle, and eventual death, of her husband Terrence were rimmed with fond memories — a Tuba choir at Christmas, the faux resume that landed him a job at The Wall Street Journal, his concern over finding a new husband for her when his illness became terminal — as well as startling reflections on the healthcare system. Bennett found, as she pored over Terry’s medical records, that he’d had a total of seventy-six scans over the years, each with seemingly arbitrary pricing, and questioned the medical necessity of much of the treatment advocated by US medical institutions. During the question-and-answer session, Bennett continued to reveal insider information about the healthcare bureaucracy, garnered from her intense investigative work (“HIPPA,” she taught the audience, is a magic word when requesting medical records), but also mused on the memoir-writing process. The author revealed the surprising efficiency of “long hours on the sofa with my arms flung over my eyes” for stimulating memory, discussed the baby-boomer-driven genre of rock star memoirs, and concluded that it was neither cathartic nor painful, but rather “wonderful,” to spend an extra year with her late husband by writing the book.


    Former 34th Street staff member Sabrina Erdely returned to Penn for this engaging discussion moderated by RealArts guru Anthony DeCurtis. Erdely treated listeners to her journalistic origin story, describing her escalating addiction to “the hunt” of investigative journalism as an undergrad thrilled to discover a real-life application for her curiosity. In fact, her first feature for Philadelphia Magazine, a piece exploring the sadomasochistic affair between a Penn graduate professor and an undergraduate student (a bigger story than either Erdely or her editors anticipated), was completed before she graduated. Guided by DeCurtis’s thoughtful questions, Erdely shared her shrewd techniques, sincerity about the field, and strategies for dealing with uncomfortable writer-subject relations, including her 34th Street-era discovery that her writing was not confined to the DP’s familiar “airless windowless building at 3 AM.” Incredible anecdotes punctuated Erdely’s eloquent musings about the profession, creating a seamless transition to a Q&A in which the journalist expressed her profound belief in the human race.

    October 3, 2012: A Lunch Talk with David Corn

    David Corn made a compelling argument for the sovereignty of fact in this mid-campaign program. As the journalist who broke the infamous Mitt Romney “47%” video, Corn had firsthand evidence to support his theory that the best journalism comes from letting facts speak for themselves. After discussing the rise of fact-checking and politicians’ historic disregard for truth-telling on the campaign trail, the journalist jokingly badgered those still voters who were still undecided in the 2012 presidential race, accusing them of not paying attention. The subsequent question-and-answer session heated up quickly as skeptical audience members challenged the ethics of airing Romney’s private strategy session and railed against American journalism; Corn, however, expressed his thoughts in a level-headed manner, a defense strategy that had no doubt become necessity for the journalist in the face of thousands of “mean tweets … from old white guys.” Nevertheless, Corn’s intrepid attitude about reportage not only permitted Corn to divulge his own misgivings about political journalism’s “officialdom” bias, but led one audience member to proclaim “you’re my hero” solemnly into the microphone.

    October 1, 2012: SALLY BEDELL SMITH

    This Povich program would satiate the appetite of even the most ravenous of gossip hounds; Sally Bedell Smith, after all, is no ordinary biographer. “I have a thing for kings,” she noted, referring to the “legendary characters” to which she’s been drawn over her storied career, which include the Kennedys, Clintons, Pamela Churchill Hamilton, Bill Paley, Princess Diana, and Queen Elizabeth II. Her remarks were a hodge-podge of biographers’ tips — never look at subjects in isolation, take time to organize, be selective, stay tuned for “bonuses” outside of the traditional interview mode — and a whirlwind collection of stories about getting to know her subjects, whether she was watching Bill Paley flirt at a dinner party or the queen observe the “incredibly violent” process of thoroughbred breeding without batting an eye. Smith took questions with the expertise of a practiced navigator of “rivers and their tributaries of research,” dishing on JFK’s highbrow lovers, Pamela Hamilton’s novelistic behavior, “Billary’s” potential political aspirations for the future, and royal matters from Prince Phillip to questions of paternity.


    This year’s annual program to honor Nora Magid was a practical affair that any job-seeking journalist would be sorry to miss. Expert panelists Eliot Kaplan, the so-called “guy you need to know” and director of Hearst Magazines director; Ruth Davis, senior editor for Time; Matt Flegenheimer, a recent Penn grad with a full-time post at the Times; Melody Kramer, former NPR writer and producer; and Stephen Fried, journalism professor and experienced editor, discoursed on their first jobs in the biz, how to be a fearless networker, and what undergraduates can do to avoid post-grad employment panic. The Writers House was much praised for its connections, as were the multitude of publications on campus and in Philadelphia that offer opportunities for students to primp their portfolios. The pros also fielded questions on the pros and cons of grad school, new outlets for journalistic expression (read: the Internet and radio), whether it pays more to specialize or diversify, the importance of taking any position you can to expand your writing and reporting skill set, and whether “careers in journalism” really is, as one audience member put it, an oxymoron.

    April 4, 2012: A Lunch Talk with Rich Galen

    Dick Polman introduced Republican author, columnist, and former press secretary for Newt Gingrich, Rich Galen, to the Writers House. Prior to his visit to Penn, Galen was recently a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher. Polman joked referring to Galen's book, A Stranger in a Strange Land: A Republican in 2012, for the fact that a Republican might feel like a stranger here at Penn. Galen referred to himself as this "stranger" for the fact that he may be the last living moderate Republican, as he describes himself. Jokes and political affiliation aside, Galen was very happy to be here, and noted that this may be the first time he and Polman have been in the same room without three hundred reporters. Galen gave his brutally honest comments on the likelihoods and chance for success of each of the Republican potential candidates for President, including his former boss, Newt Gingrich. Galen also commented on each of the parties' campaign strategies for this November, the benefits and disadvantages of various word limits in writing political columns, and negative ads in politics, among many other thought-provoking topics.

    March 28, 2012: A Lunch Talk with Roger Simon

    Dick Polman introduced the Chief Political Columnist of politico.com, Roger Simon, for a lunch talk as part of the Povich Journalism Series. Simon has written three books, and is an award winning journalist. Simon talked to our audience about such topics as the relevance of presidential debates, for as he said, people watch a debate to "see how it crashes and burns". He also shared his knowledge concerning how candidates are selected, the religious right of the Republican party, and his predictions of possibilities for the upcoming election. The audience was intrigued by his knowledge and the topics he raised; they asked many questions spanning a wide range of political topics. Our audience was interested in learning about controversial topics such as healthcare as a campaign issue, how the new Voter ID Laws will affect voters, and how Super-PACs will impact the election. Simon provided his honest beliefs and assessments to answer these hot-topic questions. As for his feelings on visiting Penn, Simon noted Philadelphia and Penn's importance in US history, and called it "a pleasure to get out of Washington", which he jokingly referred to as "sixty nine square miles surrounded by reality".

    March 13, 2012: A Conversation with Bill Keller

    Bill Keller, New York Times columnist and former executive editor, visited the Writers House for a Q&A session hosted by Writers House Faculty Director, Al Filreis. Keller's eminent role in journalism drew Penn President Amy Guttmann as an audience member. Keller discussed his enjoyment for writing Op-Ed columns, how he missed writing when he was an editor, and the discipline of putting one's personal prejudices aside as much as possible when reporting the news. President Guttmann asked him about his biggest worry for journalism, and how it might be overcome. Keller responded that he is a "chronic optimist", so while he acknowledges, as Guttmann does, the loss of quality in the media, he thinks that ultimately people have a desire for receiving quality information over only getting prejudiced reporting. Keller did discuss his frustration with aggregators, in his own words, "if everybody's an aggregator, no one can make stuff to aggregate". Keller's knowledgeable insights into journalism, writing, and the world of the New York Times were a pleasure for our audience.

    February 20, 2012: A Lunch Talk with Allison Steele

    This lunch talk saw record audience participation even for a Povich program. Long-time crime reporter Allison Steele demonstrated her capacity to listen to all possible sources as she solicited questions from an eager crowd (to the point where she had trouble keeping track of all of the raised hands). Steele began with some earnest insights about her profession, identifying three types of cases: those that require little police work due to the carelessness of their perpetrators (a drunken robbery of a World Series ring replica), those that require serious creative thinking (the double shooting at the Piazza), and those that require sheer luck (the Kensington serial killer). Steele’s appreciation for the sheer (almost military-like) stress of police work as well as the smaller impact that she can make among individuals in the community was humbling. In what became somewhat of a public forum, Steele also addressed the pressure she gets to slant her story, the monumental importance of humanity in writing a case, the benefits of texting sources, Commissioner Ramsey’s attempts to reform the system, the difficulty of finding officers willing to talk about their heroic acts, and the need to ask oneself “does this rise above the normal chaos?” on the crime beat.

    December 1, 2011: RealArts@Penn presents Steve Volk

    Creative writing teacher and Real Arts Director Anthony DeCurtis introduced Steve Volk to the Writers House as part of the RealArts@Penn program. RealArts@Penn invites interesting and prominent authors to speak, but also provides internships for students in varied arts and media fields. DeCurtis described a twenty six year friendship that he and Volk share. Volk's book, Fringology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable and Couldn't explores issues of the paranormal. Volk described how three editors each told him not to write this type of book, as there is a heavy stigma surrounding those who take the paranormal as something worthy of serious exploration. Volk explains how common experiences with ghosts, psychic feelings, and UFOs are, even taking a poll of our audience to see how many have been witness to this type of phenomena, and therefore describes the need to remove the stigma. Volk shared his own past with a haunting in his home, and talked about the fun of the ghost hunting he did as research for this book. As DeCurtis said in his introduction, if there is anyone best suited to explore the paranormal and give everything its due, it is Steve Volk.

    November 14, 2011: A Conversation with David Maraniss

    Paul Hendrickson, who moderated this conversation, contrasted David Maraniss's "fundamental Midwestern boyishness" and his substantial Pulitzer-level recognition in a lengthy introduction of the esteemed writer. Indeed, Maraniss's cool demeanor and quiet modesty were evident even as he described his extensive reporting in Africa and Indonesia, undertaken for his recent chronicle of the Obama family history, Barack Obama: The Story. Maraniss's honesty is central to his work, whether it apply to deadly battles in Vietnam, 9/11, or Vince Lombardi; throughout the discussion he advocated frank, truthful journalism, a "dangerous" approach to which Maraniss has personally found the most moral and most productive. He attested to the therapeutic nature of writing about the Packers during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the importance of the subconscious in his writing process, and the continuing thrill of finding the perfect sentence; at Hendrickson's request, he also read a gripping sequence from his 9/11 piece for The Washington Post before an intriguing question-and-answer session.

    November 11, 2011: A Lunch Talk with Jill Lawrence

    Jill Lawrence joined us this rainy November afternoon to weigh in on the Republican presidential race. At the time, the race was too close to call; like a season of American Idol, Lawrence noted, "every week there's a different winner, but the losers never leave – they just come back." The seasoned campaign reporter appeared bemused, and at times, disbelieving, as she recounted the "farcical" happenings of the race, from Herman Cain forgetting what Libya was to Michelle Bachmann's assertion that the founding fathers fought against slavery. Nevertheless, Lawrence maintained a fairly objective middle ground in her evaluation of today's developing "hyper-partisanship," and fielded loaded questions with the grace she advocates from presidential contenders themselves. Topics included whether or not we should feel sorry for candidates who "flub" on the campaign trail, the revolutionary way Twitter has altered political reporting, the "self-perpetuating" dysfunction within Washington, and whether Sarah Palin would make a surprise appearance at the end of the Republican race.

    November 9, 2011: Richard Ben Cramer

    Dick Polman introduced journalist and author Richard Ben Cramer for this Povich Journalism program. In Polman's introduction, we not only find out that Cramer's book, What It Takes, is considered by Polman to be "one of the most iconic books ever written", but also that Cramer wanted to entitle this talk "Why I Love Politics". Cramer has conducted enormous research on what it takes to become a president in America; he shared, with our audience, his insights into the families, backgrounds, and personalities of these iconic men, and what kind of a person pursues this highest office in the nation. He also entertained our audience with some funny stories on the nation's most infamous politicians. Cramer answered questions ranging from topics of foreign affairs, the flawed methods of reporting politics, and advice for those who want to become journalists. It is evident from his knowledge and passion that as Cramer says himself, there truly is no irony in his mind when he says he'd like to entitle the talk, "Why I Love Poltics".

    October 17, 2011: A Lunch Talk with Karen Heller

    Long-time associate of Dick Polman and Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Karen Heller's lunchtime visit to the Writers House evidenced an expert ability to hoard information: over the course of an hour Heller fired off seemingly endless isms and gems of "drive-by verbiage" that could only come from years of dedication to her craft. Heller began with a few "inspirational quotes" that illustrated some of the more trying aspects of modern journalism, a common theme throughout the conversation – tidbits about mean readers, angry government officials, and poor business practices were in no short supply. Nevertheless, Heller was quick to encourage young journalists, asserting that "the queasiest times" are behind us, and detailed the perks of her job, including "getting paid to be nosy" (asking Brian Wilson about his medications) and tackling big issues (literacy and poverty in Philadelphia). During a question and answer session Heller touched upon "empathy overload," her daughter's texting overages, Occupy, CNN's shortcomings, and getting paid, and even addressed a sincerely grumpy audience critic.

    October 6, 2011: A Lunch Talk with Mara Hvistendahl

    The process of writing her recent book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, took Mara Hvistendahl everywhere from China to Albania in a compelling investigation of sex-selective abortion trends. The book, described by Jessica Lowenthal as "gripping like a novel,” is charged with political, cultural, and societal revelations: Hvistendahl discussed the implications of sex selection, such as increased trafficking of women, as well as common misconceptions about the problem in this October event. She noted that sex selection is not simply a poor rural Asian problem, detailing surprising links to development and U.S. population-control technologies from the '60s. Hvistendahl's deliberate reading was peppered with emotive pauses and glances at the audience, members of which provided ample questions in a follow-up session: among other topics, LGBT trends in effected countries, the value of women, and how to go from Paul Hendrickson's class to writing books were addressed.