Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist John Larson has been named the 10th James H. Ottaway Sr. Professor of Journalism this semester.
Larson will teach a seminar specializing in narrative storytelling through the use of multimedia by having students write a semester-long project that will be reported through the use of video, audio and other mediums.
“My goal is simple,” Larson said. “I want to help [the students] elevate their projects and teach them the power of narrative storytelling in journalism while helping them explore different ways to tell their story.”
Larson, who has won the duPont-Columbia and Peabody awards, was a correspondent for “Dateline NBC,” “NBC Nightly News” and “The Today Show” and has won 22 Emmy Awards.
Larson said that his accolades “reflect a general breath of experience and accomplishment” that he believes showcase some of his most challenging work.
“The Paper Chase,” a 15-month investigative report for “Dateline NBC,” highlighted State Farm Insurance’s employment of scam medical review firms to look at medical cases in an effort to decrease costs.
The report, which according to Larson affected thousands of people, was awarded various journalism awards including a du-Pont-Columbia Silver Baton, a George Foster Peabody, the George Polk, the IRE for Investigative Reporting, the Loeb Award for Business Reporting and the Edward R. Murrow Award, among others.
Larson said he contacted SUNY New Paltz about the Ottaway Professorship after being contacted by the Poynter Institute.
This semester, students in the seminar will work on a semester-long project of their choice, investigating their stories and collecting data while Larson helps them craft work assignment into different formats.
“The thing I am most excited about is to help these journalists find their own love of the profession and to find stories that matter not only to them, but their audience,” Larson said. “I want to help them sharpen their tools in both reporting the information and telling the story.”
Larson said that the students have approached him with different ideas, which he called “compelling” and “out of the box.”
Third-year journalism major Julia Amberg said Larson has already helped her with the interview process as well as with technical issues in their one meeting.
“I think I can learn a lot from him,” Amberg said. “I went into there with two less than great ideas and he shaped them in a lot of different ways.”
Amberg said she will be working on a project called “Searching for Grace,” about trying to find Waitsfield, Vt. band Grace Potter and the The Nocturnals.
Students’ stories will be told through various mediums including audio projects, video and documentary. The use of multimedia is something Larson believes is important but doesn’t change the core element – writing.
“Good writing is good writing regardless of the medium,” Larson said. “The shape and size of the writing changes depending on the platform you’re choosing but the thought and the sense of what a powerful story can be is something that stretches across mediums.”