Nonfiction Residents Find Home at Institute

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By Josh Friedman, Vice-Chair

A Carey Institute initiative to support journalists, writers and documentarians working on longform nonfiction projects took off in October when 13 residents began stays of two weeks to three months on our campus.

The project has been a hit both with residents and a number of foundations, which have given the Carey Institute the seed money to get the program off the ground.

“When I got accepted to the Carey Institute I didn’t really know what to expect. But for me, it’s been a dream come true,” said Jefferson Morley, a member of the first class of residents, who spent two months at the Institute writing the first biography of James Jesus Angleton, the mysterious Cold War Chief of Counterintelligence at the CIA.“I would say I am about three or four times more productive here.”

“These people are serious about nonfiction. They want you to write,” said Rania Abouzaid, another resident in the inaugural group. “They will give you everything you need to achieve that goal. They will house you, they will feed you, they will give you support and mentorship, and all they ask is that you write. That is quite a luxury, especially in our current business environment where so many people are struggling to complete their longform projects.”

Abouzaid is a Beirut-based freelancer who has been on the ground covering the conflict in Syria since 2011. She is working on a book depicting the war through the eyes of several Syrian families.

The nonfiction residency is one of very few such programs in the United States devoted exclusively to people working on longform nonfiction projects in all media, including books, audio, video and multimedia.

The program is designed to address the technological and financial crisis affecting the creation of longform nonfiction projects. Magazines and newspapers, which have traditionally been the mainstay of such projects, have cut back drastically because of the drop in ad revenue and readership created by the Internet.

The donors supplying original support are the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Stewart R. Mott Foundation and the Dyson Foundation.

Among other topics, residents are writing about the life and death of the Hugo Chavez regime in Venezuela; the experience being a “human lab rat” in a controversial behavioral study at the University of California at Berkeley; the ethics of eating meat; the crisis of public education in America; death squads in El Salvador; and women’s rights in Afghanistan.

A second group of approximately 20 residents will be at the Carey Institute from mid-January to May 2016.