The mission of the International Association for Literary Journalism Studies is the improvement of scholarly research and education in Literary Journalism/Reportage—not journalism about literature but journalism that is literature. To accomplish this, the association’s activities include: encouraging critical and cross-cultural scholarly research and inquiry in the field of Literary Journalism; enhancing the standards of content and instruction in Literary Journalism courses; promoting a sense of public service and professional responsibility among both scholars and practitioners of Literary Journalism; fostering close and continuing relationships between academe and the profession; and increasing the understanding and awareness among professionals and academics of the importance of Literary Journalism—a genre also known around the world as literary reportage, narrative journalism, creative non-fiction, the New Journalism, Jornalismo Literário, el periodismo literario, Bao Gao Wen Xue, literary non-fiction, and narrative non-fiction. Key association programs in support of its mission include its annual international scholarly conference and the publication of its scholarly journal, Literary Journalism Studies.
There is no single description of the genre, but the following definitions help to establish a meeting ground for its critical study.
“The art and craft of reportage-journalism marked by vivid description, a novelist’s eye to form, and eyewitness reporting that reveals hidden truths about people and events that have shaped the world we know.” —Granta
“Reportage Literature is an engagement with reality with a novelist’s eye but with a journalist’s discipline.” —Pedro Rosa Mendes, Portugal
“I think one of the first things for literary reportage should be to go into the field and to try to get the other side of the story. Reportage should give a fresh vision of a topic.” —Anne Nivat, France
“A good reportage must not necessarily be linked with topical or political events which are taking place around us. I think the miracle of things lies not in showing the extraordinary but in showing ordinary things in which the extraordinary is hidden.” —Nirmal Verma, India
It is a “journalism that would read like a novel … or short story.” —Tom Wolfe, United States
Such definitions are not comprehensive and may at times conflict, but they should help to establish an understanding of this fundamentally narrative genre, which is located at the intersection of literature and journalism. At the critical center of the genre lies cultural revelation in narrative form. Implicit to the enterprise are two precepts: (a) that there is an external reality apart from human consciousness, whatever the inherent problems of language and ideology that may exist in comprehending that reality, and (b) that there are consequences in the phenomenal world, whether triggered by human or natural agency, that result in the need to tell journalistically based narratives empowered by the use of literary technique.