Douglas Foster

Douglas Foster
Associate Professor

Phone: 847-467-7661

Office: Fisk 204C

Email: dmfoster@northwestern.edu

Douglas Foster received his BA in American Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is a former newspaper reporter, magazine editor, television correspondent, and documentary producer who now teaches feature writing to graduates and undergraduates while overseeing the Journalism Residency Program in South Africa.

His coursework centers on three related concerns: How to pursue immersion reporting of the kind that generates successful feature stories, how to present important narratives in sustained ways, and how to confront the challenges journalists face in covering news across lines of class, ethnicity, nation, language, and culture. These are consistent themes in both the body of his journalism and in the content of his classes.

Contemporary approaches to storytelling have been reconfigured as a result of technological and generational change, of course. This makes our classrooms virtual laboratories for refining the techniques of first-rate reporting and discovering novel ways of publishing, posting, broadcasting, and narrowcasting the news. The courses Foster teaches in magazine writing and global journalism are intensive workshops designed as pure practicum – as close as we come, in a university setting, to actual best practices in the most forward-looking outlets in the “real world.”

Foster also writes for a range of magazines, including The Atlantic, Columbia Journalism Review, Smithsonian and The New York Times Magazine, varied newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, and Web-based magazines such as salon.com. He is also a regular book reviewer for the Washington Post.

His most recent book is "After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post Apartheid South Africa," which examines a country caught between a democratic future and a political meltdown. The book's publisher, W.W. Norton, describes the book as "the long-awaited, revisionist account of a country whose recent history has been not just neglected but largely ignored by the West."

Foster is a contributor to three collections in varied genres – investigative reporting, environmental journalism, and memoir.

He is the winner of awards for investigative reporting on product safety from Investigative Reporters and Editors, a local Emmy for a television documentary about medical malpractice, and a finalist, as editor of Mother Jones, for the National Magazine Award in Investigative Reporting from the Association of Magazine Editors. He is also a member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

Teaching Philosophy

Our writing courses are intense mentoring experiences. They involve close reading, and viewing, of feature forms, supervision of student reporting, and careful line-by-line editing. We create the kind of environment which allows students to swiftly advance their understanding of narrative and to quickly adapt these lessons to their own work.

Research

Science and politics writer for various newspapers and magazines. Research in 2007 for a forthcoming book about South Africa.