As the academic year gets underway, Nieman Storyboard asked top narrative journalism instructors what they’re assigning their students to study this semester and why.


Here’s what our speaker Kelley Benham French is recommending to her students at Indiana University, where she recently started teaching:


• “The Fiddler in the Subway,” by Gene Weingarten [Washington Post]. I’ve never met him, but Gene Weingarten is my biggest journalism crush. (Are you reading this Gene? My cheeks are all red.) His stories are just so damn smart, and complex, and gorgeous.


• “Into the Lonely Quiet,” by Eli Saslow [Washington Post.] The best newspaper story I’ve read in the last five years that wasn’t written by Gene Weingarten.


• “For Their Own Good” and its follow-up, “100 Years Later and It’s Still Hell” by Ben Montgomery at the Tampa Bay Times. For the marriage of investigative and narrative elements, for courageous reporting, for elegant and muscular writing, for finding storytelling details in agonizing, hard-won interviews and in long-buried documents in musty basements. For Ben, who gave a damn before anyone else did. For all those lost, dead boys, who now have been brought back up out of their graves.


This post was initially published on Nieman Storyboard and republished with the author’s permission. Read the entire lists for other useful assignments.


Kelley gave an emotional speech at #Story14 on writing  the most personal story of her life, the one about the birth of her premature daughter. Watch her keynote and an interview about her process and the advice she has for young journalists.