Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Factory Girls

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Factory Girls

From Village to City in a Changing China

by Leslie T. Chang

Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang X
Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2008, 432 pages
    Aug 2009, 448 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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Immersion Journalism
Factory Girls is an example of immersion journalism. Immersion journalism involves more depth than traditional newspaper reporting, which is limited by column space and time, and includes less of the reporter's own thoughts and reactions to events. Classic examples include Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (1966), Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), and George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia (1952). More recent examples include Nickel & Dimed and Self-Made Man.

The style is related to but different from New Journalism, which developed in the 1960s and 70s and was first described by Tom Wolfe. New Journalism, which tends to be found in magazines, not newspapers, uses dialogue, the first-person point of view, scenes and everyday details about the subjects' lives, referred to as "status detail".

Narrative journalism, literary journalism, and creative nonfiction are sometimes used synonymously to refer to New Journalism, which uses features one might expect from a novel, such as a good sense of pacing and creating interest in the reader, while adhering to facts, reporting and accuracy.

According to writer Edward Humes, "Traditional journalism is about what's in the public domain. It may be obscure, or forgotten, or kept hidden from view when it shouldn't be secret, but the power of traditional journalism lies in the fearless pursuit of the public's right to know. Immersion journalists, on the other hand, have no particular right to go where they go."

Ethical questions arise because of the proximity journalists have with their subjects and the trust they gain as they follow their lives—some may view it as potentially intrusive, so each journalist must determine where to draw the boundary between revealing information in the interest of adding a personal touch to the story, and honoring their interview subject's privacy.

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Article by Karen Rigby

This article was originally published in October 2008, and has been updated for the August 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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