June 18, 2019 | 68° F

New journalism professor brings years of documentary experience to Rutgers

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Avram Lewis, an acclaimed journalist and filmmaker, has worked for Al Jazeera and is the co-founder and strategic director of The Leap. He will teach Topics in Emerging Media 1: Documentary and Social Change at Rutgers this spring semester. 

Acclaimed journalist and filmmaker Avram Lewis will teach his first college course, Topics in Journalism and Emerging Media 1: Documentary and Social Change, at Rutgers this spring.

Twenty-eight years in the industry, heading feature-length documentary film projects on his own, hosting political coverage on Canada’s version of MTV, MuchMusic, and working on films for Al Jazeera, have given Lewis an extensive insight into the field of journalism.

Lewis is co-founder and strategic director of The Leap, which he describes as “a social movement manifesto and a blueprint for climate justice,” and also has close ties to the spirit of social movements. 

To add to that, he is married to Naomi Klein, the inaugural Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies, and a social activist.

Not having been pre-exposed to years of University bureaucracy and all of the challenges of doing work within a big institution, Lewis said he believes he will bring a real passion for the subject.  

“(Social movements) have led phenomenal changes throughout the country, and journalism is trying to catch up,” he said. “Exactly as it should be.” 

Lewis said he wants the class to be infused with his love for the artform of documentaries and incite the passion that students naturally have for storytelling and social change.

This class is an experiment for him, he said. 

Although he has guest lectured many times in the past, this will be the first time he teaches his own course, and he is hopeful that his inaugural class will help shape future lectures, he said.

Lewis said he recalls a time when social justice stories were seen as soft journalism and human interest was said with a sneer. Despite this pushback, he continued to pursue stories covering social justice. It is because of this that he wants to teach a class that concentrates on social movements. 

He said one of the great advantages of being a student at Rutgers University is the diverse pallet of perspectives that each professor brings to the table. There is a long tradition of Rutgers employing working professionals and not just academics in the faculty, he said.

“We’re in a golden age of documentaries and documentaries have a really rich history," he said. "And right now, at a time of maximum political intensity in the United States, it’s a perfect moment to consider non-fiction storytelling and its relationship with social change."

Christian Balbuena

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