Hours after the bombings in Madrid, Spain on March 11, after the
news had reverberated throughout the world, journalist Lawrence
Wright was in Afghanistan, slightly removed from most media
outlets.

Janna Hutz
Bob Scarpulla sets up backdrops for the New Yorker College Tour in the Michigan Union Lounge yesterday. (ALI OLSEN/Daily)

Wright heard of the bombings when The New Yorker called him
requesting that he write a story. At the time, the weekly
magazine’s editors knew it had to cover the tragedy but did
not know which angle to take.

So Wright flew to Madrid and spent weeks investigating the
dynamics of terrorism in Spain and in the world. The story proved
difficult, largely because information was elusive — which
Wright said, can happen when reporting in other countries. For
instance, he has had considerable difficulty with translators in
the past.

“The cops were very difficult to get to. Very few of them
would go on the record,” Wright said, citing Madrid’s
culture of reticence toward the press. “I spent weeks
besieging these guys for interviews.”

With a bit of help from local reporters and various liaisons,
Wright penned an intricate story about changing terrorist
strategies, incorporating Spain’s religious, political and
criminal history. It appeared in The New Yorker in August.

As a staff writer for the magazine, Wright will join three other
writers in the Michigan League for a panel on “Searching for
the Story” as part of The New Yorker College Tour happening
this week on campus. The tour will also visit the University of
Texas at Austin and Georgetown University in November.

Starting today and continuing until Saturday, the magazine will
hold numerous events on campus with some of its most notable
writers and editors. Today, Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer
prize-winning journalist whose reporting on the Vietnam War and the
Abu Ghraib scandal won him fame, will speak with the
magazine’s editor, David Remnick, on issues in the coming
presidential election.

Amy Sedaris, of Comedy Central’s “Strangers with
Candy” and HBO’s “Sex and the City,” will
hold a conversation with humorist Andy Borowitz on Saturday.

The magazine is touring college campuses to reach out to its
subscribers and college students. Ann Arbor is a major subscribing
hub for the magazine, said Rhonda Sherman, The New Yorker’s
director of special events.

“We thought it would be really great if we could find a
way to bring a taste of New York to those outside of New
York,” said Sherman, who conceived of the idea of the tour.
Every year, the magazine holds a festival in New York celebrating
the arts, but many subscribers outside the area cannot make it.

But the main objective is to reach out students. “If we
picked up a few readers along the way, that would only be a good
thing,” Sherman added. The magazine will offer discounted
subscriptions to students in its lounge in the Michigan Union.

A wide swathe of its writers will attend the college campuses.
Thursday’s panel with Wright includes reporters with
investigative, human interest, business and war coverage
experience. And, while the University got Hersh as a speaker,
Georgetown University will get Hendrik Hertzberg, another
noteworthy writer, and the University of Texas will host Anthony
Lane, the magazine’s witty and sardonic arts critic.

In Thursday’s panel, Wright predicted that the journalists
would discuss what makes them suited to write particular
stories.

“The world is full of wonderful stories, but they’re
only wonderful if someone recognizes what’s wonderful about
them,” he said.

All events are free and for more information events visit
www.newyorkercollegetour.com.

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