Riley Endowed Chair in Journalism, Professor of Practice
Thomas French, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, has spent the past quarter century redefining the possibilities of journalistic storytelling, both in his writing and in his teaching around the world.
French grew up in Indiana and attended journalism school at Indiana University’s Bloomington campus, where he was a Poynter scholar and editor-in-chief at the Indiana Daily Student, and where he won a Hearst award for a profile of a giant hog at the Indiana State Fair. An editor at the St. Petersburg Times read the hog story and hired French, just as he was graduating from IU, as a night cops reporter.
French spent the next 27 years at the Times, covering hurricanes and criminal trials and the secret lives of high school students. He experimented with narrative techniques both on deadline and nondeadline work and specialized in serial narratives, book-length stories published one chapter at a time.
In 1998, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and a Sigma Delta Chi award for Angels & Demons, a series that chronicled the murder of an Ohio woman and her two teenage daughters as they vacationed in Tampa. Two of his other serials, A Cry in the Night and South of Heaven, were later published as books. Zoo Story, a project that explored the inner world of Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, was published in book form by Hyperion in July 2010.
He wrote his latest book, Juniper, with his wife, journalist and fellow professor Kelley Benham French. Juniper, an account of their daughter’s premature arrival at 23 weeks gestation, is scheduled to be published by Little, Brown in fall 2016.
French is a Writing Fellow at the Poynter Institute and has taught there for more than 25 years. He also teaches in a nonfiction masters program at Goucher College, outside Baltimore, and has led narrative workshops across the U.S. and around the world, from the Nieman conference at Harvard to newsrooms in Dubai, Singapore and Johannesburg.
He is proud to have returned to his alma mater and teaches Narrative Journalism, Story Mechanics, Covering Murder & Mayhem, Words & Pictures and Behind the Prize. Since he began teaching at Indiana, his students have won multiple first-place awards in the Hearst competition and have won six writing championships at Hearst, outpacing every other journalism program in the country in that contest.