Dick Lehr speaks with Hill English students
Dick Lehr, an award- winning author, investigative reporter, professor and attorney, visited Hill as a writer-in-residence from October 27 to October 30. During his time on campus, Mr. Lehr visited English and American Studies classrooms, educating Hill students on the art of writing and the role it plays in the world of justice, which is this year’s academic theme. On Thursday night, Mr. Lehr also worked with The Hill News
staff in the Writing Center.
Mr. Lehr spoke to American Studies about the role the journalist plays in the justice system. Throughout his career, he has investigated and brought to light cases in which the accused suspect has been unjustly sentenced. Using a real-life injustice case that Mr. Lehr helped to rectify, students jumped into the role of an investigative reporter. Drafting their own news publications based on evidence, students learned how to incorporate facts when delivering a message. Mr. Lehr warned non-fiction writers of “falling in love with your story;” that is, reporters must not get swept away in the drama of the story; they must check their facts and stick to the essence of reporting the truth. Mr. Lehr emphasized the importance of checking sources in order to maintain credibility. He informed students that every non-fiction writer has a contract to his or her readers that promises validity. “We cannot break that contract,” Mr. Lehr stressed.
In English classes, Mr. Lehr discussed how the novel has evolved into more than the traditional fiction story. He explained that novels have experienced a “revolution” in that they can also be non-fiction narratives. Aspiring writers, he explicated, are no longer limited to chronicling love stories or fantasy; they can turn evidence and facts into captivating, but truthful, storylines. Mr. Lehr used excerpts from Truman Capote’s non-fiction murder account entitled In Cold Blood and his own writing ventures as examples of how facts can be translated into words that are pleasing to the ear.
Currently, Mr. Lehr is a professor of journalism and co-director of a reporting clinic at Boston University. A justice enthusiast, Lehr is co-author of several successful books, including Black Mass: The Irish Mob, The FBI, and a Devil's Deal, a New York Times best-seller and 2001 Edgar Award recipient for Best Fact Crime book; Judgment Ridge: the True Story of the Dartmouth Murders, a 2003 Edgar Award finalist; and The Underboss: The Rise and Fall of a Mafia Family, a national bestseller. Six time Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan currently is adapting Black Mass into a feature film. Mr. Lehr also is a legal affairs reporter, Spotlight Team reporter, and feature writer for the Boston Globe. He previously has written for The Old Lyme Gazette in Connecticut and The Hartford Courant.
Mr. Lehr graduated from The Gunnery School in Washington. He then received his bachelor’s degree at Harvard in 1976 and went on to study law at the University of Connecticut School Of Law. He has won numerous awards, including the Associated Press Managing Editors Public Service Award, the Scripps Howard Public Service Award, and the Associated Press Sevellan Brown Award and Sports Editors Best News Story Award. He also was a John S. Knight Fellow of Journalism fellow at Stanford University.