NY Times journalist Danny Hakim to speak on campus: The event, hosted by the College and Saratoga Reads, will discuss investigative journalism

Posted by Julia Leef

At 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 31 in Emerson Auditorium, Albany Bureau Chief of the New York Times Danny Hakim will speak to students on the life of a journalist, in relation to Rebecca Skloot, an investigative journalist and the author of the winning title of this year's Saratoga Reads, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks."

Hakim will speak to coming up with story ideas, working with their sources and using his investigation skills to uncover the details of a story, all of which Skloot did to uncover Henrietta Lacks's story, an African-American woman whose cancer tissue was taken for medical and scientific experimentation without her consent and led to dozens of medical breakthroughs.

Hakim said he enjoyed Skloot's novel, but that he did not know the author personally.

"As I understand it, the College doesn't usually get the authors, just people to talk on various related topics," Hakim said. "I have no connection to the book itself."

Kirsten Drabek, associate director of Community Relations, explained the College's relation between Hakim and Skloot's novel.

"We were brainstorming potential events to tie into the book title, [because] we wanted to offer an event surrounding the topic of investigative journalism," Drabek said. "While Danny is not an investigative journalist per se, he does research and interviews with sources to put together his articles. Plus, we thought that having a New York Times journalist speak on campus would be a draw."

Michelle Bilodeau-Lanne, a member of the Saratoga Reads Events Team and a friend of Hakim and his wife, contacted the journalist regarding the event. Hakim has visited the campus multiple times to speak in several classes for Douglas Meyer, director of Special Programs.

As a resident of Saratoga Springs, Hakim also has visited the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery and said he enjoys seeing the College hockey games.

Among the topics he expects to talk about during the event, Hakim listed his work on "Developmentally Disabled 'Abused & Used' At New York State Group Homes," a series that he co-wrote that exposes the abuse and neglect present in some group homes in New York. He also expects that his role as part of the team that broke the story about the Eliot Spitzer scandal story a few years ago will most likely come up during the discussion.

Hakim said he did a lot of freelance writing when he started, and encourages potential journalists to build up their resumes.

"It's a tough field to get into right now. It's kind of a shrinking field in a lot of ways," Hakim said. "Try to write, try to get your stuff published as much as you can."

Linda Hall, associate professor of English and former writer for "New York" magazine, will preside over the event.

The College shares a partnership with Saratoga Reads, and has hosted a variety of events in the past, including a book fair at Barnes & Noble in Wilton in early December, two junior book discussion sessions for middle school-aged children in February and a book fair in March in conjunction with National Read Across America Day.

Next Thursday, March 29, a group of Saratoga Reads members will travel to Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., to hear Skloot speak. There will be a follow-up event at 7 p.m. on April 26 in the JKB Theater, when David "Sonny" Lacks, son of Henrietta Lacks, and one of his children will speak about their experiences after finding out about his mother's cells. Joe Donahue of WAMC, Saratoga Spring's local public radio station, will moderate the discussion.

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