Stephen G. Bloom

Stephen G. Bloom
Professor
Phone: 
319-335-3368
Office: 
W313 AJB
Office Hours: 
Tuesday 1:30-4:30 pm
BA 1973, University of California at Berkeley

Stephen G. Bloom's interests include long-form narrative writing, writing for the Internet, and the oral histories of journalists.  He teaches narrative journalism and magazine reporting and writing. For the academic year 2011-2012, Bloom was the Howard R. Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan.

Prior to joining the Iowa faculty in 1993, Bloom was a staff writer at the Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times, and Dallas Morning News. He was the Brazilian correspondent for the Field News Service and national news editor at the Latin America Daily Post. In 1992 Bloom served as press secretary and chief speech writer for San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan. Bloom's work has appeared in Smithsonian, The New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Post, Wilson Quarterly, DoubleTake, Chronicle of Higher Education, American Journalism Review, International Herald Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tribune Magazine, Money, Journal of Health Communication, Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, American Editor, The Californians, Pharos, Wapsipinicon Almanac, Quill, and National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." His essays have appeared in the electronic magazines Tweak ("We All Sat Around Like Schlemiels" and "The French Eat Their Young"), the-cake.com ("Mikey's Close Call" and "Shop"), Salon Magazine, Oyster Boy Review ("The Little Man"), and on National Public Radio ("Postcards from Postville").

In September 2008, Bloom and photographer Peter Feldstein co-authored The Oxford Project (Welcome Press, distributed by Random House), which examines life in a rural Iowa community. Reviews and stories about the Project have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Smithsonian, London Weekend Guardian Magazine, ABC World News Tonight, CBS Sunday Morning, CNN.com, National Public Radio (2), Harvard University's Nieman Reports, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Atlantic, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Houston Chronicle, Minneapolis Post, ArtWorks, and Shanghai Morning Post. An art exhibition of the photographs and text of The Oxford Project was part of the Padova Aprile Fotografia festival. The book won the prestigious Alex Award in 2009 from the American Library Association, as well being named Gold medal recipient for Outstanding Book of the Year from the Independent Publisher Association for Most Original Concept. View a Youtube video of The Oxford Project.

Bloom's book, Tears of Mermaids: The Secret Story of Pearls, was published by St. Martin's Press in November 2009. The nonfiction detective story chronicles the cultural, economic and political saga of pearls, the world's first gem. The book begins with Columbus' third voyage to the New World, and follows with narratives in Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, French Polynesia, China, Venezuela, and the Philippines. Readers will go inside the 250-year-old auction house Christie's to follow the sale of the world's most expensive pearl strand in 2007. All the while, Tears of Mermaids places into context the impact pearls have had on the history of the world. Selected reviews: The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Publishers Weekly, Orion, and DeepGlamour.net.

Bloom has been honored with the Iowa Author of the Year Award (2008), as well as with fellowships at the MacDowell Colony (2008) and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (2008). He also has been a visiting scholar at Columbia University's Center for the Study of Society and Medicine under the aegis of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2010, Bloom was named the Robert Laxalt Distinguished Writer by the Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada, Reno.

Bloom's nonfiction book, Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, was published by Harcourt in September 2000. The book focuses on fundamental changes confronting a small, predominately Lutheran, Iowa town after 150 Lubavitcher Jews settle there, buy the local slaughterhouse, and become the community's new power brokers. The book was chosen as a Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, as well as of Quality Paperback Books Club. Postville was named a  Best Book of the year by MS-NBC, The Chicago Sun-Times, Denver Rocky Mountain News, Chicago Tribune, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Postville is required reading in more than 150 college and university courses. A dramatic play inspired by the book debuted in 2010.

A collection of Bloom's articles and essays over the last 30 years was published as Inside the Writer's Mind: Writing Narrative Journalism by by Wiley-Blackwell in August 2002.

Bloom is co-founder (with Professor Emeritus Hanno Hardt) of The Iowa Journalists Oral History Project, the first systematic effort to chronicle the lives and contributions of Iowa's senior journalists.  The project records the professional histories of Iowa reporters, editors, publishers, photographers, and columnists.  A version of the project is accessible online at http://collections.uiowa.edu/oralhistory/

In Spring 2006, Bloom led a master's writing and reporting project during which students tackled different elements of a single story: gambling in Iowa's newest and largest casino resort. Articles about the course appeared in Columbia Journalism Review and Harvard University's Nieman Reports.

Bloom's dramatic play, Shoedog, co-written with colleague Brian Cronk, premiered November 2003 at the Quad City Arts Center in Rock Island, Illinois. Shoedog has been described as a piercing, nostalgic play with bite. With the backdrop of a failing family business, Murray, a master salesman, connives to bring a young recruit into the dying profession of selling shoes. Sales to Murray and other so-called "shoedogs" is an art form, a huckster's world of fast-talking con men and customers primed to be duped.

Bloom's short story, "The Reptile King of Atlanta," about an itinerant lizard and gecko salesman, appeared in Wapsipinicon Almanac in 2005. Another story by Bloom, "Is Everyone Batty Out There, or What?" appeared in DoubleThink magazine in 2005. Bloom's take on the priorities of university life, "Ode to Sheila"; his appreciation of novelist/teacher Frank Conroy, "The Writer's Writer"; and "The Academy of the Overrated: Hello Sy Hershman, Goodbye Bob Woodward," appeared in Inside Higher Education. Bloom's short story, "Ode to Maestro Järvi," about an irrepressible groupie who tails famed Detroit Symphony Conductor Neemi Järvi around the nation, appeared in Points of Entry: Cross-Currents in Storytelling. "The Last Time I Saw Martha," a short story about religious obligation vs. individual freedom, appeared in Mars Hill Review. Bloom's short story, "Anna Elena's Tongue," about cross-cultural gender differences, appeared in Third Coast magazine in fall 2006. His short story, "The Rabbi Who Smelled the Presence of the Lord," appeared in Porchlight magazine in summer 2010.

Other examples of his narrative work include a Smithsonian Magazine piece about Jane Elliott, the Iowa schoolteacher who created the famous "blue-eyes, brown-eyes experiment," and the personal ordeal that followed the experiment's widespread exposure; an essay in Ornament Magazine about freshwater pearl production in rural China; and a provocative analysis of Iowa's place as the nation's first Presidential caucus. He is the author of an essay in Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) about the what 60 years of obituaries in The New York Times say about American culture. Bloom is currently writing a narrative nonfiction book about Inez Burns, a California abortion provider who performed 50,000 abortions from 1923 - 1945, before she was successfully prosecuted by Edmund (Pat) Brown, who went on to become California governor.