I came away from the panel with a rich portrait of the engrossing and vivid nature of the trade. The multifaceted character of immersion journalism may be captured best in one of Packer’s anecdotes. Once, when interviewing a hesitant source who kindly provided hospitality, Packer thanked the man for letting him into his life because he “knew that he did not suffer fools.” The man wrote back in a fury, berating Packer for trying to “pin him down and formulate him with a cliche like ‘don’t suffer fools.’” The task at hand for immersion journalists is to transcend banality. In Packer’s telling, his source wanted his life to speak for itself with Packer as the medium. Immersion journalism attempts to avoid objectifying its subject—and the New Yorker panel showed, not told, me as much by forsaking explanations in favor of stories.

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Cecilia D'Anastasio is a CJR intern