Narratives: Tinder Kiely ’22

Tinder Kiely

Uninterested in conventional journalistic starting blocks, Tinder Kiely began building his investigative reporting portfolio at Sarah Lawrence right away. His first year, he penned an in-depth profile of a man who faced nine years of homelessness in New York for his writing class, “A Question of Character: The Art of the Profile.”

Tinder spent five full days interviewing his subject, producing a 15-page profile, utilizing both high-level feedback and line edits from his professor, former The New Yorker editor Alice Truax.

“It was the kind of class I wanted when I came to SLC,” Tinder said, “These really in-depth projects with a lot of individual support.”

Conference work is typically (and distinctively) done solo, but Tinder often finds himself teaming up with his peers for more ambitious projects. In “Food, Agriculture, Environment, and Development” with Joshua Muldavin, he collaborated with a classmate to interview farmers in Connecticut and Vermont.

“We looked at how climate change has affected farming in the last generation,” Tinder said. “When you’re out in the real world, you have to do collaborative work—plus, you totally learn from your peers. And you can tackle way more, like in Marek’s class.”

Tinder is referring to “Wrongly Accused” with former New York Times columnist Marek Fuchs, in which his class collectively researched and reported on people incarcerated for crimes they claim they didn’t commit. Students phoned lawyers and witnesses; read thousands of pages of case notes; and, in Tinder’s case, conducted an interview at a maximum-security prison.

Tinder’s professors offer advice from years of experience as working journalists, though Tinder also appreciates learning from faculty outside his main discipline. His faculty adviser (or “don,” as SLC calls them), Kevin Landdeck, is an Asian Studies professor who turned him onto Chinese during his First-Year Studies course.

“Even though Kevin isn’t a writing professor, he helped me find my way academically,” Tinder said. “I never thought I was going to study language, and now I’m planning to study abroad in China.”

Taking courses outside writing and exploring New York City exposed Tinder to narratives he might not have found otherwise, providing the foundation to seek out stories on his own.

“Journalism is all about studying the real world and how other people exist in it,” Tinder said. “Digital media is increasing accessibility to stories, so journalists need to keep finding new takes and experimenting.”