Peggy Engel, Los Angeles, 2009

Margaret Engel directs the Alicia Patterson Journalism Foundation, which gives grants to journalists in the name of Alicia Patterson, the founder of Newsday

She was a reporter for the Washington Post, Des Moines Register and Lorain (OH) Journal and was a Nieman fellow at Harvard, studying worker health and law. 

She is chair of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism awards board and is a longtime member of Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Op-Ed Mentoring Project. 

She serves on the board of the Nieman Foundation and of Spotlight-DC and is an advisory board member of the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

She has co-authored books on baseball, American regional food companies, and clothing re-use. Her book “Food Finds” became a nine-year television series on The Food Network. She and her identical twin wrote widely-produced plays about two American journalists, Molly Ivins and Erma Bombeck. 


  • Turning True Life Events into Plays. Transforming journalism into drama requires learning the unique rules and advantages of playwriting. Plays like “The Exonerated” are created from court transcripts. Others, like “The Guys” were from post-tragedy interviews with first responders. Biographical pieces, like “Clarence Darrow” rely on books and newspaper accounts. Learn how to adapt facts/figures to the demands of a stage narrative.
  • Mining History and Little-Used Archives for Important Stories. Museum archives, labor history magazines, library collections, university histories are among the resources to use to bring attention to little-discovered stories. The New York Times and Washington Post both run regular columns on events and people that were not given proper attention in the past. Correcting and expanding history gives an urgency to articles, podcasts and documentaries.
  • Writing Important Op-Eds That Get Published. An imaginative and well-reasoned op-ed on a fresh topic can get you published in major outlets. This can be a calling card to obtain an agent and publisher. Learn how to strip academic writing from your essay and how to write compelling prose in 800 words