100 books every journalist must read

A young journalism student once asked a newspaper editor what she should do to prepare for her hoped-for career as a political reporter. “Read,” the editor said. Absolutely, I thought, sitting between them, waiting for my own interview for a top job to resume. “Read Shakespeare,” he said. “And the Bible.” Forsooth, I thought, that

4 journalism books that aren’t must-reads

My list of the 100 books every journalist should read includes many works that show up over and over on lists like that. However, there were a few standard choices that I deliberately rejected for quality reasons. I’ll be listening to responses to my list and watching for others to come out; some books may

Books that almost made my list

When I started to assemble my list of books that journalists must read, I thought I’d end up with an interesting number like 78. Instead, I kept adding more and more, finally deciding to cut it off at a round 100. Some books from other lists didn’t make mine because I preferred another book by

The column is dead; long live the column!

Growing up in Chicago in the ’60s and ’70s spoiled me in regard to newspaper columnists. Mike Royko, of course, with whom no one else can be mentioned, but also Jack Mabley, Roger Simon, Bob Greene before he became Bob Greene™. Critics who were really writing columns: Roger Ebert the unmatchable, Ron Powers, even Gary

Every mistaken idea about comments, neatly packaged

Rarely have I seen as many wrongheaded statements about news sites and comments rolled into one package as in a recent post by Una Mullally on the Agility. Let’s start here: If we didn’t have editors, news stories would land scatter dash on the page regardless of their importance. In many ways, prurience already drives this.

The unfortunate human element in news sites

You’ve heard, I guess, about the software bots that the Associated Press is using to write thousands of corporate earnings reports? Writerbots have been around awhile — here’s NPR on what was then called StatsMonkey in 2010. And they’re coming on strong lately; see Slate on the LA Times’ quakebot. I’m not too upset by

Extra credit question: What’s wrong with extra credit?

So I read a blog post today that railed against the horror of offering students extra credit: Few things agitate me more than a student who asks for extra credit either in lieu of the learning activities provided at a time or to just boost a grade. School is about learning NOT points or even

How to build a better journalism school: Part 7, trades & professions

One of the first reactions to this series of posts on journalism schools was from my friend Curt Chandler, professor at Penn State. He saw a gap in my proposed curriculum: discussion of “innovation, disruption, the business of freelancing and other practical issues facing modern reporters.” In fact, the initial spur to create this curriculum

4 thoughts about news site blogs after The Lede’s demise

The New York Times is shuttering its The Lede blog, and an editor told Poynter that in time, about half of the site’s current blogs will vanish. The Times cites several reasons, including: Little traffic to the main pages of individual blogs; most came from social sharing or the site’s home page. Little traffic at

How to build a better journalism school: Part 6, breaking news and beats

In some form or another, almost all the journalism schools I’ve looked at (about 20 top programs) include a class — most often required — that involves beat reporting. This description from Boston University is typical: Students learn to cover a city neighborhood or a nearby community beat. Students will branch out across the city