When it comes to media, there has never been a greater need for it, and there has never been a more disjointed and disenchanting market for real journalists. In order to make sense of our time, here is a list of 15 books on modern journalism that everyone should read.
This list is not a how-to guide. There are a lot of books out there that tell you how to indent or win the AP’s heart. That’s not what this is about. This is not a list of the most important or important books for a young journalist to read. These books will help you understand what’s going on, why it’s happening and what might happen next. There will always be good news to print. We have to decide if we can print it.
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72 by Hunter S. Thompson (1973)
Hunter knew it was coming. Everything. Big changes in the way we live and think aren’t just about shifting the ground. They also change our perspective and change our minds. There is a reason campaign books, movies and TV shows are all the same: Thompson came up with them. In order to understand what I mean, read any campaign book written before Thompson’s 1972 rolling fusillade. The old classics were great at documenting things, but they were mostly technical manuals.
In the campaign, Thompson made it look like Dante was drawn in Miami’s light. During a time when Thompson was outside, he stuck to the place that was flailing. It turned out to be an insider’s year in the long run! Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 is both a gravestone and a futurist text. It’s the first book to show how free-form fact-finding would spread across the United States in the next 40 years, and it’s also the first book to show how this would happen. In this book, Thompson famously asked how low a man had to crawl to become President. This is what he said. The next century would come up with every possible way to answer that question, so don’t worry about it.
All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (1974)
In journalism, before Bernstein and Woodward broke The Big One, the field was already on its way to becoming a safe place. That’s why Watergate sealed the deal.
A hustling, half-respectable job was turned into a kind of secular priesthood by Bernstein and Woodward. The exorcism was a great one! All the President’s Men wants you to believe that a sitting President was brought down by a group of journalists who were looking for a thief. Then, of course, that’s how it went. After this, the real story began. The Watergate story is the foundation of modern journalism, and every journalist since the 1970s has been mentioning the killing of Nixon. They even do it unconsciously, even if they don’t like the Washington Post.
The Paper: The Life and Death of the New York Herald Tribune by Richard Kluger and Phyllis Kluger (1986)
The New York Herald Tribune’s roots go back to when the United States was just beginning to become a country. When Horace Greeley and James Gordon Bennett made their publications before the Civil War, they made them into the shape they are now in. The two dailies fought for years before merging into a huge brand in the early 20th century. Over time, the Trib made scribbling in the newspaper into an art, even if it was already an art.
Besides being known as the writer’s paper, the newspaper was also used by the photographers. This powerful source of news once competed with the New York Times to be the best source of news. and then it died out in the mid-’60s, In what way did the New York Herald Tribune die? Bad business moves. If a newspaper had made bad decisions, why did it end up in the trash? It was a death by a thousand cuts, but one of them had to be fatal to die. As a social history, this is how newsprint wilts over time. To find out where The Front Page went, read on.
The Corpse Had a Familiar Face: Covering Miami, America’s Hottest Beat by Edna Buchanan (1987)
“Murder is the crime that always draws me in.” It’s so over.
She is the best crime reporter who has ever lived. Edna Buchanan won the Pulitzer Prize for her work in the field. As a 1986 New Yorker profile said, “Edna’s friends don’t talk about her as a friend, but as a kind of thing.” It’s a book about Buchanan’s time as a police officer in Miami for the Miami Herald. It’s her story.
Buchanan grew up in New Jersey and read a lot of true crime stories when he was young. It was when she was a grown-up that she moved to Miami, where murder was on the rise. In her job, she would see 5,000 bodies. According to these pages, “Many of the bodies have had familiar faces: cops and killers, politicians and prostitutes, doctors and lawyers. They have all been dead.” Some of my friends were. Buchanan was the leader of the pack during the Florida drug war of the 1980s. He got stories no one else could get, got interviews, dug deep for secrets, and hammered away at the unfair and the unjust. It took Buchanan a long time to get over sexism, bias, and rough-and-tumble crime stories, but he kept writing them.
“I don’t like mysteries that haven’t been solved,” Buchanan says. When it comes to this book, there is no mystery at all. It’s a master class.
Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky (1988)
When you look at this, you’ll see the man who started the field of “contrarian media.” In the event that this is your first time meeting Chomsky and Herman, I’ll give you the TL;DR. To start, Chomsky and Herman ask: Why does the media get so much of the time wrong? Why do we suck at all, and how does our suck work?
People often ask this question: Why can’t our media do what we want? It doesn’t have a group of censors, an elite group who choose our news, or a conspiracy in a room with high-backed chairs. They say that in a free country like ours, governments can’t control what the media says. If you want to stay in power in a democracy, you have to change the way people think.
Private ownership helps make this happen. The concentration of economic and broadcast power leads to group-think, which favors mainstream views and ignores dissenting ones. Smaller platforms follow the lead of bigger ones. This doesn’t make independent voices go away, but it makes them quieter. This web of forces is making a series of filters. These filters help to shape an agreed-upon story that is more likely to be true. The process of making people agree with you. The end result is that everyone agrees without being forced. But the use of force is just as bad for a free society as it is to use it. If you only read one book on this list, read this one, not the other ones.
Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture by Stephen Duncombe (1997)
The most pure form of an alternative press is a zines. Zines are a way for people who aren’t heard to speak out. Zines have been used by the LGBTQ+ community, the African-American community, and the Native American community, even though they are often associated with punk rock and liberation movements.
Designs for zines are the most like those made by Gutenberg when he learned how to print. Zines are very detailed pamphlets that flew off the presses as soon as Gutenberg mastered printing. Notes from Underground is an in-depth look at the history of a beautiful art form. Duncombe talks about how the modern American version of zines were first made for sci-fi fans in the early 20th century. As soon as the ’60s got their hands on zine technology, all bets were off, and a wide range of new voices were welcome. It is at the heart of zines that they capture the dynamic nature of our society and give us a break from the generic hum of modern American media. It’s not easy to make zines, says Duncombe. They have “contradictions and limitations, but also possibilities.”
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Roberston (1997-2002)
This is the only comic book on this list, but it’s a good one. It’s the story of Spider Jerusalem, an outlaw member of the press who is based on Hunter S. Thompson. Jerusalem writes for The Word, which is the biggest newspaper in the city of 23rd century cyberpunk America, where Jerusalem lives. In the end, the wrong person is elected as President, and he doesn’t deserve to be President. Spider fights the government for the rest of the show.
That’s how the story goes. What Transmetropolitan shows through a series of short stories and Jerusalem rants is how important journalism is and how weird the people who do it are. The show shows what it’s like to be a reporter, not just the facts, but how it feels to be a person who works hard in a job that can be both bipolar and housebound at the same time. All glory to the New Scum.
30: The Collapse of the Great America Newspaper by Charles M. Madigan (2007)
Every piece about journalism should have someone say or write, “Stop the presses!” The one for this piece is: Stop the press! Besides, Madigan says that the presses have already been paused, which isn’t true.
In the last few years, the American daily has been going down, and it has been for a while. It’s important for us to be wary of reporters who write about newspapering in a way that makes us want to cry. That won’t happen in this case. Despite how much he likes the subject, he’s very clear-eyed about the subject of what happened. In Madigan’s list, the first thing he wants to get rid of is the big chain newspapers. Family businesses used to own paper, and they were a part of the neighborhood. That went the way of the dinosaurs as soon as the great conglomerates started to work hard. During the time when department stores closed, advertising became less common, so the axe came down as well. Let’s not forget about the role of sprawl, which cut the reach of the newsroom as cities spread out. By the way, Madigan has written a book about a story you’ve already heard. It’s very detailed, and it has a lot of fun in it, too, so it’s worth reading!