Book review: The New Journalist
Mark Kearney takes a look at The New Journalist -- and discovers a resource that was designed for longevity in the fast-changing journo world.
Calling any book these days The New Journalist takes guts.
Anyone in the media knows that journalism is changing at a rapid rate. What reporters were doing to cover a story five years ago, heck even two years ago, has changed. And by next year what is “new” now is likely to shift even more.
Gone are the days of just covering a story, writing about it, and then seeing it the next day’s edition. Good reporters are extremely busy ones now. They write a story for the web page, update it, take photos, shoot video, add audio, tweet, react to responses from readers, and then get it ready for the actual paper.
So, budding journalists not only have to learn those skills, they also need to know that it’s pretty much a given that any job that’s out there for them will demand it.
The editors of The New Journalist, Paul Benedetti, Tm Currie and Kim Kierans, have drawn on the expertise of some of the top reporters, editors and professors in Canada to provide students with a guide to the state of journalism in the country today. That’s no mean feat, given how fast the business is changing.
But for a book that’s already a year old, it succeeds and holds up surprisingly well.
The New Journalist is really two books. For about the first 150 pages of the book’s 300 plus pages, The New Journalist brings readers up to date with how technology and the digital age have changed how reporters and editors work in today’s climate. The book’s second half morphs into more of a how-to text for journalism students still trying to learn the basics. A glance at some of the chapter headings in the second half --Developing Story Ideas, Reporting Basics, and The Beat Reporter -- suggests that much of this section would be found in any journalism text, new or not.
But it’s this straddling of core techniques and technology in today’s journalism, which the editors state is the purpose of this book, that makes The New Journalist work. Even as the various contributors talk about the nuts and bolts of good journalism they all have their eyes on how these tips still have to apply in the digital age.
Readers may also benefit from the “in practice’ sections that provide real life examples from working journalists and the discussion questions and suggested resources that end each chapter.
The New Journalist is clearly meant for students trying to learn the best techniques of the craft before they enter this brave new world of reporting. But even those in the business who are still playing catch-up with technology may learn a thing or two.
Whether the advice and insights provided in the book still hold up well five years from now remains uncertain. But there are enough basic values about story telling included that should never go out of style no matter how news is delivered in the future. As Ivor Shapiro writes in his chapter on What’s a Good Story? “Good journalism is the product of a vigorous curiosity; its choice of subject matter is focused, original and relevant to its audience; the story or picture or interactive feature will interest and benefit citizens, shed light on what life’s like, and even make a difference.”
That’s something all of us in journalism -- student, reporter, editor, teacher -- would do well to remember and practise … online or otherwise.
Mark Kearney is an award-winning journalist who has co-authored 10 books. Mark is a lecturer in the undergraduate writing and graduate journalism programs at the University of Western Ontario. Three of his journalistic essays are included in a new book, Prose To Go: Tales from a Private List, published in April 2011 by Bridgeross Communications.