Must read for journalists: advices by foreign press tribe

Journalists read a lot. Printed books and pieces of colleagues once, and avalanche of on-line texts nowadays. Journalists write a lot. Not only journalists’ materials, twits, fb posts, but also books about own experience, observations and researches.

MediaSapiens asked journalists from eight countries about the books that give insight to the profession of journalist and are worth reading for newcomers.

Piotr Andrusieczko,correspondent of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland

It’s hard to name one book. So I’d stand as a “Polish patriot” and name Gottland by Polish author Mariusz Szczygieł. Especially since his reportages were published in Ukrainian, like Gottland. I think we’d rather read what we write and make published.


Alain Guillemoles, journalist at Journal La Croix, France 

I would say Bel-ami from Guy de Maupassant. It is a novel and take place in 19th century in Paris. But nothing really change in our world... It is a story about ambition. Main character is a journalist. And I meet some modern “Bel-ami” every day in Paris, 200 years after this book was written.


Diana B. Henriques, author and contributing writer, The New York Times

The book  I would nominate would be “How to Talk to Practically Anybody About Practically Anything” by Barbara Walters.

I read this book back in 1979 when it was new - yes, I've been a reporter THAT long! But I still turn back to it to refresh my interviewing skills. Getting people to open up and talk about their lives, their memories, their knowledge, and their opinions is fundamental to being a good journalist. (So are an excellent memory, a strong moral compass and lots of stamina, but there's no book I know of that can help you with those!) And yet many editors just assume reporters were born knowing how to ask effective questions! In an era when so many young people communicate via social media, or limit their interviews to emails or tweets, being able to gather information by talking to strangers remains a priceless skill for a journalist.  Walters was truly a trailblazer in her interviewing technique. Long ago, some journalists considered it "soft" and "too sensitive." But the fact is, being "tough" is NOT the same thing as being "rude." This book helps journalists see the difference. Tough but polite -- that's always been my goal, and this book helps me stay on track.

Luca Sofri, editor-in-chief of Il Post, Italy

«Post-Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present»  - this is the most updated book I know about journalism and news projects today. It is better to read about what is changing than about the epic world of a journalism that is disappearing or that will remain elitarian.

Zoe Daniel, ABC’s US bureau chief, Australia

My choice is “Emma's War”  by Deborah Scroggins. I read it years ago but it's stayed with me because of its intimacy. South Sudan is a place where I have spent some time. The politics are fascinating and the people are wonderful. The book is worth reading because it's brutal in its assessment of Emma who went to Sudan as an aid worker, then married a warlord, becoming blind to the many things she was buying into. Deb Scroggins brings a great lens to this story.

Pauline Tillmann,  editor-in-chief and CEO of the digital magazine Deine Korrespondentin. From 2011 till 2015 she worked as freelance foreign correspondent in St. Petersburg, Russia, mainly for the German National Public Radio and TV (ARD). In May 2015 she launched Deine Korrespondentin, a content agency consisting of ten female correspondents reporting about interesting women worldwide.

I would recommend as a German-speaking journalist “Einführung in den praktischen Journalismus” by Walther von La Roche. I read this book before I was about starting my political science studies in Augsburg, Bavaria, 14 years ago. The author dinstinguish precisely each genre in journalism like interview, moderation, news and reportage. One of our problems nowadays is, according to my point of view, that many reports are mixed. In there you can find some kind of feature combined with a comment. We all know that there is no pure objectivity but journalists should work hard for quoting different sources, so that the user can create his own picture.

Gaetan Vannay, Head of the international affairs news desk at the RTS-radio between 2009 and 2014, recently freelance journalist, Switzerland 

No journalist book ... books of good writers-travelers who settled for a while in places they talk about. For example, "L'usage du monde" by Nicolas Bouvier and books by Ella Maillart. For good stories abroad – according to me - you must not be journalist, you have to be ... to live, to feel the place you want to talk about. I never read a book by journalists who talk about journalism or about their carrer, I read books written by journalists who speak about the topic they cover (some claim to speak about what they covered but write about them - that either I do not read) … So basically no book about journalism, practice & boots on the ground (but I read a lot).

Natasha Mozgovaya, reviewer of Voice of America, Israel

Journalists are often omnivorous and swallow everything and anything without chewing: from Martha Gellhorn to ‘read Twitter – had a good deal of thought’. Back in the day, I was deeply influenced by «A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide» by the current US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. She collected materials for the book during her journalist career days. One can find everything there: complicated subject, stories of people, detail-worship, context and understanding of what could be remedied. When I met her in Harvard, soon after having received the Pulitzer Prize for this book, she told that she had been working on it for years. They didn’t want to publish it for a long time: publishers treated it to be doorstop and difficult. This inspires me with the hope that there is still some space for serious formats in the age of distracted attention.

In practical terms, thinking of future occupation, I’d suggest reading The Data Journalism Handbook, you can find its free Russian version on-line. In the past, journalists and programmers were considered almost opposites, but nowadays with free (so far) access to giant information layers it may be useful to learn to get and process this information.




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