Read, really!

Must-reads on a(ny) journalism degree

It surprises me that it surprises many when I mention they need to read (more) to be good journalists. Without extolling the benefits of the written word too much — that’s matter for another post — here’s a quick list of essential readings for anyone stepping on to a journalism degree.

Read local news
In our case, it is the Bournemouth Daily Echo (and Dorset Echo and Dorset Live, and, yes, BBC Dorset). Read it to know what’s happening around you, and as fodder for local story ideas. But read it also to understand how community news works, how journalism differs at this level from the national and international outlets, how ‘bigger’ stories get ‘localised’.

Read two national news sites
Any two. Say, for instance, the Guardian and the BBC. Or the BBC and the Independent. Read both the news and features sections (when really spoilt for time, have a look at the opinion pieces as well). Some content might be behind paywalls, but there’s enough free stuff to wet your beak. Compare the homepages, and wonder, if so inclined, how on earth, day after day, these outlets — with different editors, different news desks, different reporting teams — manage to end up with more or less the same news there. What’s at play here, what values, what criteria are being applied?

Read international
Pick two (other) countries. Any two. Then find a site published from that country, in the language you understand. Could be a features site, news, anything. China? India? Brazil? Denmark? Take your pick. You could get to know about boat boxing from the Shangai Daily; how a flight returned to New Delhi after a passenger started pulling a crew member’s hair in the Hindustan Times; or how a married man became enraged when his mistress got married in the Punch. Or how Palau has banned e-cigarettes for good in the Island Times, and about the real estate market in Ukraine adopting to the war in the Kyiv Post.

Read tabloids
Yes, really. Like I said earlier, expose yourself to different kinds of journalism. Let’s pick two. Sun? Mail Online? Read them not just for the kind of stories they cover, but also the way they cover current stories. And read them for style. Good taste might not be something that tabloids stand accused of, but it does take creativity to do what they do. Remember the headlines ‘Zip me up before you go go’ and the (in)famous ‘Gotcha’. Or ‘Schadenfreude’ when Germany got knocked out of the World Cup (which was a classy headline, methought). More here.

Read magazines online
Especially those who are into features and longform. The usual culprits include The New Yorker and The Atlantic. No harm starting there. But stray also into 1843 (from the Economist); the Long Read (from the Guardian); the Atavist; and the Guernica.

That’s for starters. Keep reading, I’ll keep posting. 🙂

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