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The 50 Best Books for Journalism Students

It’s a complicated field, journalism. With so many media swirling about a constantly evolving technological milieu…with so many stories to tell and thoughts to think…it obviously makes for an appealing major to many curious students. Especially since the industry currently exists in a fascinating transition state, offering up opportunities for them to pioneer some exciting new trends and techniques once the school slaps degrees in their hot little hands.

As this list intends to focus on variety, some staples may have ended up sacrificed while more obscure reads scored a spot. This isn’t meant to snub the contributions of other authors by any means — their perspectives should be considered as well! So douse that conflagration of Internet rage with ice water and learn the concept of subjectivity. And, of course, the reasoning behind choosing somewhat diverse books. It’ll definitely help everything go down easier.

Broadcast, Media Studies and Photojournalism

  1. Sound Reporting by Jonathan Kern

    Presented by NPR, this guide outlines most of what aspirant radio broadcasters and producers need to know about running a successful, effective station or show.

  2. How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis

    In this quintessential photojournalism work, Jacob Riis chronicled the squelching poverty and struggles of immigrants and other marginalized peoples in 1890s America. Despite some values dissonance regarding race, How the Other Half Lives remains an extremely important historical read.

  3. Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism by Bob Edwards

    Radio and television journalism legend Edward R. Murrow’s life, career and perpetuating legacy will undoubtedly crop up in every major’s schooling at some point. May as well get a head start or supplement the history lessons by picking up his biography.

  4. Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan

    Penned and published at a time when the mass media as it exists today was slowly beginning to congeal, the highly influential Understanding Media dissects the complex relationship humanity shares with its news and entertainment sources.

  5. Truth Needs No Ally by Howard Chapnick

    Anything and everything related to photojournalism gets coverage here, as does the argument that a truly great image should speak for itself.

  6. News Flash by Bonnie Anderson

    If money talks, then television news is no mime. Journalist Bonnie Anderson fearlessly dismantles how bureaucracy and corporate greed severely compromise news ostensibly meant to educate the populace about current events.

  7. Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman

    Two major MIT minds comment upon contemporary propaganda, mainly showcasing the American government’s ability to manipulate the media and — in turn — those consulting it for the latest news and trends. They’re far more sociological than conspiratorial, however.

  8. On Camera by Nancy Reardon

    Aspirant television journalists, be they anchors or correspondents, should consult this guide when looking for tips about offering up the best possible interviews and stories.

  9. Hello, Everybody! by Anthony Rudel

    Before heading on air, American journalism students with a particular love of radio should delve into the medium’s fascinating history and maybe pick up some valuable lessons and insights.

  10. Tulsa by Larry Clark

    Larry Clark’s brutal, disturbing photo essay of hedonistic youth culture in Middle America simultaneously shocks and stands alone as an insightful journalistic work.

Citizen Journalism, New Media and Zines

  1. Journalism Next by Mark Briggs

    Get a grip on blogging, social media and other Internet trends the kids are into these days, and learn all about how they’re completely altering the journalism industry — and how to embrace them and ensure a comfortable, tech-savvy career after graduation.

  2. We the Media by Dan Gillmor

    Crowdsourced, citizen and grassroots reporting continues inciting change and exposing the populace to a bounty of perspectives, so intimately understanding the whos, wheres, whats, whys, and hows should be an essential skill all journalism students must possess.

  3. Notes From Underground by Stephen Duncombe

    Explore the role zines played (and, though their popularity has waned, still play) in promoting different subcultures and their passionate political, social and economic agendas.

  4. YouTube by Jean Burgess and Joshua Green

    Though about the crowdsourced mainstay in the title, what Jean Burgess and Joshua Green have to say about how technology constantly transforms society’s storytelling and sharing habits easily extends to other participatory new media phenomena.

  5. Words of Fire by Anthony Collings

    Discover some inspiring independent journalists from around the world, who used their investigative prowess to overthrow oppression despite the crushing odds. It certainly challenges many perspectives people hold about citizen and grassroots research and writing!

  6. Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins

    Although most tout new media as far more relevant than its predecessors, this book presents a thoroughly compelling case for hybridization’s potential.

  7. Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine? by Mark Todd and Esther Watson

    The zine culture and its limitless potential is the name of the game here, with both historical and creative insight as well as expert advice on starting one up.

  8. Blur by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenthiel

    Despite citizen journalism’s more democratic stature, the lack of editors and accountability makes for one major drawback. Fortunately, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenthiel are on hand to help readers and researchers parse the truth from independent and mainstream outlets alike.

  9. Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky

    Perfect for citizen journalists and their supporters, Here Comes Everybody offers up detailed analysis regarding the ways in which digital media facilitates a greater range of perspectives and contributions. And, of course, allow for improved organization at the grassroots level.

  10. Zine Scene by Francesca Lia Block and Hillary Carlip

    Journalism students with a penchant for DIY might want to kick-start their careers via a deeply personal zine showcasing their creative chops and writing skills. And this book shows them exactly how to go about compiling, printing and promoting.

General Journalism and Writing

  1. The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law by Associated Press

    Always make sure to pick up the latest edition of this essential writing guide and overview of legislation regulating journalism, because these things change quickly! Because nearly every newspaper utilizes this particular style, it’s obviously an essential resource for such students.

  2. The New New Journalism by Robert S. Boynton

    Read conversations with some of the contemporary era’s most influential, innovative and even inspiring journalists for a broad perspective on the industry’s past, present and possible futures.

  3. The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm

    No matter the medium (or mediums!) he and/or she elects to work in, the aspirant journalist needs to intimately understand the relationship shared with their subjects. Especially the living, breathing ones who might sue for libel if they fear unfair portrayals and implications.

  4. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

    Journalism students looking for a little help with long-form works should consult this undeniable classic first, though it would behoove them immensely to always spring for the updated editions.

  5. The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel

    Targeting both citizen and professional reporters, the popular, no-nonsense Elements of Journalism transcends mediums and emphasizes objectivity over all else, something many (if not most) news outlets struggle with today.

  6. The News about the News by Leonard Downie, Jr. and Robert G. Kaiser

    First and foremost, better or worse, and other similar clichés, journalism is a business, and as such, shapes how reporters go about concocting their news stories.

  7. Eyewitness to History by John Carey

    John Carey includes over 400 first-person accounts of historical events major and minor, reinforcing the importance of a journalist’s role in capturing anything and everything necessary to painting the broadest possible portrait.

  8. War Reporting for Cowards by Chris Ayres

    Whether rolling on the radio, television, newspaper, magazine or internet, anyone reporting from the war zone will learn plenty from this hilarious, informative look at some of the most dangerous correspondence assignments.

  9. Getting It Wrong by W. Joseph Campbell

    America’s 10 most egregiously misrepresented news stories serve as somber lessons in why objective, detailed reporting can easily prevent serious social and political damages.

  10. The Death and Life of American Journalism by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols

    Even though technology forever altered the way peoples consume the latest news, trends and opinions, that doesn’t necessarily mean journalism is dying out. Rather, it’s merely undergoing a metamorphosis and adapting to updated media at a startling rate.

Investigative Journalism and Other Classics, Old and New

  1. Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nellie Bly

    At a time when mental health facilities existed as squalid repositories for the psychologically disordered rife with abuse and other inhumane actions, spitfire journalist Nellie Bly faked her way to incarceration. And then exposed the subhuman conditions in which people were depositing their mentally sick loved ones, calling for drastic change in the name of social justice.

  2. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

    New Journalism pioneer Tom Wolfe toured the United States with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author and MK Ultra test subject Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters collective. What resulted was a book many considered the definitive depiction of American counterculture in the 1960s.

  3. Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson

    One of the lauded gonzo journalist’s very first nonfiction novels relayed the visceral, white-knuckling world of America’s most notorious, dangerous biker gang. It’s investigative journalism at its most pants-poopingly horrifying, but any students wanting to follow Hunter S. Thompson’s lead will find it a real thrill.

  4. All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward

    Probably the most famous, influential and game-changing works of investigative journalism ever published, All the President’s Men blew the lid off President Nixon’s role in the Watergate scandal.

  5. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

    Although fiction, this squeamish look at severely compromised health and safety conditions in meat-packing facilities stemmed directly from Upton Sinclair’s investigations. He may have intended it as a socialist treatise showing solidarity for exploited workers, but infamously ended up spawning food regulation legislation instead.

  6. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

    Nonfiction novels as a genre spawned directly from Truman Capote’s chilling true account of a small-town robbery, murder and prison sentencing, which painstakingly dissected the psychology behind criminal behaviors.

  7. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

    For two years, Barbara Ehrenreich worked and lived off minimum wage jobs in order to better understand the very real struggles of America’s lowest tax bracket. Her dedication to exploring today’s economic injustices serves as an inspiration to future journalists hoping to create a more equitable society.

  8. Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent

    Journalism students who find the prospect of rolling incognito tantalizing might enjoy this fascinating foray into gender roles and expectations. Over the span of 18 months, a female reporter disguised herself as a man and infiltrated their own unique sociological world, only to discover their experiences far more universal than most people assume.

  9. Pledged by Alexandra Robbins

    Alexandra Robbins exploited her ability to pass as a 19-year-old to deliver some deeply investigated reporting regarding life in American sororities. The results ended up pretty much as ghastly as one would expect, but remain of integral importance to high school and college students, parents, educators and administrators.

  10. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

    Silent Spring forms one of the green movement’s literary cornerstones with its fearless depiction of companies and chemicals damaging the environment and the people within. Like the best investigative works, it issued forth a clarion call for a healthier world that continues resonating today.

Newspapers and Magazines

  1. Backstory by Ken Auletta

    Former New Yorker media correspondent Ken Auletta compiles his columns commenting on the journalism industry and the role publishing plays in shaping it, for good and for ill alike.

  2. The Chief by David Nasaw

    Every journalism student will know William Randolph Hearst before graduation. Love him or loathe him and his media empire what sprouted from a single newspaper, he’s a heavily influential figure to research.

  3. The Press by A.J. Liebling

    Journalism’s pre-television days come to slavishly detailed life here, with plenty of insight into some of the problematic practices that sadly still continue.

  4. The Best American Magazine Writing by The American Society of Magazine Editors

    Every year, The American Society of Magazine Editors publishes the best articles and columns from the previous year, which many students will find an excellent way to explore writing trends and popular topics.

  5. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young

    This self-effacing memoir watches a social-climbing Brit make his way to New York and do whatever it takes to score a dream job at Vanity Fair — and the hilariously stark realities eventually catching up to him!

  6. How to Write Articles for Newspapers & Magazines by Arco

    Buy the latest edition when wanting to hammer out the best newspaper and magazine articles and columns possible…which should be pretty obvious, considering the book’s title.

  7. The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook by Tim Harrower

    Whether harboring a creative bone or not, anyone working in the newspaper industry should at least understand the design elements that go into printing them. Especially since it does kinda sorta dictate column length and structure.

  8. The Vanishing Newspaper by Philip Meyer

    Computers, the internet and new media sounded the death knell for print journalism, but Philip Meyer believes that certain tweaks could save newspapers and magazines from dying out entirely.

  9. Dr. Seuss Goes to War by Richard H. Minear

    Most fans don’t realize the venerable Theodore Giesel, famous under the nom de plume Dr. Seuss, began his amazing career as a political cartoonist for PM newspaper. Considering it held such a heavy impact on his whimsical, peaceful and equitable later works, the earlier ones are essential exploring.

  10. Killed by David Wallis

    Every newspaper and magazine journalist will watch as some of his and/or her stories end up slashed from the final printing, no matter how much time they put into them. David Wallis’ anthology rescues articles from some prestigious publications and explores the business decisions behind their ultimate disappearing act.