The definitive summer reading list for journalists who just can't put their work down
Last year, I asked journalists to talk about their work habits while on vacation. Some were able to completely break away; others found it difficult to head to the beach without checking their work frequently.
If you can’t break away this summer, you might as well jump in with both feet forward. Whether you’re vacationing at the beach or spending July in an air-conditioned newsroom, my ultimate Journalism Summer Beach Reads will help your mind wander.
If you need to remind yourself why you do what you do: Atlantic staff writer Conor Friedersdorf routinely compiles a list of roughly 100 fantastic pieces of journalism. (His lists from 2010 and 2013.) Also: The New Yorker’s masterful list of pieces by New Yorker journalists who appeared on a top 100 list of journalists. And the readings from media columnist David Carr’s 2014 journalism class are a must-read, as is the syllabus itself.
If you want to use the summer to brush up on your journalism chops: Lots of syllabi for journalism courses live online, including several semesters worth at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Investigative Journalism Education Consortium rounded up syllabi for investigative classes across the country. Want to learn data journalism? Matt Waite, a professor at the University of Nebraska, puts his syllabus and assignments live on GitHub.
If you want to thinking about evolving your business model: Start with this Harvard Business Review piece, “To Go Digital, Leaders Have to Change Some Core Beliefs,” which details how real digital transformation comes from a “transformation of the leadership team’s core beliefs.” Then read the American Press Institute’s 2015 research on building innovation in news organizations, 52 different business ideas to support local journalism and 76 ways to make money in digital media.
If you’re thinking about privacy and user data: Start with academic David Carroll’s Twitter stream, which focuses on advertising and privacy concerns and then read Martin Shelton’s piece, “How can newsrooms not be creepy?”, which includes a list of questions that newsrooms should ask themselves before asking readers to share their private information (I wrote a related piece, on questions newsrooms should ask about privacy and security before using third-party tools). Learn about confirm-shaming and then dive deeper into Princeton University’s web transparency research.
If you want to spend the summer diving into adtech: Recent essays on Medium have compared adtech to fracking and the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Earlier this spring, I interviewed Aram Zucker-Scharff about the major issues facing publishers, Davis Shaver about programmatic ads and Dave Carroll about alternative payment models. If you’re starting from scratch, Digiday’s WTF series covered real-time bidding, programmatic directs, ad exchanges and cross-device tracking in a series of pieces on the industry.
If you want to go local: Here are eight ways you can think about local information ecosystems. Read about newsrooms doing awesome things in Georgia and Appalachia and Illinois. Inspired? Write an essay and maybe you’ll win your own small newspaper in Vermont. Or listen to the dulcet sounds of the westernmost public radio station, broadcasting from Unalaska, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands.
If you want to brush up on your technical skills: Start with Chrys Wu’s master list of software, presentations, tutorials and tools from NICAR, the computer-assisted reporting conference. Starting with GitHub? I rounded up tutorials and tips for journalists. Source maintains a comprehensive database of reusable code for journalists. And the #helpme channel on the News Nerdery Slack channel is a great place to ask questions and learn from seasoned data journalists. Sara Simon, a developer at Vermont Public Radio, details how she learned to code and shares what she knows online.
If you want to think more about accessibility: A decade ago, Journalism.co.uk asked blind and visually impaired volunteers to assess the leading news websites in the UK. My guide on accessibility in newsrooms covers what it means to be accessible and how to use developer tools to run accessibility tests from your browser. The hashtag #ally is used on Twitter to talk about accessibility topics; guidelines published by the BBC are useful for developing guidelines in your own newsroom.
If you want to incorporate ideas from other fields: A few Twitter accounts continually introduce me to new ideas or help me think in new ways. Noah Chestnut, formerly of Buzzfeed, shares stories about esports, design, advertising and communication that continually expand the way I think about journalism. Andrèa Lòpez, who works in marketing and content discovery, publishes charts that help me understand audiences and advertising on social networks.
If you want to take a real summer vacation: Get offline and dive into a good book. If you still can’t leave the newsroom behind, I recommend finding a suggestion from CJR’s reading list for future journalists. If you’re driving, listen to one of these nine podcasts for journalists, or, more specifically, these five podcasts for data journalists.
Enjoy your summer!
Thank you to Ashley Lusk and Kristen Muller for contributing suggestions to this piece.