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Letters to a Young Journalist (Art of Mentoring) [Hardcover]

by Samuel G. Freedman
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 28, 2006 0465024556 978-0465024551 1ST
Over the course of a thirty-year career, Samuel Freedman has excelled both at doing journalism and teaching it, and he passionately engages both of these endeavors in the pages of this book. As an author and journalist, Freedman has produced award-winning books, investigative series, opinion columns, and feature stories and has become a specialist in a wide variety of fields. As a teacher, he has shared his expertise and experience with hundreds of students, who have gone on to succeed in both print and broadcast media. In Letters to a Young Journalist, Freedman conducts an extended conversation with young journalists-from kids on the high school paper to graduates starting their first jobs. Whether he's talking about radio documentaries or TV news shows, Internet blogs, or backwater beats, shoeleather research or elegant prose, his goal is to explore the habits of mind that make an excellent journalist. It is no secret that journalism's mission is seriously imperiled these days, and Freedman's provocative ideas and fascinating stories offer students and journalists at all levels of experience wise guidance and professional inspiration.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Former New York Times reporter Freedman is a professor of journalism at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism; you'd expect this to be a book of practical tips and advice for students of the craft. It is not. Instead, Freedman has much to say about journalistic integrity, plain language and honest legwork, castigating recent malefactors like Jayson Blair, Judith Miller, and Dan Rather, and even scolding Janet Malcolm for her famous indictment of the journalist as "confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse." The book is partly a memoir, looking back on the author's career, partly a lament over the state of today's journalism, a bastion of "chic misanthropy" or sheeplike conformism; and partly a heads-up to youth—he despises undergraduate journalism classes, counseling wannabes to choose almost any other major in favor of practical experience on the school newspaper. Not until halfway along or so does Freedman offer specific advice. Not a journalism primer, this could be an inspirational tract alongside one. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Freedman began his 30-year career by covering municipal meetings in northern New Jersey. He went on to write books, teach at Columbia, and become a columnist for the New York Times. Letters is not simply his reminiscences, nor is it a screed about the decline of journalism, though he lets his feelings about certain publishers be known. The book is fundamentally a manual that addresses how to be a journalist and how to succeed in the business. The authors experiences writing, reporting, and teaching allow him to compare different approaches to the newspaper business and to give suggestions for newcomers to the field. He offers valuable advice based on his experiences and the collective wisdom of his colleagues, including the need to adhere to such standards as trust, accuracy, and relevancy. Aspiring journalists can profit from this concise and purposeful guide.–Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Series: Art of Mentoring
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1ST edition (March 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465024556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465024551
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 6.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,095,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Indispensable Handbook June 20, 2006
No, this book is not a point-by-point on "How to be a journalist." Thankfully it is so much more valuable.

If you are young and have any aspirations to serious journalism... if you have been a journalist for a long time... if you are just interested in learning what journalism is all about... you will want to own this book in hardcover.

In many respects "Letters to a Young Journalist" is no mere collection of "letters" at all but the final word on the subject.

Reading this book is like being in the presence of a master of his craft who understands both the ideals and the realities of its practice and masterfully --and honestly-- reconciles them. In doing so, Freedman makes journalistic ideals life-giving and heady and well within any journalist's reach, not simply youthful illusions to be discarded after years in the newsroom. I can imagine a well-seasoned journalist jumping up from his/her desk and wanting to go out an conquer the world one story at a time.

Freedman manages to show how by hewing to the ideals and the rigorous practice of craft, the journalist not only can do great work but can endure and love his/her profession for a lifetime. It is funny, intelligent and condenses within its modest frame a journalism school all its own. An exciting one-sitting read and a dog-eared reference book from then on.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was a journalist for 17 years and have a son who is entering the profession (who's therefore a part of Freedman's target audience of "young journalists"), and Freedman gets it absolutely right. This brief introduction to journalism upholds all the traditional values that need to be upheld in the profession: hard work, integrity, the ability to ask the right questions and to listen to what people tell you, the importance of starting at the bottom and learning one's craft.

Most important, Freedman conveys the importance and the excitement of being a journalist. One doesn't have to cover the White House to be a success; Freedman, a former New York Times reporter who now writes books and teaches at the Columbia School of Journalism, never did that. Rather, good journalism means getting it right, telling the reader how people live day to day, what people care about, how they think and how they feel.

Freedman weighs in not only against the Jayson Blairs of the world but against any nonfiction writer who fudges the details in the interest of a better story, who uses composite characters, or who makes himself or herself the story. But he's no fuddy-duddy. The unique camaraderie of newspaper work, the late nights, the deadlines, even the rounds of drinks at seedy bars --they're all here. And he gives more than adequate thought to technology, recognizing that many of the young journalists he's addressing may be writing for Web sites rather than traditional newspapers.

And he cares about writing. Freedman argues for "a certain kind of subtle, dignified, formally correct prose against the slickness that too often passes for literary style, that grab-bag of sentence fragments, cliches, and elaborate metaphors.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Samuel Freedman has written a letter to us all... December 20, 2006
I picked up this book by chance and couldn't put it down. Though the title would lead one to view this as a book solely about journalism, its much more than that (though its certainly an invaluable resource for anyone aspiring to be a journalist). In a very concise and heartfelt way, Samuel Freedman has articulated the struggles and dreams, frustrations and joys of all writers, photographers, and filmmakers. He has written a deeply thoughtful book about the life of an artist. I'm indebted to him for his insights - and highly recommend this book.
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