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Letters to a Young Journalist

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Letters to a Young Journalist

Basic Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

New reporters must remember that journalism is a noble calling: watch carefully, tell the truth and write it clearly.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


American journalism is deeply flawed, but not fatally so, reporter Samuel G. Freedman argues in this clear-eyed critique of his calling. As one deeply steeped in his trade, Freedman offers both a damning indictment and an inspiring call to the next generation. Freedman structures his analysis as a series of letters to one of his students, and manages to strike just the right balance between the theoretical and the practical. He seasons his study with plenty of war stories from the front lines of journalism. In a business full of cynics, Freedman comes across as an idealist, one reporter who believes in the power of the press to change the world, in spite of dwindling readership and advertising revenue. getAbstract recommends this slim volume to anyone who works in the media or needs to understand its best intentions.


A Crisis of Confidence

American journalism faces a crisis of self-confidence and of public credibility. High-profile scandals such as those involving fabricated stories by Jayson Blair of The New York Times and Stephen Glass of the New Republic have focused attention on one of the media’s flaws, namely that it’s possible for a misguided young person to rise to stardom through plagiarizing and fictionalizing. Those gaffes occurred just as a new form of media, the Internet, continued to ascend, posing new financial challenges for old media. The Internet has turned the tables on the dominant media, giving readers access to more sources of news than ever before - and opening a forum for bloggers who henpeck the mainstream media for its miscues. A blogger helped end CBS anchorman Dan Rather’s career by revealing that Rather had unwittingly used forged documents as the basis for a story about President George Bush.

In the face of these and other credibility issues, the public has lost faith in the media, and journalists themselves have engaged in bouts of hand wringing. In the early 1970s, journalism schools were filled with idealistic students inspired by Bob Woodward ...

About the Author

Veteran newspaper reporter Samuel G. Freedman teaches journalism at Columbia University and works as a columnist for The New York Times. He has written five books, including The Inheritance and Who She Was. He has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

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