June 15, 2012

Personal journalism degree

I'm a fan of the Personal MBA reading list. The author suggests skipping the tuition and lectures of business school and creating your own degree by simply reading the texts. He suggests 99 books, and the subjects range on everything from management, corporate finance and sales to value-creation, negotiation and personal growth. It's a great list, and a lot of popular rot is not on the list -- only truly valuable and helpful titles. Granted, I am still more impressed by a person who has an MBA than someone who might say, "I've read every book on the Personal MBA booklist," but it tells me that the person is serious about improving and increasing his or her value.

When he was in college and medical school -- now the most famous brain surgeon in the world -- Dr. Ben Carson, found he didn't learn well by hearing lectures. Instead he discovered he could skip a lot of classes, just read the texts and still score well on exams.

So drawing inspiration from the Personal MBA and Dr. Carson, and responding to demand, I here offer my own Personal Journalism Degree booklist. Again, I would still be more impressed by someone who has a degree (full-disclosure/bias alert: I have one) because of the way you grow by creating content and being edited by professors, especially the papers you have to write and defend at the graduate level. Still, this list offers a great understanding of subjects you would encounter in school, and by reading these and Matt Brown's story in my June 15 posting on his rise in the industry, you're likely good to go. And you can get all this knowledge mostly by using your free library card. A few titles may require you to buy a used copy online.

This list is in development and will expand over the coming weeks and months, and it could even have a few titles later shaved off. The Personal MBA updates its list each year and maintains no more or less than 99 books. Not yet sure how big this list will grow or if a cap will be set. Let me know of any suggestions you might have.

The Bible

The Associated Press Stylebook


An introduction to News Reporting by Jan Yopp and Beth Haller
Elements of News Writing, 3rd edition by James W. Kershner

The Journalist's Craft: a guide to writing better news stories by Jackson and Sweeney
The Investigative Reporter's Handbook by Brant Houston
Online Journalism by James C. Foust

Passion for the craft

On Writing Well by William K. Zinsser
The Book of Writing by Paula LaRocque
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon


The Concise Guide to Copy Editing by Paul LaRocque


The Craft of Interviewing by John Brady


Broadcast News Handbook, 4th edition by Tuggle, Carr and Huffman
We Interrupt This Newscast by Rosenstiel

Understanding government

Field Guide to Covering Local News by Fred Bayles
Parliament of Whores by P. J. O'Rourke


The Law of Journalism and Mass Communication by Trager, Russoman and Ross
Mass Media Law by Don Pember and Clay Calbert

Don't be a hack

Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity by John Stossel
Breaking the News by James Fallows
Left Turn by Tim Groseclose
The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig

The other side

Making the News (revised & updated) by Jason Salzman
Keeping Cool on the Hot Seat, 5th edition (2011) by Judy Hoffman
The Practice of Public Relations, 11th edition by Fraser P Seitel


American Media History by Anthony Fellow


A First Look at Communication Theory, eighth revised edition by Em Griffin

Intercultural communication

Intercultural Communication in Contexts, 6th edition by Judith Martin & Thomas Nakayama
Dave Barry Does Japan by Dave Barry


Photojournalism, sixth edition: The Professionals' Approach by Kenneth Kobre


The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics by Dona M. Wong


Media Management in the Age of Giants, second edition by Dennis F. Herrick

Documentary to watch

Page One: Inside the New York Times

Books for fun and inspiration

The Good Times by Russell Baker
Newspaper Man by Warren Phillips
All The President's Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward

Movies for fun and inspiration

The Paper
Absence of Malice
All the President's Men
The Year of Living Dangerously
Broadcast News


  1. Nice posting, thanks for sharing with us. Your post is great and helped me feel better knowing about the Journalism degree. Will you please help me to know more about Press ID. Thanks again...

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. It depends on what you want it for. A general press ID won't get you into just any event. You can't go watch a professional football game for free. For high profile events, you need advance authorization or get on a list.

    The news organization you work for will provide you with a press card...or you can get one from a city police department if you are a freelancer. This is helpful in case a protest breaks out and you are caught in the sweep....if you have a press pass, the police will likely let you go. Or if you are asking questions of people on the street, someone might ask what you are doing -- you have every right to do so (at least in the United States) but it may be helpful to have some official ID just in case.

  4. it's hard nowadays to find a job in journalism especially in NY area!
    Thanks for this article

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