June 4, 2010

The Elements of Journalism

I find it helps to read a good book more than once.

A few days ago I began my third close reading of The Elements of Journalism (2nd Ed.) by Kovach and Rosenstiel.

This book has become canonical in journalism — in professional practice and academic study. That doesn’t mean it is a flawless text. I have plenty of nits to pick with it. But, as a whole, it is one of the finest expressions of the craft and ethics of journalism available today. It is one of my must-read books for journalists. And if I had a must-read list for citizens, it would have a safe spot there, too.

I don’t want journalists and citizens to just read this book (or even just read it closely). I want journalists to do what it says, and I want citizens to hold them to it.

You’ll hear all kinds of lip-service paid to Elements. You’ll see all kinds of failure to live up to its demands — especially in opinion journalism.

I’ll be approaching my search for good opinion journalism and my castigation of punditry passed off as same (nothing wrong with punditry that doesn’t claim the mantle of journalism, IMO) with Elements as one of my foundations. It is a convenient whip because so many journalists will nod and tell you it is a proper expression of what journalism is supposed to be.

Thank you for handling me the whip. Now I intend to use it.

Comments are closed.