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An Introduction to Journalism. First Edition - Print Journalism
May 26, 2006

You cannot learn journalism from books, grumbles the grouchy news editor as he surveys the latest journalism graduate daring to inhabit the newsroom. These days, that graduate will have done more than just read books. Time will have been spent making contacts, asking questions, finding and writing stories - all under the supervision of tutors who have done those things themselves. But the books about journalism will have been there. And as more journalists move into teaching the subject and as the number of journalism courses grows, so more books are written.

Over the past ten years or so, that has led to an enormous change in the shape of literature about journalism. A decade ago, it was dominated by practical textbooks and academic studies of newsrooms and theory that owed more to communication studies, media studies and sociology than anything recognisable as journalism to a journalist. Now writers and broadcasters who have spent years in newsrooms are working with those who have sat, watched and analysed. It is a fruitful union, yielding a mix of theory and practice more relevant than it has ever been.

These two textbooks are good examples of this approach. The team from Nottingham Trent University - Carole Fleming, Emma Hemmingway, Gillian Moore and Dave Welford - set themselves, on the face of it, a broad but straightforward task: to explain and describe journalism to those who are interested in it but have no knowledge of it.

So the book does what it says on the label. It is an introduction to journalism, no more, covering newspapers, radio, television and online and, as such, it is useful for A level, college and level one university courses covering journalism, media and communication. It falls into two parts: the first focuses on practical journalism, the second on the context and knowledge all journalists need about law, court reporting, government, politics and media regulation.

The first half wisely resists describing journalism from the platform point of view. The authors have grouped the chapters by journalistic skill - research, writing and interviewing - then applied that skill to each publishing platform, with a final chapter devoted to technical broadcast skills. The second half describes the basics of law, government, politics and regulation. These are concise, with some particularly useful checklists. The book is punctuated throughout with useful and relevant quotes from working journalists - their opinions, tips and warnings - a technique that drives home the message and adds life and colour. So, while there is not much that is new here, it puts the basics together well.

Richard Keeble's collection of articles on print journalism is useful in a different way and more suitable for students who have the basics and are more familiar with journalism's geography. Its authority derives from the calibre of the contributors. The majority have extensive journalistic backgrounds up to and including editor level, while others have studied and published widely on journalism and related subjects. All are now teaching journalism practice or theory in higher education.

This makes the book a rich and broad resource. It covers newspaper and magazine journalism, and the four sections address the shape and context of the print industry, the practice of print journalism, including online, issues such as ethics, law and politics and a final, rather thin, chapter on journalism education - an important theme thrown away in this context.

It is not always a "how to" book and does not set out to be, although some sections do cover things such as design, editing and pitching. Other chapters take a more analytical approach to the doing of journalism, and there are three particularly interesting chapters on how newspapers are dealing with the web and citizen journalism such as wikis and blogs.

But there is no central idea that connects these useful yet disparate chapters. Each article tends to come to an abrupt halt, rather than a conclusion. The articles do not always flow from each other. That said, this is a distillation of experience, knowledge and analysis, for once between the covers of one book.

Marie Kinsey is course leader, MA in broadcast journalism, Sheffield University.

An Introduction to Journalism. First Edition

Author - Carole Fleming, Emma Hemmingway, Gillian Moore and Dave Welford
Publisher - Sage
Pages - 245
Price - £60.00 and £19.99
ISBN - 0 7619 4181 9 and 4182 7

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