How not to read a newspaper

April 20, 2009

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Writing on the Foreign Policy blog Thomas E. Ricks suggests we should start reading newspapers like reporters. His simple, but misguided, point is that we should simply follow the writers we like, look for the bylines we know and love, read those articles and pretty much ignore the rest of the paper. Here’s his take,

OK, so it’s not How to Make Love Like a Porn Star. But the secret of reading a newspaper like a reporter is to pick stories by bylines. I’ve mentioned, for example, that I will read anything Anthony Shadid of the Washington Post  writes about Iraqi politics, or life in Iraq. Another go-to reporter is C.J. Chivers of the New York Times. I’ve never met him, but I keep an eye out for his reporting from Afghanistan. link

I have favourite writers, I have favourite publications, but I can’t imagine scouring for bylines of the egos I most like to stroke from within the pages I most like to turn. And I’m not sure I know any other reporters who do that. While my journey might start at a particular news organisation, it rarely ends there and normally ends up somewhere I’ve never heard of before. The only way to read the news like a reporter these day should be with RSS, keywords and custom search engines. That doesn’t appear to be the norm yet which is why I enjoy teaching this course so much. Byline driven news reading…?? no thanks.

Photograph of Tehran newspapers by birdfarm.



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