Reading about news (and you can, too!)

Normally, I hate when people give book recommendations. But, after a great conversation with a local reporter today, I thought it might help if I present some conceptual work that can help us explore the meanings of news – especially because not all of us are crazy enough to study this stuff in school.

Some of these books will be more “academic,” but I will select ones that anyone would want to read, that are written in interesting and fun ways. Simply, not all of these selections are that stuffy.

And, in writing against the book lists that others write, this is a short list.

Race and the news

White News: Why Local Programs Don’t Cover People of Color, by Don Heider is a perfectly short read on how newsrooms cover issues of race. Sometimes the descriptions from newsrooms are shocking: A white anchor reads the words written by a Black producer to get the benefit of both words — language of a minority with a visual that resonates with a majority class.

White Victims, Black Villains: Gender, Race and Crime News in U.S. Culture, by Carol Stabile contains great details about crime coverage in U.S. media surrounding issues of color and issues of fear. A great read!

News meanings
Social Meanings of News and Cultural Meanings of News provide interesting looks at what and why news media cover baby killers, deviant blacks, terrorists, house fires and plane crashes. The simplest answer is “because it’s news.” The more complex – and more correct answers – are within the market and cultural forces and make news meaningful. These books can help us see how journalists work.

The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things, by Barry Glassner is one of the first books that introduced me to cultural aspects of newswork. That it was written for a popular audience is a bonus. I recommend the first edition over the second, in part because his coverage of 9/11 dominates the central meanings of his argument that news respond — or create — cultural meanings in the news.

Also, remember the stories that kids die from tainted candy during Halloween? And when, in the 1990s, kids were being run over by SUVs backing out of the garage? This book tells us why both of those strings of events weren’t “true.”

Any others?