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Jan. 29, 2009, 6:12 p.m.

Announcing the next Lab Book Club: “All the News That’s Fit to Sell”

It’s time for the second edition of the Nieman Journalism Lab Book Club, in which we collectively read a book (new or old) that can tell us something about where journalism is headed. You may remember the first go-round, back in November, when we read Jeff Howe’s Crowdsourcing. We did an extended interview with Jeff and had journalists write capsule reviews or responses to parts of the book.

Throughout February, we’ll be reading James Hamilton’s All the News That’s Fit to Sell: How the Market Transforms Information into News. Jay is a professor of political science and economics at Duke University and director of its DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy.

What I like best about Jay’s book is that he’s not a journalist. Don’t get me wrong: Journalists are going to have to do most of the heavy lifting to make whatever comes next work. But we also have trouble seeing beyond our own professional codes sometimes. There are established ways for journalists to think about their profession, and it’s open to question whether the codes that made sense in times of plenty are automatically the ones that make sense in times of crisis. Jay’s goal is the creation of more hard news, and he’s using the tools of economics to try to figure out how to make that happen.

Just as with our last Book Club, we’ll have top-notch journalists writing about each chapter of Jay’s book. And, also like last time, I’ve done an extended video interview with Jay that I’ll be posting in bits and pieces throughout the month. Jay may also be able to take your questions about the book and his findings at some point during the month.

So go get your hands on All the News That’s Fit to Sell, and we’ll get started with the reading next Monday. I’ll add links to each part of our coverage here once they’re posted.

Reviews:
Chapter 1: How responsive to economic stimuli are journalists?
Chapter 2: How technology built objectivity into newspapers
Chapter 3: Media bias is based on profit motive
Chapter 4: How language and audience align on the nightly news
Chapters 5 and 6: The system’s to blame for the loss of hard news
Chapter 7: A look back at the early days of online news
Chapter 8: Talking Heads ’99

Interview with Jay:
Chapter 1: Meet Jay Hamilton
Chapter 2: Why rational ignorance keeps people from reading your amazing story
Chapters 3 and 4: How economic incentives shape the news
Chapter 5: The secret tie between Playboy and food stamps
Chapter 6: The role of prestige and personality in selling the news
Chapter 7: Some online lessons from the (fairly) recent past

POSTED     Jan. 29, 2009, 6:12 p.m.
PART OF A SERIES     Lab Book Club: Jay Hamilton
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