Are there really only six essential books on online journalism? {UPDATED}: Now 9

I was looking to draw up a list of ten essential books on online journalism – but it seems to me that there are really only six (updated to 8, September 2010).

Have I missed something? Let me know. In the meantime, here are my six 8 essential reads for online journalists:

  1. For a different angle on the whole shebang: Gatewatching by Axel Bruns: not the most famous of books – perhaps because it is so far ahead of its time. Gatewatching looks at peer to peer publishing, and non-traditional news organisations: the likes of Slashdot, Kuro5hin, and Wikinews, among others. An essential read for an insight into how news reporting can be organised completely differently. See also: Digitizing the News by Pablo Boczkowski.
  2. For an authoritative history: Online News by Stuart Allan: a refreshingly rigorous look at some of the most famous moments in online journalism – Rathergate; 9/11; Drudge. Helps supply the reality behind the mythology. See also: Online Journalism by Jim Hall.
  3. For an essential challenge to your basic journalistic values in the new media age: Online Journalism Ethics by Friend & Singer: poses the questions we should all be asking ourselves, and is brave enough not to supply the answer.
  4. For the definitive guide to citizen journalism: We The Media by Dan Gillmor: doesn’t sit on the wall, but then Gillmor would be the first to point out that objectivity is dead. Not to be confused with the also very good We Media by Bowman & Willis (online only).
  5. For a good introduction to the basics of writing for the web I will obviously now recommend The Online Journalism Handbook by Liisa Rohumaa and I. Also good: Digital Journalism by Mark S. Luckie which brings up to date some of the techniques first introduced in Journalism Online by Mike Ward, which is still worth reading. And Convergence Journalism by Janet Kolodzy and Convergent Journalism by Stephen Quinn focus specifically on multimedia. Also, download Journalism 2.0 (PDF) by Mark Briggs (thanks to Steve Yelvington in the comments for reminding me about this one).
  6. For a guide to interactive storytelling: Flash Journalism by Mindy McAdams: covers the ideas behind good multimedia interactives as well as the practicalities.
  7. ADDED SEP 2010: On community management, 18 Rules of Community Engagement is a great introduction.
  8. ADDED SEP 2010: On the enterprise side of things, Funding Journalism in the Digital Age (reviewed here) is a great introduction to the range of business models and experiments.
  9. ADDED JULY 2011: For a vital grounding in search engine and social media optimisation: The Search by John Battelle, beefed up with Click by Bill Tancer and The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick.

PS: I maintain an ongoing list of useful books for online journalists at My Amazon Associates store. If you’re in the US, you may prefer the version.

UPDATE: It’s very true that blogs are a better source of up to date information and reflection on what’s going on now. Check out Shane Richmond’s list on must-read online journalism posts.

32 thoughts on “Are there really only six essential books on online journalism? {UPDATED}: Now 9

  1. Mindy McAdams

    Nice post, Paul! (And thank you for the props.)

    You left out “Digital Journalism,” a short edited volume by Kevin Kawamoto. It fills in gaps left by the other books. It’s not a how-to but rather where we are and how we got here.

    I would rate Boczkowski’s book as essential. Even though his studies were conducted years ago, he really got inside the newsroom culture. His book is ideal for a graduate discussion class, in my opinion.

    I would downgrade Mike Ward’s book, mostly because of its extreme datedness. I do not think it’s usable today. Choose Quinn or Kolodzy instead.

    Gillmor: We THE Media (missing word in title). Surprisingly relevant today! (2006 paperback version.)

    I am told that Jim Foust’s excellent beginner textbook, “Online Journalism: Principles and Practices of News for the Web,” will be out in a new, updated edition very soon. I have not seen it yet, but I really liked the first edition (which is too dated to use now). I used it for two years in my classes.

    What about Journalism 2.0, the free PDF (or $10 print edition) by Mark Briggs? Not on Amazon, but that’s no reason to exclude it.

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  5. selfmadepsyche

    Seems as though books are outdated almost as fast as they become popular. Gatewatching is fantastic, but for the most part I feel as though journalism students would learn more from blogs: constantly updated, plus exposure to the “blog culture.”

  6. Bryan Murley

    I’ve been toying with the idea of coming up with a book for student media about online journalism, but get stuck by the thought that such a book would be hopelessly out-of-date by the time it came out. I’m more and more tempted to take a wiki (or blog) approach to online journalism books. As much as I admire Foust, Kolodzy, Quinn and Mindy (all of whom I’ve met personally), the book field is pretty well behind the times in terms of online journalism. The hard part is getting academia to accept such “non-traditional” types of publishing. And then there’s the financial side. Should someone put so much effort into creating a comprehensive web site with no renumeration?

    (btw, I think Gillmor’s book is good more for history now than for practice. Web 2.0 is a good primer at a very elementary level, and I’m actually using it in a class next semester)

  7. Mindy McAdams

    It’s true that books about this field are for the most part outdated before they are even printed. I don’t think this is necessary, technically, but it’s the way the textbook publishing companies operate. They have absolutely no desire to be fast enough to bring our books to market.

    On the other hand, you can look at companies such as O’Reilly (which published Gillmor’s book) and New Riders. See how they’ll have a book about new software (such as Adobe’s CS3 products) out in print within weeks of the software release.

    Unfortunately, the so-called “journalism market” is too small for them to be interested in publishing our books.

  8. Mike Ward

    I agree with Mindy’s comments about my book “Journalism Online” now being outdated. But I’m told that it still has value because in parts it deals with fundamentals.

    I also take all the points about ‘why books?’ given the vast (and constantly updated) resources available online. But the USP for a textbook is its portablity and convenience. Students still like that.

    I think the trick is to identify the ‘new fundamentals’ for online journalism – something I’ve been meaning to do for about three years but struggle to achieve because no-one has yet invented the 30 hour day.

    My experience of developing both students and journalists tells me that these fundamentals are a fusion of the conceptual (digital means journalists are now working in a networked, shared media space) and the applied (how to leverage this digital environment to tell better stories).

  9. Bryan Murley

    I also take all the points about ‘why books?’ given the vast (and constantly updated) resources available online. But the USP for a textbook is its portablity and convenience. Students still like that.

    So why not make it print-on-demand? And I agree with Mindy that the problem is not necessarily that the books themselves are meant to be out-of-date, but that this area of the publishing world suffers from the too-long publishing cycle.

  10. Mindy McAdams

    I like the idea that students could go online for their text and either read it all there OR choose to print parts of it, if they want to.

    I learned something surprising when I assigned two chapters from Yochai Benkler’s “The Wealth of Networks” this semester. I expected students to print out the chapters — and they did. What I didn’t expect was that they chose to print out the Web pages (HTML) instead of the PDF versions of the chapters.

    Why? To save paper. The HTML versions were formatted such that they were significantly shorter.

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  15. Sean Dodson

    Good to see Dan Gilmore in your list, but I would argue that We the Media has got a lot more to say about the state of the media than just “citizen journalism”.

    I’d also recommend Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold and The Language of New Media by Lev Manovich. The latter is really good at defining the “new” in new media, as well as offering students a solid theoretical background to their studies

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