I mentioned yesterday that Laurie Hertzel's book News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist is a memoir. I read memoirs with caution--I have no stomach for self-centered navel-gazing or the standard "woe is me" tale of abuse and mistreatment. A well-written memoir should be about more than the author. It should include a broader commentary on the world, the times, social conditions or somehow connect the person to a larger picture than merely their life. I adored Doris Kearns Goodwin's Wait Till Next Year for this reason. I howled with glee through Bill Bryson's Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. And Laurie's memoir hits the mark as well.
News to Me tells the story of change in both the world and in the newspaper industry which went from reams of carbon paper and manual typewriters to an electronic and computer-based industry in the past 30 years. Laure came into journalism when all the tools of the trade would change and her memoir includes observations about how this affected both the people in the industry but also the work itself. It's as much a story about her life as a young journalist as it is a love story to newspapers, those daily or weekly harbingers of all things newsworthy from obituaries to classified ads to coverage of breaking stories to weather and crop reports. I am a newspaper gal--been reading a daily subscription since I was a young girl grabbing the comics out of my parents' paper to today when I expect to find my daily dose of local news in my mailbox and like an old man, I grumble when it's late. Newspapers bring smaller communities together in a way USA Today never can. They run photos of local kids playing soccer, they report on crime sprees in neighborhoods and cover the story behind school closings. I subscribe because it's my small contribution to keep the news coming, to keep the community connected in a tangible way. It's as much an ethic for me as it is a pleasure to unfold the pages and read for the four-hundredth time about Brett Favre's latest retirement plans or enjoy Leonard Pitts' latest column.
News to Me is great reading for anyone fascinated by journalism, the nitty-gritty of that daily grind, the history and the passion. And I'm giving away a copy of Laurie Hertzel's FABULOUS memoir to one lucky reader. To enter, leave a comment. Each comment is an entry. I'm picking a lucky winner Sunday.
Spill it, reader. Are you a newspaper subscriber? What section do you read first?