August 5, 2010 / Staff Management

Books that will boost buy-in in the yearbook room

Written by Anne G. Whitt, MJE

Imagine teaching some journalism history without giving a lecture. Imagine encouraging reading inside your classroom and out. Start this with a small bookshelf in your classroom, about 20 books about journalism, less than $100 to buy them, and a checkout system.

Assign the reading of a journalist’s autobiography, biography or memoir during one week of the year – the first week of school, when schedules might still be changing; the last week of classes, when yearbooks are printed and distributed; Thanksgiving week, when a third of the school takes a full week instead of two days, or Scholastic Journalism Week.

Besides the synchronized reading event, logic says more yearbook staffers will browse the books if they are in the yearbook room than if they are not. And maybe they will want to borrow one over the holiday or spring break. Imagine!

Whatever the motivation for reading, the results in staff personal and journalistic development are great. Ingested media direct our lives. No other medium offers as much simultaneous instruction, entertainment and inspiration for aspiring journalists as autobiographies, biographies or memoirs of professional journalists. As toddlers try on parents’ shoes to imagine being grown up, student journalists can try on the roles of professional journalists by reading these testimonies.

Because these people are (or were) journalists of some ilk, they know how to find the story and present it.


There are a variety of journalism-related books you can keep in your yearbook room as valuable educational resources.

This list is not even the tip of the iceberg available, only a scratch. But, every book listed offers history, journalism principles and entertainment. Further, a few minutes on the Internet revealed the whole set available, including shipping, for $78.91 (at least, on the day I wrote this). This tally did not consider some books might be available from the same outlet, which often reduces shipping. This amount assumed each book ordered individually. The value to the staff for reading these books truly is beyond measure.

The list is not alphabetical or chronological, but in my order of their entertainment, instructional and inspirational value.

  • Growing Up by Russell Baker, 1982

Mother was proud that her brother wrote for the New York Times. She constantly urged Russell to “make something of yourself.” None of that mattered to the depression-era kid until a high school teacher read Russell’s essay in class and said, “Now that’s writing.”

  • Henry and Clare: An Intimate Portrait of the Luces by Ralph G. Martin, 1991

In high school Henry wanted more than anything to be editor of the school paper. Brit got the spot. At Yale, Henry’s only real ambition was editor of the newspaper as his father had been. Brit got the job. The book explains how Henry finally got the editorship that meant so much that his passport listed next of kin as “Time, Inc.”

  • Legacy: A Biography of Moses and Walter Annenberg by Christopher Ogden, 1999

Into an old-world family of girls only one son arrived, but the father was embarrassed by the son’s missing ear. What could a publishing lord do with a house full of girls? Found Seventeen magazine.

  • Magnum: Fifty Years at the Front Line of History by Russell Miller, 1997

This book gives different photojournalists’ personal stories of people who had done assignments for Magnum, the legendary photo agency.

  • The Americanization of Edward Bok by Edward Bok, 1920

Six-year-old Edward, straight from Ellis Island, went to first grade in Brooklyn without knowing a word of English. He caused the city school board to change the first grade penmanship curriculum. After quitting school at 13, he edited and founded other publications before he made Ladies’ Home Journal the first magazine ever with a million subscribers and the first ever to have $1 million in advertising in one issue.

  • A Man from Maine by Edward Bok, 1923

Cyrus H.K. Curtis, for whom Curtis Institute of Music is named, bought his first printing press with money saved from newspaper deliveries and made his first publication at 15 on his family kitchen table. A city-wide fire destroyed that press, but not the owner’s spirit. He taught the world the value of magazines with his offerings, which included Ladies’ Home Journal and Saturday Evening Post.

  • Restless Genius: Barney Kilgore, The Wall Street Journal, and The Invention of Modern Journalism by Richard J. Tofel, 2009

The original Wall Street Journal was a single sheet delivered at the hands of two men to local offices. Even after growing into the giant we know, it might have failed before newspapers were failing, if Barney Kilgore had not taken the helm. He believed people were more interested in tomorrow than yesterday and that people wanted that new presented in small, easy-to-grasp servings. The success these ideas generated caused the birth of modern journalism.

  • Personal History by Katharine Graham, 1997

Though she called the book Personal History, her positions as publisher of the Washington Post and before that, wife of the publisher, cause the book to be as much American political history as her own history. She just happened to be a player in recent history’s most vivid events, especially Watergate.

  • The Pulitzer Diaries: Inside America’s Greatest Prize by John Hohenberg, 1997

At the elevator on the way to his first Pulitzer Prize meeting at Columbia University’s World Room, Hohenberg was handed a pad and told to take a few notes. That day marked the beginning of 14 years of directing the world’s most prestigious writing award.

  • Bias by Bernard Goldberg, 2002

After 30 years at CBS, Goldberg began writing about how media distort news. One chapter cites a judge in Los Angeles County who garnished wages of men for failing to support children who were not theirs, even verified by the judge’s own DNA testing services. Goldberg says this is why media portrayal matters.

  • The Franchise by Michael MacCambridge, 1998

Students might have trouble believing Sports Illustrated was ever in the doldrums. This Horatio-Alger-of-magazines story will inspire students to succeed as well as it tells the history of Sports Illustrated.

  • Witness to a Century: Encounters with the Noted, the Notorious and the Three SOBs, by George Seldes, 1988

Starting at age 17, Seldes reported news for the next 80 years – enough to allow him encounters with such makers of history as Hindenberg, Lenin, Tito, Mussolini, Generals Pershing and Patton, Freud and Hitler. This book makes history a yearbook.

  • The General and the Journalists: Ulysses S. Grant, Horace Greeley and Charles Dana by Harry J. Maihafer, 1998

The influence of the media and public perception have always been hot topics, and here they are described during the Civil War period. For example, Dana, an out-of-work journalist, was the person sent by President Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton to evaluate Grant for possible promotion to lead the Union Army in the Civil War. Later, as part owner of the New York Sun, Dana wrote an editorial supporting Grant’s candidacy for president. At the time, Grant was not running.

  • This Just In: What I Couldn’t Tell You on TV by Bob Schieffer, 2003

Personal stories by one of the few people ever to cover all four major Washington beats: the White House, Pentagon, State Department, and Capitol Hill. He says of this book, “Those events I covered have become part of our history and you already know most of them. But I want to tell you about the parts that didn’t get on television or in the paper, the serious parts and the not-so-serious parts…. Here are the stories I tell my friends, and they are the stories I want to share…”

  • Good Day by Paul Batura, 2009

Paul Harvey began his radio career while still in high school. He lost his favorite gig, not because he lacked talent or winsomeness, but “until your face clears.” He became America’s longest-running broadcaster, ending only a few weeks before his death at age 90.

  • True Notebooks by Mark Salzman, 2003

Suburban-reared Salzman tells of his experiences teaching writing to teenage felons in Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall.

  • Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl, 2005

One of several books written by Reichl, this is her memoir of her time as a New York Times restaurant critic. In an effort to obtain a review of a restaurant as any customer would experience it, she often went incognito.

  • Voices in the Mirror: An Autobiography by Gordon Parks, 1992

From tough beginnings, Parks rose to spend 20 years shooting photographs for Life magazine, a magazine known for its photography. He was the first black photographer at Life and Vogue, and was known as the first black director and screenwriter in Hollywood.

  • America’s Mom: The Life, Lessons and Legacy of Ann Landers by Rick Kogan, 2003

As Landers’ last editor, Kogan knew well the lady America trusted for advice for nearly half a century. He presents the real Ann behind her syndicated newspaper advice column.

4 Responses to “Books that will boost buy-in in the yearbook room”

June 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm, Some books that belong in the yearbook room said:

[…] If you haven’t wandered over to the Idea File area in a couple days, take a look at this story that was posted last week by good friend of the Yearbooks Blog – ret…. […]

June 25, 2010 at 9:26 pm, Journalism and Lit Circles? | Treasure Chest of Thoughts said:

[…] on this topic.Powered by Greet BoxAsurn I was perusing my Google Reader this evening, I came across this blog on twenty journalism novels…”Oh,” I thought (I know…not the most intellectually sounding response, but […]

June 25, 2010 at 9:33 pm, Tammy Gillmore said:

Thank you for this list! Going to request this whole list for my journalism classes this fall! Very cool!

August 16, 2010 at 3:21 pm, Monica said:

I’m going after these books…

Thanks… GREAT idea!!!

Comments are closed.

Anne G. Whitt, MJE

Anne Whitt, MJE, is a retired yearbook adviser who taught at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla., and at the community college level. She was named a JEA Distinguished Adviser in 2000, and the yearbook earned state and national honors throughout the decades that she taught.