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Review: News to Me by Laurie Hertzel

Review: News to Me by Laurie Hertzel post image

Title: News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist
Author: Laurie Hertzel
Genre: Memoir
Year: 2010
Acquired: From the author and publisher for review.
Rating: ★★★★☆

One Sentence Summary: Laurie Hertzel joined the Duluth News Tribune in the mid-1970s as a clerk, then found herself sucked into the life and career of a journalist.

One Sentence Review: Hertzel’s memoir is a self-deprecating and charming coming-of-age story about life in the newsroom, but I’m just about the ideal reader for the story so might have a hard time assessing it objectively.

Long Review: In many respects, I am the ideal reader for Laurie Hertzel’s memoir News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist. The story follows Hertzel’s career as a young, female reporter at the Duluth News Tribune during the mid-1970s and beyond.

Hertzel gets a job at the paper working as a newsroom clerk, then shifts around the paper, moving to librarian, copy editor, beat reporter, feature writer, news editor, and columnist. Today, she has the amazing job of being the books editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, one of the two main newspapers in the Twin Cities.

I’m also a young, female journalist from Minnesota, curious about journalism history and excited/nervous about my future prospects in the industry. I wouldn’t call myself an “accidental journalist” – I went and got a Master’s in the subject, for goodness sake – but there has always been the same sense of serendipity to figuring out journalism was my calling, a serendipity that I sense in Hertzel’s memoir as well.

Hertzel uses measured of nostalgia and humor to look back at her time in the newsroom. When journalists write books on journalism, there can be a tendency to look back to the “good old days,” before the Internet destroyed fact-checking and blogs stomped all over objectivity.

In truth, there are no good old days of journalism – there have always been problems – and Hertzel takes time to acknowledge that in the book. Men in the newsroom were sexist, story flow ran inefficiently, and sensational stories always made the front page. She looks back fondly at the past, but doesn’t glorify it unnecessarily.

That’s not to say there haven’t been big changes since Hertzel started. One that stuck out to me was the shifting idea from journalism as simply a job to journalism as a profession. When Hertzel entered the newsroom, journalism was a job many people just fell into. There was little formal training; you learned on the job and from veterans in the newsroom.

That’s not the case today, and Hertzel documents much of the change as she saw it at the News Tribune during the 1980s and onward. Many journalists today, myself included, go to school and get a degree in the field. Journalists like to think of themselves as professionals, and their job as a calling for a higher good. I don’t know that one job conception is better than the other, just different.

Hertzel also includes advice and lessons learned from an accidental life reporting and thoughts on what news and journalism actually mean. For instance,

Over time, I wrote hundreds of stories for the regional desk. None of them was terrible memorable, but looking back you can see a few constant themes, the biggest which was change. Any story by itself is just that – a story, a moment in time. But taken together, good newspaper work should add up to something, many pieces of a larger picture, and in this case it added up to a significant shift in the way of life on the Iron Range, from prosperous and growing to much more hardscrabble.

The book is filled with these stories, and they’re the exact types of anecdotes I’d want to hear from a mentor in the newsroom. I also think they’re entertaining enough that someone curious about what it means to be a journalist would enjoy them as much as I did.

If any of what I’ve written sounds interesting to you, or you think you’d like a good-humored memoir about Minnesota, journalism, and growing up, then I recommend the book.

P.S. If you like the cover image, the publisher, University of Minnesota Press, made a cool infographic explaining what some of the pieces are.

Other Reviews: Raymond @ GoodReads |

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jenny September 24, 2010, 9:10 am

    Well, I’m not a journalist of any sort, but I do like reading memoirs about jobs that I will never have (or jobs I will have, too, I suppose). Onto the TBR list it goes!

    • Kim September 25, 2010, 3:16 pm

      Jenny; I think this would give a great sense of what it would be like to be a journalist, at least before the whole downfall of newspapers thing started. I think Hertzel does a great job capturing a sense of the newsroom.

  • Anastasia September 24, 2010, 9:35 am

    Hey! I used to live in Duluth! AND I’m interested in Ye Olde Days of Journalism! (Because of All the President’s Men, to be honest.) I’m adding this to my wishlist. 😀

    • Kim September 25, 2010, 3:16 pm

      Anastasia: Then this would be a good book! I haven’t seen All the President’s Men (for shame!!), but it’s on my movies to watch list. I hope you get a chance to read this book 🙂

  • Charlie September 24, 2010, 9:39 am

    I do love the cover, I had this post open ready for reading later but the cover caught my eye, it’s brilliant! A book about writing but in the form of a memoir sounds really interesting, and I like the style shown by the quote you included. I imagine this is jam packed with content!

    • Kim September 25, 2010, 3:17 pm

      Charlie: The cover is one of my favorite parts, especially since I could identify a lot of the reporter tools on it. The book is pretty slim, but does have a lot of great stories in it.

  • Stephanie September 24, 2010, 9:43 am

    This does sound interesting!

    • Kim September 25, 2010, 3:18 pm

      Stephanie: I’m glad you think so, I thought it was 🙂

  • Ash September 24, 2010, 8:13 pm

    This book sounds interesting, it might actually be a really good gift for my old roommate who is a journalism student (from Wisconsin! Not too far away). I actually started out in Journalism but after taking a couple of classes decided it wasn’t right for me. I’m on the staff of a literary magazine, but sometimes I miss the newspaper environment.

    • Kim September 25, 2010, 3:19 pm

      Ash: I think this would be a great gift for a journalism student. I just finished doing my master’s in journalism, and so it was fun for me to compare things in the book to what we learn about in journalism now. The book is a nice narrative look at journalism history, which I thought was fun.

  • Amy September 25, 2010, 9:49 am

    This definitely sounds like the perfect book for you! Also sounds interesting to me 🙂

    • Kim September 25, 2010, 3:19 pm

      Amy: I hope other people will read it and find the book interesting; it’s just hard to tell when a book seems to perfect for you, whether other people will feel the same way 🙂

  • Marie September 25, 2010, 3:38 pm

    This does sound like an interesting read. Onto the TBR list it goes!!!

    • Kim September 27, 2010, 5:17 pm

      Marie: Awesome! I hope you like it.

  • Raymond Crippen October 1, 2010, 12:42 pm
    • Kim October 3, 2010, 10:20 am

      Raymond: Thanks for leaving a link to your review.