July 8, 2012

Confessions of a Community Journalist by Michael Shawn Smith

Most of us have heard the phrase “Never judge a book by its cover.” But I do. I also judge by the book title and genre. I have never been one to read non-fiction books. The remind me of school, and I don’t want to be reminded of school when I am out for the summer. So, when Michael contacted me requesting a review for his book, I agreed but was also thinking, “What did I just get myself into?” I thought I was going to be bored, and it would take me forever to get through, but I was hoping he would prove me wrong.

When I opened the file on my Nook and began reading, my reaction was – WOW. I was completely hooked. From the very first page. It took me a little less than two days to complete.

Michael writes to inform. He infuses his personal experience from over a decade in the journalism business, and also uses examples from others as well. He doesn’t claim to know everything about the profession, and includes the fact that he is still learning himself, because things change every day. His aim with this book wasn't to give an all-inclusive guide to the art of community journalism, but rather (as it seemed to me) his purpose was to create a handbook that was short and sweet. He doesn’t drag on about a subject until it runs dry, leaving the reader begging for the section to be over. He includes a very organized mix of information and examples to help the reader understand what he is trying to say.

The sections are not very long, which make them easy to reference from day to day, and there is also a very useful table of contents at the beginning. You will be able to find what you are looking for without hassle.
Michael’s writing style in this book seemed informal, which is what this type of book needs. Having too formal of a tone will turn readers away right from the beginning. Instead, he takes a more laid-back approach and doesn’t make his opinions appear as facts. He states that some writers, photographers, designers, etc. have different styles than he does, and he doesn’t put down their techniques.

This book is very informative and encompasses a large range of different things a community writer will have to go through. He doesn’t go into long, hard to read details as I mentioned before. So, I believe this is a must-read for anyone going into the journalism field, or even that is already in the journalism field. It is always nice to have a reference book, and since this book isn’t very long, I would suggest just keeping it in a desk drawer and note the pages that you use often.

I give this book a 5/5 and I hope to see it used in Journalism classes in the future.

Personal note: I prefer the use of the pen tool rather than the lasso to cut out images, but what works for one designer doesn’t always work for another!

To hear more from Michael, visit his website! http://mbcommunityjournalist.wordpress.com/

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