Adventures of an Accidental Journalist

Local journalist, Laurie Hertzel, has written an entertaining book about what it’s like to be a journalist–whether you wanted to be one or not! Her new book, News to Me, published by the University of Minnesota Press is a recounting of her backward entry into the fast-paced world of newspapers.

Although she hasn’t specifically covered crime or courtroom beats that I usually write about, if you’re interested in what it’s like to work for a newspaper, read her book.

What’s particularly charming about the book is that Ms. Hertzel is just like the rest of us–she never went to journalism school, is basically shy by her own admission, never wanted to be a reporter, and yet managed to succeed very well. When her newspaper sends her on assignment to the Soviet Union–before it was as open as it is now–you envy her opportunity but realize she’s still the “accidental journalist” that many of us wish we could be.

For those of you interested in the nuts and bolts of how a major newspaper works to put out their product everyday, Ms. Hertzel takes you from the writing desks, copy desks, and down into the printing rooms where some of the most skilled people labor late into the night to produce the morning paper. She takes you on this tour with humor and respect for all the jobs involved, not only the glamorous ones. Her writing makes mundane work sound interesting and fun.

It’s also a book of loss–the lost era of print journalism before the Internet. Her recounting of scenes of the fedora-wearing men, the cigarette smoke clouding the air, the clattering of wire service machines, and the odd hours all seem tinged in sepia tones around the edges like old photos that are turning brown from age. In spite of that, she’s not critical about the changes occurring in print media. In fact, she points out that newspapers have always been faced with change and have adapted skillfully. Something that will comfort us news paper-loving fans.

I’d recommend the book to you. Meet some of the characters she reported on and the ones she worked with also.

Sometimes, the details became too much for me. For instance, the names of people who worked with her and positions they occupied slowed the book down. However, these details helped to make the scenes come alive.

Still, I liked the book and think you’ll enjoy the “Linda Ellerbee” of the north!

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About Colin Nelson

Colin T. Nelson worked for 40 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. He tried everything from speeding tickets to first degree murder. His writing about the courtroom and the legal system give the reader a "back door" view of what goes on, what's funny, and what's a good story. He has also traveled extensively and includes those locations in his mysteries. Some are set in Southeast Asia, Ecuador,Peru, and South Africa. Readers get a suspenseful tale while learning about new places on the planet. Colin is married, has two adult children, and plays the saxophone in various bands.

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