5 Nonfiction Books About Journalism Every American Should Read

In his famous letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson wrote that "the only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted, when permitted freely to be expressed." Nearly 200 years later, and the fact remains: a free press is essential to democracy, which is why every American should read these essential nonfiction books about journalism.

It is no secret that free press is under attack in the United States. Since his inauguration in 2017, Donald Trump has waged war on the press, calling stories he doesn't agree with, or simply doesn't like, "fake news." He has even started calling journalists and the organizations they work for the "enemy of the people." His disturbing anti-press rhetoric is, as New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger recently said in a statement, “not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.” It also seems to be spreading.

All across the country, Trump supporters are echoing his negative sentiments about the press as distrust in the media seems to be growing. But despite the president's constant attacks, and despite the chants and heckling the media endures at his rallies, journalists all over the country are working tirelessly every day to present the American people with the stories they need to know about. From the Harvey Weinstein abuse revelations that were reported back in 2017 to the disturbing truth about the immigrant children detention camps that are dominating headlines right now, the media continues to shed a vital light on the darkest parts of our nation, especially when the White House will not.

If you want to learn more about the press and the essential role it plays in democracy, check out these five nonfiction books about journalism every American should be required to read.

'The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation' by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff

Amazon

In this informative and inspiring book about the Civil Rights Movement, readers will learn just how important and influential news stories, editorials, and photos shared by the free press can be in shaping the course of history.

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'The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media' by Brooke Gladstone

Amazon

In this illustrated guide to the news and those who report it from NPR’s On the Media’s incomparable Brooke Gladstone is two millennia worth of captivating media history. The purpose: to help readers become savvy consumers of the news, a skill every American could benefit from, now more than ever.

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'Taking on the Trust: How Ida Tarbell Brought Down John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil' by Steve Weinberg

Amazon

If you’ve ever doubted journalists ability to change the world, this is the book for you. A dual biography of John D. Rockefeller and Ida M. Tarbell, the reporter who exposed corruption and eventually helped take down Standard Oil, Taking on the Trust is an well-researched, well-crafted story of the power of the free press and those who work tirelessly to keep it alive.

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'Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nation's Journalism' by Christopher B. Daly

Amazon

A highly accessible academic book, Covering America is an engaging narrative history of journalism in the United States. This guide will help curious readers not only understand the many transitions the American press has endured, but appreciate each one.

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'Indelible Ink: The Trials of John Peter Zenger and the Birth of Americas Free Press' by Richard Kluger

Amazon

If you’ve ever wondered how America became the first country to legalize free press and free speech, this absorbing story from before the birth of the nation is a good place to start. It starts in 1733, when a small newspaper in New York printed a series of scathing articles about the new British governor who in turn used his position of power to punish the publication. Backed secretly by New York Supreme Court Chief Justice Lewis Morris and famed attorney James Alexander, the paper and its publisher became the center of one of the most important court proceedings in colonial U.S. history, one that marked the very beginning of a free and open press.

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