January Book Club Recap

Ida Tarbell, as shown in the frontispiece of All in the Day's Work

For January the News Nerd Book Club read Ida Tarbell's autobiography, All in the Day's Work.

Tarbell details her growth from a child in the oil-rich lands of 1850s western Pennsylvania to the muckraker known for her investigations of Standard Oil. Her words take us to Poland Seminary of Poland, Ohio; The Chautauquan in Chautauqua, New York; the streets of 1890s Paris where she researched Madame Roland and wrote for McClure's Magazine. She wrote a series on Bonaparte, then one on Abraham Lincoln, then another on Standard Oil and John D. Rockefeller.

Some of what we discussed:

  • Is true objectivity possible in journalism? Tarbell grew up affected by the oil industry, and targeted its illegal practices, but didn't align herself with the muckrackers of the era and tried to find a balance between different sides of the story.
  • The French citizens Tarbell encountered weren't concerned with life outside the borders of France. Are there are modern parallels?
  • Expatriate writers were in such demand that Tarbell funded her time in Paris with articles for American publishers. Are Americans today actually interested in other countries' events beyond just the story of the moment?
  • Her dedication to her work amazed us. She was truant in grade school until she discovered that schoolwork was a puzzle to be solved.
  • Are all journalists driven by an intense curiosity from childhood? Tarbell's story is but one example. If you interviewed every investigative journalist, would you find that the topics of their investigations were related to their childhood experiences?
  • Tarbell's greatest stories were serialized over months or years in magazines. Is Serial a sign that this format of publishing will return?

Next month!

Our book club hangout next month will be Wednesday, February 11, at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

Help us select the book for February's hangout by filling out this quick survey.

The three titles under consideration are:

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

The Design of Everyday Things is even more relevant today than it was when first published.
– Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO

Responsive Web Design, second edition by Ethan Marcotte

Day by day, the number of devices, platforms, and browsers that need to work with your site grows. Ethan’s straightforward approach to designing for this complexity represents a fundamental shift in how we’ll build websites for the decade to come.
– Jeffrey Veen, CEO and cofounder of Typekit, VP of Products at Adobe

In the Beginning... Was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson

In the Beginning was the Command Line is now badly obsolete and probably needs a thorough revision. For the last couple of years I have been a Mac OS X user almost exclusively.
– Neal Stephenson, in a 2003 post on his website and a 2004 Slashdot interview

You can also add suggestions to our book club reading list or tweet them to us @newsnerdbooks.

Ida Tarbell on pie:

Of the Monthly I have more distinct recollections. It was in these that I first began to read freely. Many a private picnic did I have with the Monthly under the thorn bushes on the hillside above Oil Creek, a lunch basket at my side. There are still in the family storeroom copies of Harper's Monthly stained with lemon pie dropped when I was too deep into a story to be careful.

Join Us For The December News Nerd Book Club Hangout

Naked StatisticsThanks to everyone who came to our hangout last week and to everyone who responded to our survey to pick the next book for our News Nerd Book Club!

The book for the December meeting will be Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan.

The December meeting will again be held via Google Hangout on Wednesday, December 10, at 1pm ET (we're going to stick to 1pm ET on the second Wednesday of the month from now on unless we're meeting in person at a conference).

The invite and link to RSVP is here (and here's the direct link to the hangout for quick reference).

Just a reminder that you can suggest future books you'd like to read over on our reading list hackpad.

Hope to see you on December 10. Happy reading!

Come Learn With Us! Announcing The News Nerd Book Club

On Web TypographyINN encourages you to Always Be Learning.

To make sure we’re being responsible and accountable professional news nerds, today we're announcing a new monthly book club.

What we’re proposing is pretty simple — let’s read a book each month and then get together to talk about it.

We'll likely focus on books about design, development, team workflow and dynamics (especially remote/distributed teams), but we’re open to suggestions for other topics (we have a hackpad here to collect future book suggestions).

Since we also value learning and building in public we also want to open the book club up to anyone who wants to participate, not just our team and not just INN members. We’re hoping this will also be a way to get to know other people interested in or doing the kind of work we do.

Since we're a remote team we'll likely meet via Google Hangout, at least initially (although if we happen to be in the same city we may meet in person and let others join via hangout).

For September, the first book we'll read will be "On Web Typography" by Jason Santa Maria. You can find out more about the book and purchase it here.

Our team is planning to be in Chicago for the Online News Association Conference (Sept. 25-27) so we're having our first meeting in real life there on Thursday, September 25 at 5:30 CT a short walk from the conference at Dollop Coffee and Tea (345 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611). We'll also work out a way for people to join virtually and will send out details closer to the date.

Please RSVP if you plan to attend so we have a rough count.

As part of that meeting we also plan to have a book exchange so if you're going to be at ONA and have old books sitting around you'd like to swap, plan to bring them along.

Get updates by following @newsnerdbooks on Twitter and we hope to see you in Chicago!