Sometimes I scribble down thoughts on books I’ve read. They’re not reviews, they’re just thoughts.
So my good friend Johannes Koch has written a second book, called Behind the scoop: Why You Should Think and Act Like a Journalist. This in a time when journalism is under constant attack for being biased, fake and many other things that in varying degree are true and relevant.
“We fail to make a clear distinction that sensationalism – what we sometimes refer to as ‘the news’ – isn’t journalism”, writes Koch and makes a clear distinction between what constitutes a scoop and what is just “the news”.
Koch’s book is entirely void of the haughty dismissals of people’s concerns that sometimes characterize the defense of journalism. The crisis of trust that plagues the mainstream media isn’t laid at the feet of people’s stupidity or “alternative media” – instead, Koch goes to the root of the problem – that journalists many times have failed to live up to their standards.
The reason why people attack journalism today is not because they don’t believe in the journalist ethos, it’s because they do believe in it. It is the sense that journalists have strayed from their ideals that move us to criticise them, not the ideals themselves. Therefore, a defense of journalism is not by definition a defense of journalists.
However, to call the book a mere defense of journalism would be to do Koch’s work a huge disservice. It is a book that provides concrete advice on how to find a scoop, how to navigate around confirmation bias and, more broadly, what makes a good journalist. It explains why reach is not a measure of the impact of a scoop and why journalists shouldn’t be shining a light on themselves. Among many other very useful tips. Koch, himself a financial journalist who’s worked for Bloomberg etc, mixes his own personal stories with examples from other journalists that he interviewed. He candidly describes mistakes he’s made that have had bad consequences, and thus shows that humility is not an impediment to being authoritative – on the contrary, it may well be a prerequisite. Because the book is authoritative in the sense that you believe the guy. It’s the real deal.
This book is primarily (although not exclusively) aimed at aspiring journalists. However, in an information landscape that exposes us to thousands of half-truths, truths and lies all jumbled together, we could all do with some journalistic skills. That’s why the book’s relevance goes way beyond those who aim at being journalists themselves; it really is for anyone who is interested in following current events.
This is my over-simplified conclusion of the books’s overall message:
To be a journalist is to be sceptical – even of journalists. That’s why you need to think and act like one.
Or, in Koch’s own words: “Thinking and acting like a journalist is cutting out the irrelevant noise.”
You can get the book on Amazon here: >>Behind the Scoop