If Robert Caro’s Book Doesn’t Help You Get a Journalism Job, Why Read it?

In email conversation with another magazine editor, who now teaches at a university J school, I mentioned the new Robert Caro book, Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing. The editor-turned-teacher said he admired the book and was now using it in his magazine writing class.

My question:

The Caro book does have good advice on how to write great books and do great journalism. At the Washingtonian, I had two writers who put that kind of work into their stories—the problem was that both were making a good salary ($80,000 or so a year) but they were writing only three or four pieces a year.

Now it must be very hard for a writer to find an editor who can pay real money, enough to justify the kind of reporting and time needed to do Caro-type journalism. So why teach J school kids to be like Caro if it doesn’t help them get a job in journalism?

His answer:

I make the case that the discipline of mind you acquire in learning to put together a long, narrative story will redound to your advantage no matter what you do—journalism, law, business, art.

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