My Trade - Andrew Marr

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I received this book for Christmas last year. Initially I wondered if this was what the world had come to - the traditional present of socks had been replaced by a book by that bloke off the telly who waves his arms and gesticulates like no-one else.

Surprisingly, my scepticism started to melt as I began to read. I'm not sure how it happened, but after an hour of reading I think my toleration of the book turned into enjoyment. In fact, I was almost sad when I finished reading. So, how did this happen?

Well, first it is evident that Andrew Marr knows his subject - journalism - inside out. Secondly, he clearly put a lot of research and effort into the book (something he does explicitly state). This is a refreshing change as so many books by people you might have heard of are sold on the name alone and contain poorly written content.

The style he uses is excellent for both imparting information, and impressively doing so in an amusing way. He manages to achieve the happy target of both educating you, the reader, without boring you to death - another good feat.

Personal anecdotes throughout bring things to life; and whilst you always knew a lot of stories are made up or built on the most tenuous sniff of a story, it's good to see it confirmed by someone who knows.

Marr takes you through the history of journalism - the first papers, their format and the trends and patterns that have developed over the years. Then comes a chapter on the philosophy of news - what is it?

He then moves on to discuss his expert subject - political journalism and being a newspaper editor. He gives an insight into his editorship of The Independent, and the relations between editors and owners.

Marr then discusses the somewhat different art of broadcast journalism, and contrasts it well with the printed press. Finally, there is a discussion of foreign correspondents, pundits and columnists.

All in all, this is an insightful and witty book, that will teach you a thing or two about the history of journalism, and how modern journalism is done.

Astonishingly, there are few negatives about this book. Perhaps the only aspect that gets a little tiresome is the repeated observations about the intimate connection between newspaper journalism and drinking and smoking in the old days: this is probably observed on a hundred separate occasions!

That is a minor quibble however, and in summary, this book comes highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the news in general, or any aspect of the media.

Once you have read this book, you will forgive him that ostentatious arm waving, appalling one off program educating us on the Euro and that Sunday morning TV show.

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