“The Imperfectionists” – Tom Rachman

I logged on to Amazon one day, to order a book for someone else, and the clever website magicians that track your search terms and purchases had a recommendation for me…a book about a struggling newspaper and the transformation of modern journalism. Having once been on a path to pursuing journalism school and reporting professionally, Amazon could not have been more accurate at tapping into my interests!

“The Imperfectionists” is a book by a reporter/editor (Tom Rachman) who has seen the rise and slow death of the great newspapers through his own career. We are all quite aware of this “death” — as the internet blossomed and exploded into a 24-hour news source, the fate of print journalism began to look grim in the mid 90s (or earlier, perhaps).

Papers have become thinner– filled with Associated Press wire stories versus original reporting, cover to cover advertisements that keep them afloat. To me, it is a sad transition as journalism has always served such an important role in our world–think of its impact on the Watergate scandal, announcing wars, lauding victory in those wars.

Newspapers have grappled with ways to deal with this shift, many now toying with charging subscriptions for access to online content. Greenville is now a test market for Gannett and the community is furious–but do not seem to understand that the paper must make money somehow to survive. “When you can read your news on every other source possible for free, why would you pay to have access to your local paper?”  they ask.

“The Imperfectionists” traces the creation of a first international newspaper, a paper for the world, from its conception as a simple idea to its booming success, to its final days. I promise I am not giving anything away here, you know it’s not going to make it from the first pages. But, Rachman takes on a unique style of writing, devoting each chapter to a member of the staff of the newspaper. He tells of their involvement with the paper and each has a unique tale to tell–they are all intertwined.

It may not sound interesting to someone not interested in the journalism world, but there is love, debauchery, adultery, eccentricity and suspense that keeps the reader involved in the story and curious as to how each life will be affected in the end (and Rachman thankfully does tell you!).

This book was a fun read, it was fascinating, entertaining and of particular interest to me (way to go Amazon!). I would highly recommend it to most anyone but specifically my friends who also enjoy writing and considered working in that field (or who are trudging against the odds to break into it).

PS:  This is Rachmann’s first novel and he is now working on a second one. Pretty impressive for a first book.

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2 thoughts on ““The Imperfectionists” – Tom Rachman

  1. in a digital world where anyone can immediately access a wealth of information for free — twitter, google, personal blogs — it is becoming less far-fetched (or offensive, even) that legitimate, trustworthy, quality and researched journalism is beginning to fall under paid content.

    and a plug for The Greenville News: since the announcement of its paid online content, this paper is really making an all-out, truly thorough effort to bring quality local news (generated by its quality local daily reporters) in both its print and digital content. from the stories in the carousel of its homepage at greenvilleonline.com to the coverage of the city’s/metro area’s news and the focus of the feature stories from its Lifestyle desk, i feel quite confident that there’s actually no better daily, local journalism/news in this area. and this is really trying to look outside my bias, haha. and this is also after complaining about the paid content myself. (also, for anyone considering a subscription to The Greenville News, its “E-edition” is really a terrific digital medium and a pretty darn good alternative to holding the actual printed paper. i know i’m addicted…)

    why i just wrote all of this, i have no idea. other than the fact that i think it will soon become obvious why quality journalism needs/deserves to be paid for online and valued in that sort of way.

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