SSoP Podcast Episode 27 — Newsroom: From Clacking Typewriters to Viral Video

SSoP Podcast Episode 27 — Newsroom: From Clacking Typewriters to Viral Video

Monday, 6 September, 2021

The word newsroom can conjure images of jaded reporters tapping away at typewriters and harried producers coddling the on-air talent just before showtime. But here in the 21st century, the newsroom is everywhere with citizen journalists and their pesky, ubiquitous mobiles.

A newsroom is a messy and exhilarating combination of camaraderie and rivalry. The deadlines are constant, and the work is high-stakes. That forms powerful bonds between people, but there’s also competition among colleagues to pursue the hot stories. That means a newsroom — whether it’s a print daily, a website, a mobile unit, or a TV studio — is a dramatic setting for stories, both fictional and factual. And journalists, reporters, newscasters, videographers, and photographers make very compelling protagonists.

Journalists can be nosy in a way that a regular person can’t. They have access to the famous and powerful — and they don’t need to worry about pesky things like chain of evidence or right to an attorney. They can also be symbols of integrity, fighting for the little guy or exposing corruption when officials can’t. Or won’t.

In this episode, we look at the history of news reporting and how it’s changed through time, including well-known figures like William Randolph Hearst, Joseph Pulitzer, Nellie Bly, and Ronan Farrow. Then we recommend five books that go behind-the-scenes of journalism, including two gripping nonfiction works, a novel about a real-life underground newspaper, a thriller set in cable news, and a swashbuckling tale of 19th-century girl reporters.


Read the full transcript of Episode 27: Newsroom.

The Ventriloquists

buy | read review

Catch and Kill

buy | read review

Necessary People

buy | read review

Merchants of Truth

buy | read review

Eighty Days

buy | read review

Eighty Days

buy | read review

other books we mentioned


other cool stuff we talked about

  • Hey! Remember that time Mel was on Good Morning America to talk about the Texas Rollergirls?!

two truths and a lie

  • Wait, what?! Alexander Hamilton founded The New York Post. And his creation of the paper —and the US Coast Guard — are name-dropped in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical. Read all about it.

  • That time that Günter Schabowski accidentally opened up travel across the Iron Curtain and brought on the the fall of the Berlin Wall…

  • This sounds like a tabloid story, but it’s true: King George V, grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II, was euthanized by his doctor — with morphine and cocaine — so his death would make the deadline of the morning papers, rather than ‘less appropriate… evening journals.’ Read all about it.
  • As we learned in The Ventriloquists, the Faux Soir was a real spoof newspaper published in occuped Belgium on 09 November 1943. It was produced by the Front de l’Indépendance, part of the Belgian Resistance, in a satirical style that ridiculed German propaganda. It embodied zwanze, the characteristic folk humour of Brussels and became an enduring symbol of the Resistance. You can get more details about the paper here; all of the newspaper text references in the novel are from the real deal.

the front page of le faux soir

  • You can see photos of the real-life people on whom the book’s characters are based at author E.R. Ramzipoor’s website.

  • A Belgian comic film about Le Faux Soir called Un Soir de Joie was released in 1955. The movie includes extensive footage of Brussels in the 1950s, where it was filmed on location. The entire movie is available online in French — and here’s a clip so you can get the gist:

  • Jill Abramson discusses her book Merchants of Truth — and you might also enjoy this interview with Rolling Stone that addresses the controversy surrounding her book.
  • Reading Ronan Farrow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Catch and Kill can be enhanced by listening to The Catch and Kill Podcast with Ronan Farrow; it includes his personal experiences along with interviews from his investigation. It’s also been adapted into an HBO docuseries:
  • Nellie Bly was a firecracker and pioneer for investigative journalism and women reporters. She has stolen Mel’s whole heart.
  • Eighty Days is the thrilling story of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland racing around the world.
black and white photos of nellie bly and elizabeth bisland in their traveling clothes
Nellie Bly (L) and Elizabeth Bisland in their traveling clothes.
  • Here’s a map of Nellie’s route; Elizabeth followed the same route but in the opposite direction.
map of nellie bly's route around the world
Nellie Bly's route around the world in 1889.
  • Nellie (in)famously went undercover to expose the abuses at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. Her experiences were documented in a series of articles and then a book called Ten Days in a Madhouse. Here’s a video from The Atlantic that explores how 23-year-old Nellie changed journalism.
  • There’s also a Lifetime movie about Nellie’s escapades, starring Christina Ricci.
  • We can’t get enough of these lady reporters with moxie. If you’re feeling that, too, LitHub has an excerpt from the book Sensational: The Hidden History of America’s ‘Girl Stunt Reporters.’


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