Reviews come in slowly for an academic book. Learned journals have leisurely publication schedules, and reviewers often have to wait until summer to do their reading. But now we have some for my memoir, whose primary audience is journalism historians.
My favorite is Paul Steinle’s one-paragraph comment on Amazon.com. I met Paul once, when he and Sara Brown dropped by for a 2010 interview in my living room. Their project is called, “Who Needs Newspapers?”
Here’s what he said:
Phil Meyer’s story is an unvarnished journey of growing up amid “The Silent Generation” and trying to give it a kick in the pants. His journey through journalism reflects the changes this profession has encountered and how he worked to identify the newspaper industry’s weaknesses and warn it about where it was going awry. This is an honest telling of the best and worst of the history of this business over his lifetime and a clear tale about one man’s life in a profession he clearly loves. It’s essential reading for journalists and those who care about this vital service industry.
The basic journal for journalism educators is Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly. Its book review editor, Edward Pease of Utah State University, assigned my memoir to himself. His review from the December 2012 issue is online but behind a paywall for all but subscribers. However, the fair use doctrine allows me to quote a brief excerpt. So here’s the nut graph:
Meyer’s Paper Route, like himself, is low key and self-deprecating. But this is a lot more than a memoir; it traces an extraordinary career of a man whose early journalistic hero was Clark Kent, a thoughtful guy who is still out ahead of most of us, who developed a superpower that has the potential, at least, to change the way journalism is done, if only we’d use it.
Donna Lampkin Stephens, University of Central Arkansas, reviewed the book for American Journalism, the publication of the American Journalism Historian’s Association. Her conclusion:
And, nearly fifty years since Meyer’s Nieman year, journalism continues to evolve. Today’s practitioners would do well to keep in mind his willingness to go beyond the status quo, to dig deeper, to look at the business in new and different ways. As he recalled, he learned his superpower—the scientific method—at Harvard and applied it to newspaper reporting. There are other such powers out there. Who will find them, and how can they be used for the good of journalism?
As far as I know, only one newspaper has reviewed Paper Route. But it’s the most important one, the paper that I threw from a bicycle in my first newspaper job: The Clay Center Dispatch. Because the Dispatch has not as of this writing put up a pay wall, I can give you access to the full review by Elby Adamson, contributing writer. I had a teacher named Adamson. I wonder if they are related?