At a newspaper I probably would have had the benefit of an editor who would know a lot about education issues, who would talk deeply with me about content and language, who would challenge me in ways that surely would have improved my thinking. I would have had hundreds of thousands of potential readers, the barrier to entry being thirty-five cents and not twenty-five dollars. But I would have had to omit all those snarky cracks, which I imagine would have made it a far less engaging read, and far less fun to write.

I suppose newspapers could permit reporters to engage in more sarcasm, be looser with the rules, take up more space. Then fewer reporters would feel the need to leave, temporarily or permanently, to write books. I don’t think that’s the right way to go, though. The standards that would have made it impossible to write Tested at the Post, the dignity that comes with the territory, are a huge reason journalists are proud to work there, and why they can be trusted in the looser world of book publishing. They don’t leave that discipline behind in the newsroom. Carried away, blended with some freedom, it can make for some pretty good books.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.


Linda Perlstein is a former Washington Post staff writer and the author of Not Much Just ChillinÕ: The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers and Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade.