Online Journalism's Challenges

TAMPA, Fla. (March 25, 2010) – The most widely-sold journalism textbook on feature writing is the work of University of South Florida School of Mass Communications Professor Edward Jay Friedlander with co-author, novelist John Lee.


Now in its seventh edition, the book was originally published in 1987 and has been used by more than 250 colleges and universities in the United States. That number includes two dozen large state universities and numerous private universities. The book’s reach extends to dozens of universities in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America and Canada.


Formerly known as "Feature Writing for Newspapers and Magazines: The Pursuit of Excellence," it has been re-titled "Feature Writing: The Pursuit of Excellence,” reflecting upheavals in the field of journalism.


“The changes are so significant that 75 percent of the book was re-worked for this edition,” said Friedlander. “Current trends in online journalism had to be taken into account.”


The book puts the Internet’s impact on writing into perspective and explains how to adjust.


“Most newspaper feature writers now are writing two versions of feature stories, as are some magazine writers,” Friedlander said. “The first and most important version is for online, which requires partitioning the feature into bite-sized chunks and providing many links to even smaller chunks and to original source information. The online story itself is usually broken up into chapters, and supported by audio interviews, video and a gallery of still photographs too extensive to use in print. The print version of the feature story often is smaller, more tightly written, and with references to the online audio and video. All of this means that interviewing and writing take twice as long in the 21st century.”


Excellence as an achievable goal also receives Friedlander’s skillful explication. He offers techniques, tips, examples of excellence, examples of mistakes to avoid and encouragement.


Because of gripes about high textbook prices, Friedlander is sensitive to students’ budget woes and doesn’t use his textbook in any of his courses. But then his students have access to his wisdom directly from the source. Still he considers the book a good investment for students and writers already working in the field.


“Despite a high re-purchase price, used copies are hard to find. That means people are keeping them, and many Pulitzer Prize winners who are teaching tell me they use the book,” he said.



The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.