Illogic Primer Quotes Clippings Books and Bibliography Paper Trails Links Film

The Top 100 Works of Journalism

Mitchell Stephens and Others, for New York University (Mar 1999).

Sometime, somewhere, some anthropologist must have explored that tribal ritual: the greatest-hits list. These lists date back at least to the seven wonders of the ancient world. They reflect the importance of some area of tribal endeavor — monumental architecture, say, or rock-and-roll. And they establish hierarchies; how better to show your pre-eminence in the pecking order than to rank everyone else? Journalists, trained to make their value judgments in neat pyramid style, most important facts first, could hardly be expected to resist the millennial listing urge. If Modern Library can cause a stir with its list of 100 best novels and the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame can take abuse for its top 500, why shouldn’t journalists share in the fun? ~ Felicity Barringer in the New York Times

  1. John Hersey. “Hiroshima.” 1946
  2. Rachel Carson. “Silent Spring.” 1962
  3. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Watergate investigations
    for the Washington Post. 1972-73
  4. Edward R. Murrow. “This is London . . .”
    radio reports for CBS on the German bombing of London. Also collected in book
    form. 1940
  5. Ida Tarbell. “The History of the Standard Oil
    Company” investigation. 1902-1904 (book 1904)
  6. Lincoln Steffens. “The Shame of the Cities.”
    1902-1904 (book 1904)
  7. John Reed. “Ten Days That Shook the World.”
  8. H.L. Mencken. Coverage of the Scopes “monkey”
    trial. 1925
  9. Ernie Pyle. Reports from Europe and the Pacific during
    World War II. 1940-45
  10. Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly. See It Now
    documentary taking on Senator Joseph McCarthy. 1954
  11. Edward R. Murrow, David Lowe and Fred Friendly.
    CBS Reports documentary “Harvest of Shame.” 1960
  12. Seymour Hersh. Investigation of massacre committed
    by American soldiers at My Lai in Vietnam. 1969
  13. New York Times. Publication of the Pentagon
    Papers. 1971
  14. James Agee and Walker Evans. “Let Us Now Praise
    Famous Men.” 1941
  15. W.E.B. DuBois. “The Souls of Black Folk.”
  16. I.F. Stone. I.F. Stone’s Weekly. 1953-67
  17. Henry Hampton. “Eyes on the Prize.” 1987
  18. Tom Wolfe. “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”
  19. Norman Mailer. “The Armies of the Night.”
  20. Hannah Arendt. “Eichmann in Jerusalem.”
  21. William Shirer. “Berlin Diary: The Journal of
    a Foreign Correspondant, 1939-1941.” 1941
  22. Truman Capote. “In Cold Blood: A True Account
    of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences.” 1965
  23. Joan Didion. “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”
    (collected essays). 1968
  24. Tom Wolfe. “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake
    Streamline Baby.” 1965
  25. Michael Herr. “Dispatches.” 1977
  26. Theodore White. “The Making of the President:
    1960.” 1961
  27. Robert Capa. Ten photographs from D-Day. 1944
  28. J. Anthony Lukas. “Common Ground: A Turbulent
    Decade in the Lives of Three American Families.” 1985
  29. Richard Harding Davis. Coverage of German march into
    Belgium. 1914
  30. Dorothy Thompson. Reports on the rise of Hitler in
    Cosmopolitan and Saturday Evening Post. 1931-34
  31. John Steinbeck. Reports on Okie migrant camp life
    for the San Francisco News. 1936
  32. A.J. Liebling. “The Road Back to Paris.”
  33. Ernest Hemingway. Journalistic reports on the Spanish
    Civil War. 1937-38
  34. Martha Gellhorn. “The Face of War.” 1959
  35. James Baldwin. “The Fire Next Time.” 1963
  36. Joseph Mitchell. “Up in the Old Hotel and Other
    Stories.” 1992
  37. Betty Friedan. “The Feminine Mystique.”
  38. Ralph Nader. “Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In
    Dangers of the American Automobile.” 1965
  39. Herblock. Political cartoons. 1950
  40. James Baldwin. “Letter from the South: Nobody
    Knows My Name.” 1959
  41. Huyn Cong Ut. Photograph of a burning girl running
    from a napalm attack. 1972
  42. Pauline Kael. “Trash, Art, and the Movies.”
  43. Gay Talese. “Fame and Obscurity: Portraits by
    Gay Talese.” 1970
  44. Randy Shilts. Reporting on AIDS. 1981-85
  45. Janet Flanner (Genet). “Paris Journals”
    in The New Yorker. 1944-45
  46. Neil Sheehan. “A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul
    Vann and America in Vietnam.” 1988
  47. A. J. Liebling. “The Wayward Pressman.”
  48. Tom Wolfe. “The Right Stuff.” 1979
  49. Murray Kempton. “America Comes of Middle Age:
    Columns 1950-1962.” 1963
  50. Murray Kempton. “Part of Our Time: Some Ruins
    and Monuments of the Thirties.” 1955
  51. Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele. Philadelphia
    series: “America: What Went Wrong.” 1991
  52. Taylor Branch. “Parting the Waters: America
    in the King Years, 1954-63.” 1988
  53. Harrison Salisbury. Reporting from the Soviet Union
    for the New York Times. 1949-54
  54. John McPhee. “The John McPhee Reader.”
  55. ABC. Live broadcast of Army-McCarthy hearings. 1954
  56. Frederick Wiseman. “Titicut Follies.” 1967
  57. David Remnick. “Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days
    of the Soviet Empire.” 1993
  58. Richard Ben Cramer. “What It Takes: The Way
    to the White House.” 1992
  59. Jonathan Schell. “The Fate of the Earth.”
  60. Russell Baker. “Franks and Beans,” in the
    New York Times. 1975
  61. Homer Bigart. Account in the New York Herald-Tribune
    of being over Japan in a bomber when World War II came to an end. 1945
  62. Ben Hecht. Series of columns: “1001 Afternoons
    in Chicago.” 1922
  63. Walter Cronkite. Documentary on Vietnam. 1968
  64. Walter Lippmann. Early essays for the New Republic.
  65. Margaret Bourke-White. Photographs for Life
    magazine following the defeat of Germany. 1945
  66. Lillian Ross. “Reporting.” 1964
  67. Nicholas Lemann. “The Promised Land.” 1991
  68. Joe Rosenthal. Photograph of Marines raising a U.S.
    flag on Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima. 1945
  69. Hodding Carter, Jr. “Go for Broke,” in
    Carter’s Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, MS). 1945
  70. The New Yorker. The New Yorker
    Book of War Pieces.” 1947
  71. Meyer Berger. Report on killings of Howard Unruh
    in the New York Times. 1949
  72. Norman Mailer. “The Executioner’s Song.”
  73. Robert Capa. Spanish Civil War photos for Life.
  74. Susan Sontag. “Notes on Camp.” 1964
  75. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. “All the President’s
    Men.” 1974
  76. John Hersey. “Here To Stay.” 1963
  77. A.J. Liebling. “The Earl of Louisiana.”
  78. Mike Davis. “City of Quartz: Excavating the
    Future in Los Angeles.” 1990
  79. Melissa Fay Greene. “Praying for Sheetrock.”
  80. J. Anthony Lukas. “The Two Worlds of Linda Fitzpatrick,”
    in the New York Times. 1967
  81. Herbert Bayard Swope. “Klan Exposed.” 1921
  82. William Allen White. “To an Anxious Friend.”
  83. Edward R. Murrow. Report of the liberation of Buchenwald.
  84. Joseph Mitchell. “McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon.”
  85. Lillian Ross. “Picture.” 1952
  86. Earl Brown. Series of articles on race for Harper’s
    and Life magazines. 1942-44
  87. Greil Marcus. “Mystery Train.” 1975
  88. Morley Safer. Report for CBS on atrocities committed
    by American soldiers on the hamlet of Cam Ne in Vietnam. 1965
  89. Ted Poston. Coverage of the “Little Scottsboro”
    trial. 1949
  90. Leon Dash. “Rosa Lee’s Story” in the Washington
  91. Jane Kramer. “The Europeans.” 1988
  92. Eddie Adams and Vo Suu. Photograph of a Saigon execution.
  93. Grantland Rice. “Notre Dame’s ‘Four Horsemen’.”
  94. Jane Kramer. “The Politics of Memory.”
  95. Frank McCourt. “Angela’s Ashes.” 1996
  96. Vincent Sheean. “Personal History.”
  97. W.E.B. DuBois. Columns on race during his tenure
    as editor of The Crisis. 1910-34
  98. Damon Runyon. Crime reporting. 1926
  99. Joe McGinniss. “The Selling of the President
    1968.” 1969
  100. Hunter S. Thompson. “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign
    Trail.” Book. 1973

As selected by Madeleine Blais, Alan Brinkley, David Brinkley, Lydia
Chavez, Karen Durbin, Clay Felker, Jeff Greenfield, Pete Hamill, Mary
McGrory, Nancy Maynard, Eric Newton, Dorothy Rabinowitz, Gene Roberts,
Morley Safer, David Shaw, George Will and Ben Yagoda… And the New
York University Journalism faculty: David Dent, Todd Gitlin, Lamar
Graham, Brooke Kroeger, Susie Linfield, Michael Ludlum, Robert Manoff,
Anne Matthews, Pamela Newkirk, Michael Norman, Richard Petrow, Mary
Quigley, Marcia Rock, Jay Rosen, Stephen Solomon, Mitchell Stephens,
Carol Sternhell, Jane Stone and Ellen Willis. Project director:
Mitchell Stephens. Announced March 1999.