To escape the painful reality of the pandemic, I read a lot of novels in 2020 –including one about a pandemic.

It was a bad year for many things, but it was a good year for reading. I finished 19 books — 10 nonfiction and nine fiction. They ranged from a sand-in-your-toes beach book called Hello Summer (one character was based on a Florida congressman I used to write about) to serious books about politics and the media.

My favorite was Anxious People, a wonderful Swedish novel about a failed bank robbery. I loved it because it has twists and…

I read 10 novels and eight non-fiction books in 2019. The novels were my favorites because they gave me a nice escape from the madness of real life. But I also enjoyed the non-fiction and learned a lot from everything I read.

My favorite: I loved “Fleishman Is In Trouble” by Tiffany Brodesser-Akner. It made me laugh out loud and then morphed into a thoughtful tale of marriage and ambition and parenthood. It’s one of those novels that immerses you so much that you feel like you’re living with the characters. …

Last week, I visited one of the coolest record stores in the world, Amoeba Music in San Francisco.

Amoeba — there are three locations: San Francisco, Berkeley and Hollywood — usually ranks at or near the top in lists of the best record stores in the world. It’s easy to see why. The place is huge and inviting. There are aisles and aisles of albums, CDs and DVDs, plus a great selection of concert posters.

At Amoeba, music is still a wonderful tactile experience. You can flip through the records and enjoy the full-size cover art. Plus, the store plays…

My speech at the Warren Wilson College commencement, Asheville, N.C., May 11, 2019

Thank you, President Morton, members of the board of trustees, graduates from the class of 2019, and members of the Warren Wilson family.

It’s a wonderful honor to be here today. I want to start by saying congratulations to the Class of 2019 — and congratulations to the families for sharing in this wonderful accomplishment. Graduates, you have worked hard at Research Methods and NSURs, and your families have dutifully sent you money and provided you with credit cards …. …

My closing remarks to students and alumni at 36 Hours at Duke, Feb. 10, 2019

I fell in love with journalism because of a movie, a tragedy and because I always listened to my mother.

I wish I had a suit like this.

The movie was “All the President’s Men,” which came out in the spring of the year I was in eighth grade. It was an awesome movie — it’s one of AFI’s best movies and you should totally see it if you haven’t. I’ve seen it about 80 times.

It showed how important journalism could be — and how dashing reporters could look in brown corduroy…

I always feel inadequate when I read the lists of the best books of the year. Even if they include a book I read during the year, it may not be one that I actually finished.

The truth is that I start more books than I finish. I’ll get bored or decide the book hasn’t lived up to billing. Or I’ll put it aside because something better will come along. Or I’ll need to read something else for a class I’m teaching.

The books I didn’t finish, with actual bookmarks in the actual places where I stopped reading.

To celebrate my unfortunate habit, here is my 2018 list of books that I didn’t finish.

These Truths…

PJMS 391 — Fall 2018

This is the syllabus for a new course I’m teaching at Duke this fall. The students’ news stories will be posted on a website that will go live in mid-September.


National reporting has the glamour, but local news often matters more. It’s about property taxes and zoning and crime in your neighborhood. It’s about the City Council and the County Commission and the City-County Committee on Confederate Monuments and Memorials.

It is the two-car collision and the three-alarm fire; the burglary around the corner and the power outage down the street. …

Has anyone seen the English muffins?

They used to be in aisle 5 in my local Target. But they got moved this summer as part of a big remodeling. The aisle where I used to find them is now called “W5.” The sign says it is home to Global Foods and Boxed Dinners.

The uprooting of my beloved English muffins and thousands of other products shows the big retailer doesn’t understand that a store remodeling is a major disruption for its customers. …

My First Amendment Day speech at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sept. 26, 2017.

It’s a real honor to be here on First Amendment Day. The First Amendment is actually my favorite amendment, so I’m happy to talk about its important role in American journalism. My second-favorite is the 21st Amendment, which has been nearly as important to journalism as the First.

It’s nice to be on this end of Tobacco Road and see the unusual shade of blue you wear. I’ve noticed something else: people in Chapel Hill use an odd spelling of “dook.” …

Our Amazon Echo Show sits on the kitchen counter flashing a mix of user tips (“Try ‘Alexa, tell me a Star Trek joke’ ”) and click-baity headlines (“Golden Retriever Gives Birth to Green Puppy.”).

The Show offers the familiar audio features of its audio siblings, but its real value is the screen. With a simple voice command, it can play YouTube videos and even movies and TV shows (“Alexa, play Season 1, Episode 3 of The Wire.”)

Reviewers have focused on the many things the Show can do. But they’ve missed the great new potential while the device is idle…

Bill Adair

Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University; creator of PolitiFact; Blue Devil of the Week, March 7–15, 2016.

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