Laurie Hertzel is books editor at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.
What does your job entail?
We review books three times a week, which is a lot for a regional paper. I also write a weekly column. I write book reviews myself. I also do author profiles. I get about 1,000 books a month in the mail, and I look at every book and make a decision as to whether or not we’re going to review it. It’s a lot of trotting around, and it’s a lot of organizing, but the wonderful part is I have access to so many books. For me that’s just heaven. When I took the job, one of my editors said, “At some point, you’re going to stop looking at these as books, and you’re going to think of them as tonnage.” And I said if that ever happened, I would quit, and it has not happened.
What about a book makes you decide to review it?
I’m looking for a mix so I have something for everyone. I do pay attention to who the author is. If it’s somebody important and noteworthy, we will probably review it. However, it’s very important to me to not just review the books that you probably already know about or will have seen somewhere else. I also look for books where the author is either from here or is coming to town.
Is there a project that you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of?
I wrote a book that came out five years ago called “News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist,” and it was about how I became a journalist and how I kind of fell into newspapers by accident. Then I would say that the pivotal moment for me in my career was when I was working in Duluth, when the newspaper sent me to the Soviet Union to report, and that opened a lot of doors for me.
Who makes a good book editor?
I think somebody like me who is obsessed with books and doesn’t mind working on their own time. You need somebody who is a journalist, really, because a big part of the job is making decisions—news decisions, really. What stories am I going to write? Which writers am I going to profile? [You need] somebody who has a broad taste in reading.
The Star Tribune offers paid newsroom internships for seniors in college who have worked for a college news outlet and have interned with at least one other professional news organization. If this sort of internship sounds appealing but you want to stay closer to home, the Philadelphia Inquirer offers similar internships.
—Sarah Sutherland, ’16