What Roger Ebert Knew About Writing

"If you pay attention to the movies they will tell you what people desire and fear."
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Roger Ebert has died at the age of 70, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. In his memory, we're reposting the piece below, originally published September 22, 2011.

See also: "Roger Ebert, the Enthusiast"


Roger Ebert was making 90 cents an hour when he started working at the Champaign News-Gazette in high school, and that was more than enough. "To be hired as a real writer at a real newspaper was such good fortune that I could scarcely sleep," Ebert remembered in his new memoir Life Itself. His love for writing still remains; you can sense it on each page of Life Itself, as the Pulitzer-winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times tells of growing up in central Illinois, struggling with alcoholism, traveling the world, hanging out with movie stars, and battling the cancer that left him without a lower jaw—unable to speak, eat, or drink ever since 2006.

The book charms and entertains, but it also teaches. Ebert's TV talk shows with Gene Siskel brought him to fame, but some of the most striking passages in Life Itself are where Ebert talks about his first craft: journalism. Below, a few of the lessons Ebert has learned from a lifetime of written words.

Life Itself is on sale now. Image credit: AP

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Spencer Kornhaber is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he edits the Entertainment channel. More

Before coming to The Atlantic, he worked as an editor for AOL's Patch.com and as a staff writer at Village Voice Media's OC Weekly. He has also written for Spin, The AV Club, RollingStone.com, Field & Stream, and The Orange County Register.

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