What Roger Ebert Knew About Writing

"If you pay attention to the movies they will tell you what people desire and fear."
ebert camera.jpg

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

Presented by

Spencer Kornhaber is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers pop culture and music. He was previously an editor at Patch.com and a staff writer at OC Weekly. He has written for Spin, The AV Club, and RollingStone.com.

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors at a world-class life sciences lab are trying to change the way people think about their health.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Entertainment

Just In