I find myself struggling to think like a journalist these days. I spent the last dozen or so years NOT being a full-time, grind-it-out reporter. Instead was being a sorta-part-time journalist. But mostly. I was a nag about journalism.
And then today, I came across this post by Washington Post writer Dan Zak. Good stuff, Maynard. If I was going to quote any one paragraph, I’d have to reprint the whole damn thing.
So, instead, I’ll reprint his list of advice for journos:
Always put your name and contact information on the cover of your notebooks.
Stay a little longer. Even just a minute.
If you can go, go. Always go.
Life doesn’t usually conform to narrative, or, at least, a single narrative. Rigorous reporting can reveal arcs and themes and twists and denouements and literary-like symbolism, but in the end life is mostly open-ended, unsatisfying and incomplete. Honor that incompleteness. Respect it.
“It’s the reporting, stupid.” (Someone said this, I don’t know who, but Ann Gerhart had it on a Post-It note on her computer at one point.)
Don’t lose your way. Start to cheat a little, and soon you’ll be cheating a lot.
Every story, no matter how small, is somehow about the meaning of life (this is the Weingarten Corollary).
Say “I don’t understand this; help me understand this” early and often.
Close interviews with “Who else should I talk to?” and/or “What else should I know?” and/or “Is there a question you wish I’d asked that you’ve been waiting to answer?”
Answer every reader e-mail; return their calls, especially.
“HAVE FUN.” “BE FUNNY.” (Also on Post-It notes, spoken I think by Henry Allen and written down by Garreau, who bequeathed the notes to me when he was bought out.)
There is no such thing as objectivity. There is only fairness.
“…you don’t have to be an expert to write expertly about complicated issues.” (Bradlee again)