I recently came across a few online articles that offered great advice for aspiring journalists. I’ll share five of them with you here:
- Top journalists reveal the best reporting advice they have received (Columbia Journalism Review)
Lots and lots of great stuff here. The best is the last piece of advice from Gay Telese:
“Shortly after I became a reporter at The New York Times, at 24, in the autumn of 1956, a venerated old-timer on the staff named Peter Kihss told me one day: ‘Young man, stay off the telephone. Show up in person. No matter how inconvenient it may be, always meet face-to-face with the person or people you’re interviewing. Stay off the phone. Show up. Look people in the eye. Observe everything first-hand. Be there!’ That advice was received more than 60 years ago, and I’ve followed it ever since.
I’m now 85. I am still a working reporter; and although most of my reportorial work these days appears in the form of books or magazine articles, it is always observed first-hand and is storytelling in form, with lots of descriptive scenes and dialogue whenever possible. I sometimes refer to my method as the ‘Art of Hanging Out.’ Once, in order to write a profile about a Chinese female soccer player, I flew to Beijing and spent five weeks researching her story while traveling with her team. On another occasion, I followed a Russian opera singer on tour from Moscow to Buenos Aires to Barcelona and finally to her performance on stage at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. When I was a young reporter, the telephone was the ‘new technology.’ Now, as I watch the new generation of journalists focusing all day on their laptops, and on their smartphones, pursuing stories diligently with their eyes and heads bent downward, I’m tempted to recall the words of the late Peter Kihss. ‘Stay off the phone. Look up. Observe things first hand. Be there!’”
- This is my best advice to young journalists by Ezra Klein (Vox)
One of Klein’s best tips: take opportunity over prestige. Work when you can instead of waiting for the perfect pitch to be picked up by the perfect publication.
- My big break in journalism: top tips from the writers who’ve made it by Jack Ougthon (The Guardian)
I liked this advice here:
“Become an expert in something, or even two things, and you should be able to find a niche, even if it’s a small one. “Spec reps” [specialist reporters] are harder to replace than generalists, and a specialist can get better with age and experience.
Good journalism is when readers feel or even say to themselves: ‘I’m glad I read that.’ The most brilliant story is wasted if nobody gets past the first paragraph. Or, worse, thinks you’ve wasted their time.”
Expertise is recession proof.
- J-School Confidential by Michael Lewis (New Republic)
It might not be necessary to go to J-School, from famous author (and journalist) Michael Lewis.
- Ten pieces of advice for aspiring journalists from Pat Smith by Heather Bryant
Investigative journalist Pat Smith on the sociological realities of being a journalist in the world:
This is not the career for people wanting to be popular. If you want to be popular, open an ice cream store. This is about being fair and accurate and making our communities better.
Reminds me of Janet Malcolm’s opening line of The Journalist and The Murderer: “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.”