Five pieces of advice for aspiring journalists

I recently came across a few online articles that offered great advice for aspiring journalists. I’ll share five of them with you here:

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!’”

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.

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.”

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

Expertise is recession proof.

It might not be necessary to go to J-School, from famous author (and journalist) Michael Lewis.

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.”

Five things to read: business disaster edition



All these books cover some kind of business or financial disaster. For some reason this is one of my favorite types of book to read. Lots to learn here, not only for business people, but anyone who hopes to recognize disasters before they happen, and maybe get out of the way.


The tale of RJR Nabisco, and how the voracious appetite of Wall Street (and the CEO of Nabisco) brought down a once great company. This is a tale so messy, that in the end, no one walks away the victor.

I love this story because it makes clear how flawed even the smartest people can be. Two nobel prize winning economist were on board a hedge fund that pitched itself to investors as being bulletproof, and the celebrity of not only the economists, but the star traders, blinded people the

Smartest Guys in the Room is one of my favorite books on business disasters. It covers the whole gamut of dysfunction that I see as rampant in the American work place. A shark-tank workplace. Religious-like advocacy of deregulation.

If you have seen the movie, you have gotten the full story. A masterfully crafted narrative that describes in detail how the housing bubble came to be, and how it was discovered. If you are ever wondering how a bubble is created, or what it looks like before it pops, this is a book to read.

Tett, a reporter for the Financial Times, chronicals how a financial innovation that was meant to spread risk around to those who could handle it (an innocent, if not valuable thing to do) turned into what Warren Buffett would call “weapons of mass destruction.”