In spring 2008 during my final interview for a prestigious post-graduate statehouse reporting internship, I got tripped up.
The impatient and inimitable Pennsylvania state government correspondent Pete Decoursey, a quirky Yale alumnus who passed in 2014, asked me to explain how I would approach my reporting on policy differently than my reporting on politics. I started. He corrected. I restarted. He interrupted. I faltered.
The truth was I didn’t yet grasp his point. He very carefully compartmentalized two kinds of government reporting: the legislating to solve problems and the campaigning to get elected power.
Continue reading The difference between reporting about policy and politics
One effective way to divide the kind of criticism you’ll get for your work is to split the feedback between that which comes from someone who has done the work you’re doing and that which comes from someone else.
It doesn’t necessarily mean one category will always be effective or helpful or productive or not. Those are further distinctions. But when I’m receiving critical feedback — on something I’ve written or presented or shared — often the first check I make is that one.
Continue reading You’re going to get criticized. Learn when to listen.
You get a data set, or a report with facts and figures or some other collection of information structured in some way. How do you make sense of it?
Continue reading 3 questions you should ask when you’re looking at new data for the first time
A version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter several weeks ago. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.
One of the first questions I ask younger reporters when I meet them is which is their first love: the reporting or the writing. Storytelling, as the form is euphemistically categorized, is very old. The ways we report and write, too, have old origins, but their forms adapt with the times. They change constantly. I bet your industry has a similar kind of split, subtly different pathways to the professional work.
Continue reading Journalists: what do you love first, the Reporting or the Writing
If a journalist covers her beat well enough, one of the more frequent challenges she’ll face is negotiating when to report something, if a source is requesting an embargo.
That was one of the main points during a session I helped lead during the annual conference of the National Lesbian Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) about finding and reporting a niche.
Continue reading Great beat reporting results in you negotiating when to break news you already have
What a simple and common reaction: get angry at the one telling you the story.
The true job of news gatherers is to reflect the communities they serve. Media is mirror. We can and should have a responsibility in pushing for a truer understanding and taking responsibility in making those communities better (however we define better) but we still must be representative of those whom we serve.
You are our source material. So you have more to do with our editorial mix than you might realize.
Continue reading Media is a mirror: what you see says more about you than you want to admit
For as important as a skill as we consider source interviewing, we don’t talk much about it as being something that has changed amid so many other changes in journalism and news gathering today.
In my experience working with mostly young reporters, talking about interviewing is very much an after-thought. The assumption is you got some instruction at school somewhere and some experience at college media and then refined elsewhere. But, gosh, looking back, we leave a lot of that to chance.
Continue reading Beat reporters: here are some tips for interviewing efficiently and effectively
Involved people face pretty common time constraints: you want to be present in more places than your calendar allows.
This is true of beat reporters and community organizers and advocates and activists alike. Recently I was talking about just that topic with a friend, and we found ourselves exchanging a few tricks we each had for accomplishing our goals: expanding a network while maintaining relationships with others.
Continue reading Here are a bunch of ways to build a personal network with less time
You might confuse journalism with some reported article or radio report or TV segment. That’s because these are among the most common units that make up the process of deploying journalism.
But when pressed to define journalism, as many do for the trade and the practitioners, it’s important to recognize that even the process of providing news and information to a community might not be goal enough. And there are lots more ways to deploy journalism.
Continue reading Journalism is the process of helping a community near its truth
You won’t find a reporter who questions the importance of accuracy. It’s chief among the journalistic creeds.
Many, too, would understand the importance of relevancy to the craft — choosing to share what fits their publication’s audience and voice (though it takes some savvy to make those decisions consistently).
But what remains still foreign, even controversial, is the idea that reporting should be done with productivity in mind. A journalist should be able to say why they’re pursuing a story: what goals will be reached because of it?
Continue reading Newsrooms: be Accurate, Relevant and Productive