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To be a successful reporter
The best reporters I know are bright, persistent, honest, personable, curious and courageous. If you asked them to explain their success, this is what they might say:

1. A good reporter is a generalist, able to deal with a number of  topics and talk with a variety of people. He or she can see the unusual, the ironic, in the everyday. She can think through all the possibilities and organize a large amount of information to find the important parts.

2. A good reporter is quick. Once he is assigned a story, he goes after it. He makes the calls and keeps trying if he doesn't make contact. He remembers the sign that once hung in the Los Angeles Times newsroom: GOYA/KOD. Get off your ass/knock on doors.

3. A good reporter is curious. He or she takes pleasure in the new, and in the old, in the history or precedent that got us where
we are. He enjoys reading and appreciates the details.

4. A good reporter is pleasant. She adopts a friendly nature with those she meets. She is a grateful guest, with a belief in the basic goodness of people. She conveys to those she meets that she is tolerant of them and their ideas, even though she does not like them or what they stand for. She subordinates her ego and is a good listener.

5. A good reporter is honest. He seeks the truth and acts independently. He does what he says he's going to do, and doesn't do something he promised to avoid. He returns his calls, and he's willing to say no. He's obsessed with accuracy and double checks his facts with call-backs. He sees both sides to every issue. He doesn't treat people as a means to an end.

6. The good reporter is courageous. She approaches strangers. She takes pleasure in being good, in being first. She develops a skin to deflect the inevitable criticism. She is willing to make a mistake and willing to write something that may hurt someone. She has a capacity for tempered outrage.

7. As Jon Franklin, reporter, author and teacher, said: "Back when I first started, I thought intelligence was the most important attribute a reporter could have. I have since changed my mind. You do have to be intelligent, but the big thing is courage. Courage to open your mind and let the whole damned confusing world in. Courage to always be the ignorant one, on somebody else's turf. Courage to stand corrected. Courage to take criticism. Courage to grow with your experiences. Courage to accept what you don't understand. Most of all, courage to see what is there and not what you want to think is there."


Successful reporters are:
  • Smart
  • Quick
  • Curious
  • Pleasant
  • Honest
  • Courageous
  • Prewriting
    To be a successful reporter
    The nature of news
    The art of interviewing—part 1
    The art of interviewing—part 2
    Harvesting the news
    The human touch

    A Web site created by Jim Hall for beginning reporters, those studying the craft and their teachers.