Gene Roberts on How to Learn to Be a Great Reporter

Gene Roberts was honored this week by his home state of North Carolina with an award for public service. The citation:

Gene Roberts is considered the finest newspaper editor of his generation and one of the best journalists of the 20th century. From 1956 at the Goldsboro News-Argus to leadership positions at the Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Times, he held fast to a reporter’s duty to seek truth in all places and at all times. Roberts covered the South during the civil rights era and national unrest during the Vietnam War. He turned the Philadelphia Inquirer into a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper 17 times in 18 years. Along with co-author Hank Klibanoff, he won the Pulitzer Prize for the book, “The Race Beat: The Press, The Civil Rights Struggle and the Awakening of a Nation.”

My Wisconsin Relatives Might Say You Big City Journalists Are the Ones Who Don’t Get It

It snowed in Washington today with some ice on the sidewalks so when I got ready to go outside this morning to pick up the Washington Post I worried about slipping and falling. When I opened the front door, I found that a neighbor dog-walker had picked up the Post that the delivery truck had tossed out on the lawn and put it inside our storm door so I didn’t have to go outside.

The virtue of living in a real neighborhood.

When You Could Really Look Down on the Nation’s Capital

Herman Wouk as a naval officer during World War Two.

Once upon a time, before 9/11 closed the skies above the city, the Washingtonian ran a lot of aerial pictures of Washington—it’s surprising how different a city looks from the air—and also lots of pictures of the homes of important people.

The home photos were part of a regular feature called Map of the Stars. We’d take a picture of a VIP’s home from the sidewalk or street, give readers the general location but not the street address, and include its purchase price and year it was bought, its current value, and its assessed value. The assessed value was a reason to do it other than voyeurism—if a DC politician lived in a house worth $900,000 and the house was assessed at $400,000, it seemed a public service to point that out.

How More Military Veterans in Washington Could Help Make Politics Less Warlike

Dan Crenshaw and Pete Davidson on Saturday Night Live.

At least 16 new members of Congress elected on Tuesday are military veterans. That is out of 150 veterans who ran as candidates. Now, that didn’t used to be so notable. Thirty years ago, half of all members of Congress were military veterans. That number has shrunk, and some observers link that decline to a decline in civil discourse and bipartisan compromise.

—Mary Louise Kelly, NPR’s All Things Considered, November 9, 2018

“But 99 Percent of Our Readers Will Have No Idea What It Means!”

This weekend’s Washington Post Magazine has a moving story about how a small village in the Netherlands continues to honor eight United States airmen whose plane was shot down and crashed there during World War Two. The story is by Richard B. Woodward, a New York  art critic. The lede:

The village of Opijnen (oh-PIE-nin) in the Netherlands is a farming community where grazing sheep, cows and goats outnumber people (population around 1,200), and cars have to move to the side of the narrow roads for tractors coming in the opposite direction. There are no stores and one church, which discreetly tolls the hour. It’s therefore hard to imagine how shocking it must have been 75 years ago when the town’s slow, ancient, chthonic rhythms were surreally interrupted by a thunderous explosion.

Writing Advice: Never Use a Verb Other Than “Said” to Carry Dialogue

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Elmore Leonard

The Washington Post ran a good piece several years ago about Elmore Leonard—the hook was a new volume of four Leonard novels from the 1970s.

Post writer Neely Tucker said that Leonard had solid, if not spectacular, success in the first two decades of writing. “Then, in the winter of 1972, his agent told him to get George V. Higgins’s new book, The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Higgins’s characters were lowlifes and working-class cops, none of whom were the brightest guys you ever met.

Remembering George V. Higgins: If Only He Were Here to Write About Donald Trump

George V. Higgins often came to Washington.

The great journalist and novelist George V. Higgins died on November 6, 1999, a week before he would have turned 60. Here’s an About Editing and Writing post from December 2012 that looked at Higgins the writer and some of his work in Washington.
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Brad Pitt’s movie, Killing Them Softly, is based on the George V. Higgins novel Cogan’s Trade and it’s bringing about another Higgins revival. His pal, Marty Nolan, has a good story about it in the Boston Globe.

Frank Deford’s Advice on Dealing With Writer’s Block

Frank Deford, the late Sports Illustrated writer, once did an interview with John Meroney for the Atlantic. Here’s Deford’s advice on dealing with writer’s block—he’s talking about Mark Kram, who Deford says did “the finest piece of sportswriting ever to appear in Sports Illustrated”:

“…he couldn’t be happy. He worked himself to death, and at a certain point, he started fighting writing—it became his enemy. Once that happened, it was all over. I used to give him advice. I’d say, ‘You know, Mark, you’re like one of those pitchers who can throw a hundred miles an hour, but you have to aim every pitch. Don’t always aim. Sometimes just throw the sonuvabitch.’”

Golfing With Presidents: It’s Different With Donald Trump

The previous post, “Covering a President: ‘The Challenge Is to Be Fair,’ was about journalist James Dodson’s meetings with former President George H.W. Bush. Here’s another Dodson presidential meeting, this time with Donald Trump. The 2017 story by Bill Littlefield, of radio station WBUR, describes what it was like for Dodson, by then mostly a golf writer, to meet President Trump at a Trump golf course in North Carolina. Two excerpts from Littlefield’s good story:

“I knew Trump was very interested in golf,” Dodson says. “I knew he was buying up golf courses. His M.O. was to find a financially distressed property, buy it, keep it in bankruptcy, do a half-a-million-dollar renovation, fire the entire staff and hire a third back.”

Covering a President: “The Challenge Is to Be Fair”

 Final Rounds, a 1996 book written by journalist James Dodson, is the moving story of a son taking his terminally ill father on a last golf trip to Scotland.  As they are waiting to play a round at St. Andrews, the world’s oldest and most famous golf course, former president George H.W. Bush is there ready to tee off with a large crowd watching. As a Washington reporter, Dodson had covered Bush in the 1980s.

“This must be a little strange for you,” my father reflected. “To cross paths with  your old friend Mr. Bush like this.”