Gene Roberts on the Best Way to Learn to Be a Good Reporter

There is no perfect way, no wallet-sized guide to great reporting. The newsroom that becomes a shrine to one type of reporting is in danger of keeling over, out of balance. The editor ought to applaud the person who wrote the well-crafted brief as readily as the one who did the definitive nine-part series. Thanks, sure, to the reporter who single-handedly detects the next trend; but hooray, too, to the one who succinctly and accurately reports the news conference. Hosanna to the film critic, but hot damn to the beat reporter.

Gene Roberts Remembers His First Editor: “Make Me See. You Aren’t Making Me See.”

The best reporters, whatever their backgrounds and personalities, share that drive to get to the center of the story and then put the reader on the scene. They do what my first editor was teaching his staff members nearly 30 years ago. His name was Henry Belk, and he was blind.

Henry was editor of the Goldsboro, North Carolina, News-Argus, which then had a circulation of about 9,000. He was tall, 6 foot 7, he walked with an aluminum cane and wore a battered fedora that must have been a relic of the days when he could still see movies like “The Front Page.” Many is the day Henry would have a story read to him, and then call in a member of his staff, often called Roberts, and enjoin: “Make me see. You aren’t making me see.”

Great Biographies: Jack Farrell Picks Eight With Some Help From His Friends

John Aloysius Farrell, an author also known as John A. Farrell or Jack, has written a well-received biography, Richard Nixon: The Life. Promoting that book on NPR, he picked his eight favorite biographies. A former reporter for the Denver Post and Boston Globe, Farrell also has written biographies of Tip O’Neill and Clarence Darrow. His favorites:

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power, by Robert A. Caro

Truman, by David McCullough

The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Hitler: Ascent, 1899-1939, by Volker Ullrich

Gene Weingarten to Washington Post Subscribers: “You Didn’t Hear This From Me…”

The Best Question an Editor Can Ask a Job-Seeking Journalist

You’re 10 minutes into a job interview. You’ve had a bit of small talk and run over the basics of your resume. Then the interviewer leans back and asks a question that begins the dreaded phrase: “Tell me about a time when…” Who knows what will follow? “When you overcame a professional challenge.” “When you managed workplace conflict.” “When you slew a wild unicorn.”

Behavioral questions like these are among hiring managers’ favorite interview tactics. They’re meant to offer unique insight into a potential employee’s personality and how a person might fit into company culture. But according to Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and author of the book Originals, these ubiquitous questions are unfair to job applicants—and ineffective to boot.

Editing 101: What to Do When the Writer Tries to Gross Out the Reader

Tom Boswell, the great Washington Post sports columnist, greeted Washington Nationals baseball fans this morning, 12 hours after an exciting win over the Chicago Cubs, with a column about the Nats improved relief pitching: “When the Nationals’ bullpen door opened Sunday at Wrigley Field, the accustomed assortment of ghouls, goblins, zombies and floating gobs of ectoplasm that Washington baseball fans have come to regard as normal this season did not appear.”

He went on to describe the Nats bullpen before the recent acquisition of three relievers: “The psychomagnotheric slime that has infected the worst-on-earth Nats bullpen all season, slathering everybody with icky late-inning nightmares, appears to have been sent back to another dimension.”

Jeff Bezos Plays the Long Game—and It’s What Journalism Now Needs

Gannett opened this Washington area headquarters in 2001 and sold it in 2015.

Look at Amazon—Jeff Bezos still plays the long game 20 years after the IPO. The reason he can do that is that he was clear from day one about how he planned to manage the company. His letter to shareholders that first year had a “buckle-up” message: We’re going for revenue growth and customer happiness, not near-term profits. I’m sure it pushed away a certain class of investors, but it said to everyone working at Amazon that short-term thinking wouldn’t be rewarded.

The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, and Amazon: Together How High Can They Fly?

 While Washington Post reporters continue to protest that Amazon doesn’t own their newspaper—Jeff Bezos owns it!— the combination of Bezos, the Post, and Amazon is looking unstoppable.

Background from the New York Times:

As a private company since 2013, when the deep-pocketed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought it for $250 million, The Post doesn’t disclose much financial data. But by all visible measures, including the vital but hard-to-measure buzz factor, the resurrection of The Post, both editorially and financially, in less than four years has been little short of astonishing.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon, and the Washington Post: Despite What Some Say They’re Living Together

I recently took issue with Paul Farhi, the Washington Post’s media writer, who tweeted that, despite President Trump’s attempts to link Amazon with the Washington Post, “Amazon doesn’t own the Washington Post.”

Several days later Post senior editor Marc Fisher tweeted a reminder that “…and no, Amazon doesn’t own The Washington Post.”

Okay, Bezos owns the Washington Post and he effectively owns Amazon but legally Amazon doesn’t own the Post. I described Farhi’s tweet as lame and disingenuous, wondering why the Post is trying so hard to distance itself from Amazon when the connection is so obvious.

Digital Journalism 101: Get the Story Out Fast, Then Do the Follow-Up Reporting

Here’s an instructive example of a catchup story that is designed to make up for poor journalism without actually admitting it.

Over the weekend, you may have read that 755 U.S. diplomats were being expelled from Russia. Turns out that the 755 will be all or almost all Russian citizens who work in clerical or support jobs at the U.S. mission outposts. But that’s not the way many outlets reported it. (Not trying to single out Reuters here.)