That First and Best Piece of Advice

By Jack Limpert

At the National Press Club last night there was a celebration of the career of Wes Pippert, who has retired as director of the Washington Program of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Wes was with UPI for 28 years, starting out in the Dakotas and moving on to cover Congress, the White House, and three presidential campaigns—he also was UPI’s key reporter on the Watergate story. His final UPI assignment was as senior Middle East correspondent based in Jerusalem. In 1989 he took over as director of the Washington Program for the Missouri J school, helping thousands of students better understand journalism and Washington.

When I left law school in 1960, I got a job in the Minneapolis bureau of UPI even though I had no journalism experience. I did know some journalists, including several from UPI, after working my way through the University of Wisconsin as a bartender. Wes was out in the Bismarck and Pierre bureaus, covering the statehouses in North and South Dakota. He was a little famous in UPI back then—besides being a top reporter, he was a lay minister who preached at churches throughout the Dakotas on Sundays.

As it happens at these Press Club events, some of us got talking about those early days at UPI, when we competed hard and successfully against the AP. On my first day in the Minneapolis bureau, I arrived at 5:45 a.m. and was told that I was to file 20 minutes of news every hour to radio and TV stations in Minnesota and the Dakotas. The first piece of advice from UPI bureau chief Clyde Donaldson: “Whatever you do, don’t f— up the livestock report.”

Good advice: Find out what’s really important to your readers and don’t screw it up.

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