When Peter Arnett Went From News Writing to Feature Writing: “You’re Typing Too Fast”

Paul Stevens edits  Connecting, a daily email for current and former Associated Press staffers and news industry friends; he asked Peter Arnett, the prize-winning AP reporter, to write about his life as a retired journalist and his new book, We’re Taking Fire: A Reporter’s View of the Vietnam War, Tet, and the Fall of LBJ. 
Paul Stevens asked me to write something about what I’m doing these days, and the short answer to the question of how I live in my 83rdyear is that I start each morning in southern California with my dietary supplements and statins, eat my cereal doused in fat-free flax milk, read the Los Angeles Times which still has a paper version tossed on to my driveway each morning, walk along one of the neighboring beaches for an hour or so before returning home to a large glass of Napa Valley wine that helps me get through another evening of obsessing about how the Trump Administration seems intent on destroying the America where my family and I have lived for most of the past 50 years.
Yes, Paul might say, so are lots of other people your age who think as you do, but what else do you do? Well, the opportunity to make a professional difference ended for me in 2006 when I reluctantly sent my last email from Baghdad where I had spent the previous three years. I handed off my Kevlar helmet and body armor to my Iraqi assistant and took my last nerve-wracking ride to the airport. My active journalism days were over. Nothing could equal the adrenalin-pumping reporting life that a series of employers including the AP had supported over the previous fifty years.
Jumping ahead, Arnett writes about his life after the 1973 peace treaty was signed with North Vietnam and Wes Gallagher, head of the AP, brought him back to its New York headquarters to write features.

Gallagher assigned me to “the poet’s corner” at 50 Rock, where among the talented team were AP legends Saul Pett and Hugh Mulligan. My first story was an in-depth look at the magazine industry. My research assembled, I sat down to write the story.

After an hour or so I felt a light tap on my shoulder. It was the chief poet Saul Pett. “Peter,” he said sternly, “You’re typing too fast.”

He was right. The poet’s corner produced well-considered articles worthy of those appearing in major magazines. Saul eventually won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for his patient work. My inspiration came from action journalism.

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