Why are we meeting at this Web site? Because you’ve felt the most important tremor in the business: You’re not as good as you want to be.
Brothers and sisters, I know the feeling. I wake up every day with it, have for more than 30 years in the business. There are so many stories you want to do, so many things you want to say, so many truths just eluding your grasp, your vocabulary, your range.
The narrowing of that gap is the reason I created this site. Each entry in the Archives represents an attempt to take you inside a successful story and show you the structure of that success–what choices the writer made about what to use and what to throw away. In some cases I’ve interviewed the writer to give you a more intimate sense of the challenges he or she faced. If you incorporate these lessons into your own skills and your own dedication, you will narrow that gap between the reporter or editor you are, and the one you want to be.
This is a lonely struggle; you’re going to have to be your own hero. Our business, so often run these days to please Wall Street, spends minimal bucks on professional development; your newspaper doesn’t take much responsibility for whether you get better. But even if it did, you’d face another problem: Every story is different.
You can’t find a formula–in a book, in a colleague’s success, in a mentor’s advice–that is going to be of much direct help. Our craft requires us to operate like high-level mathematicians who find they must develop a new equation to solve each new problem. You have to develop your own style of conceptualizing, organizing and writing, forged by your own idiosyncrasies and talent and values. There’s no one to pattern yourself after.
There’s just you–and that aching vision of an increasingly better you. This site will offer no Great Truths. It will concern itself, instead, with the incremental building blocks of greatness–the success or failure of individual stories, and the small decisions that, when multiplied by eight or ten or a hundred per day, create the momentum toward greatness.
Helping you is my calling. Getting there is your job.