The best advice I've been given...
...wasn't actually meant for me. It was part of a story told over my second mug of a Bell's Two Hearted beer at Roscoe's Pioneer Bar, a baseball's throw away from the newsroom's front doors. Sitting across from me, also on his second Two Hearted was Brooks Johnson, an investigative reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He was regaling for me tales of his younger years as a reporter, bathing in the nostalgia that comes with reminiscing about the days when a journalist develops, evolves and discovers the kind of writer he wants to be. He was describing what his editor said to him after he had just finished painting a draft of his in red ink (or were they Microsoft Word strike-throughs?).
"Tell me what you want to tell me."
No shit, right? But if you're like Brooks, you want to guide the reader with a labyrinth of flowery vocabulary, visually-inviting analogies and a lede that graces the reader with a coy introduction into a story that will change their world forever.
But this isn't a 10th grade English class novel. This is the news. And most people don't read articles for the words chosen to convey the story (Go to CJR if you want that). They just want to know what is happening. So when I think of the job of a reporter, it's to explain to readers the news and why it matters to them; to report.
I have visions of writing for the Atlantic or the New Yorker, which invites writers to use those long anecdotal ledes that some people enjoy reading. But before I can master that brand of journalism, I have to get better at the basics. I hope as you explore my website, the evolution of that goal becomes clear.
Who knows? Maybe I'll even get hired.
I don't even get paid to write this stuff. That way, you know it's genuine.