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Plenty of insanely talented jerks never get anywhere despite their insane talent. Why? Because they're jerks!

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I remember nights when he made me cry — unintentionally, I’m sure — and question my decision to enter this field. He poked, pushed and prodded me to do my best work. Always. No exceptions. No questions asked.

It’s the Reporting, Stupid!
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It’s About Your Audience, Stupid!
I got there about the same time as everyone else — and so did the newspaper's photographer. He went in one direction; I headed in the other. I asked questions, and so did he. We came to very different conclusions, and I'm ashamed to say I scoffed at his the night this story broke.

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Step Off That Ladder Every Now and Then
I learned some really important lessons from Ed Williams, my first editor out in the professional working world, but what you’re about to read ranks right at the top.

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Get to Know Your Newsroom
By going to that session, I also learned more about advertising. Plenty of folks from the Trib's ad department were also in attendance. They don't need to know code either, but they do need to learn more about ad placement on a Web page — and they do need to know more about my reasons, as a journalist, for wanting to be careful about the hows and wheres those ads are posted online.


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Home > Generation J > Wish I'd Known Then...

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Lesson No. 6
Step Off That Ladder Every Now and Then

I learned some really important lessons from Ed Williams, my first editor out in the professional working world, but what you’re about to read ranks right at the top. I was stunned when I learned some of the tricks he addresses below, and my reporting improved by leaps and bounds. Because I have come to realize that he is brilliant in this department, I'm not even going to touch this issue with any of my thoughts.

Ed writes:


I got myopic in my first job. I turned to the same tired, local sources, and I too often accepted how they were framing the issue or story. It took longer than it should have, but I learned to go outside my local source network to weigh information, critically evaluate assertions and assess credibility.

Ed Williams
Ed Williams
I'd call around the state — sometimes outside the state — and I'd find the equivalent of my local source. I'd ask that mayor or police chief or environmental activist if what my sources were telling me rang true. Or I'd outline the situation and my thesis. I'd ask about their experience with similar issues. What worked? What didn't? What peripheral issues come to mind on an issue like that? How would you handle this situation? How would you avoid complications?

When I stepped outside my limited field of vision, I saw how my hometown sources were shading the truth, holding back information or misleading me in a way that would cast my story in a light most beneficial to them.

Even later, I learned to turn to "outside sources" at the outset of a story. I used them to collect background information. I got answers to questions that I would later ask my hometown sources. In interviews with hometown sources, I intentionally asked questions that I was pretty sure I already knew the anwer to. It was my way of testing the waters, judging credibility and balancing the story.


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Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center
3909 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789

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