Reporting on a skydive

Curiosity killed the cat. It sustained the journalist.

I spoke with Shane Harris about this and other journalismy bits over sushi last Friday. Harris is an award-winning author and writer at Washingtonian

He had several insights worth sharing:

“There’s a difference between writing and reporting.”

Great writers must be good reporters, but you can produce journalism solely as a reporter. It’s not good, compelling journalism, but it prints.

“Sometimes, to write about Washington, you have to get the hell out.”

In photography, we tend to hear the maxim that you should zoom with your feet. Journalism is the same way. But there are times when, as a reporter, the distance needs reversing.

You and the subject need to breathe apart from one another and refocus on a larger scope.

“You get to parachute into people’s lives and ask them deep, personal questions.”

Journalism is a hard job, meant for the young, according to Gay Talese. Yet it is satisfying to explore people’s lives through the highs, lows and every day ordinaries.  Harris compared each story to a mini graduate level course.

Honestly, it’s why I’m in graduate school. Learning can be an addiction, too. Luckily, it’s part of the job.

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