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A future M.D. with a bad case of the journalism bug

The day Tony Gwynn hit a home run with student journalists
With the sad news of his death, a lot of people are sharing Tony Gwynn stories. So I'll tell mine, from 1997. Gwynn was best hitter in the National League that summer (no surprise there). I was a senior editor of San Diego's morning newspaper and had volunteered to help out at a high school journalism camp run by the California Chicano News Media Association. Read more – ‘The day Tony Gwynn hit a home run with student journalists’
At Stanford, wall of screens made teaching interactive
Here I provide a glimpse into how we used the technology in Stanford's Wallenberg Hall, featuring a massive wall of LED flat-panel screens, to move seamlessly from classroom to newsroom. Read more – ‘At Stanford, wall of screens made teaching interactive’
How Things Changed: The Inside Story of My Texas Two-Step
Things change. If you're a fan of David Mamet's writing, as I am, you understand the power of those two simple words. Just when we think we know our future, the phone rings, there's a knock on the door, an inner voice grows louder ... and things change. It has happened to me a few times, most recently on January 17th. I answered the phone that Friday afternoon and recognized Tracy Dahlby's baritone. Our initial small talk was forgettable until Tracy said, "I think we should grow old together." Huh? What the @#*&! is he talking about? Like all of my friends, Tracy knew how happy I was teaching at Stanford University, but that didn't stop him from making the case for why I should apply to be the next director of the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Read more – ‘How Things Changed: The Inside Story of My Texas Two-Step’
Where do you go to find stories? Start with the 3 P’s
I like to show this video interview on the first day of any reporting course I teach, because the city editor's words to a very young Bob Woodward -- "Get your [expletive] out of the chair" -- still ring true. Read more – ‘Where do you go to find stories? Start with the 3 P’s’
Value of strong pitches, back-out schedules & outlines
At Stanford, we require our graduate journalism students to produce a master’s thesis project to cap the year. It’s their chance to flex the reporting, writing and multimedia muscles they’ve built up over 10 months. One of my goals is to help as many of them as possible get their thesis — or at least […] Read more – ‘Value of strong pitches, back-out schedules & outlines’
A future M.D. with a bad case of the journalism bug
Ravali Reddy came to Stanford with every intention of majoring in biology, and she’s still enthusiastic about applying to medical schools. But I’m delighted to report that Ravali has enjoyed more than a casual dalliance with journalism the past few years, and in June 2014 she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Communication with a […] Read more – ‘A future M.D. with a bad case of the journalism bug’
You’re asking for trouble without a breaking news strategy
This is the original version of an article I wrote for the Poynter Institute’s website, in my role as an adjunct faculty member. The March 2013 piece, which emphasized the importance of an effective breaking news plan, was published two weeks prior to the year’s most dramatic breaking news event: the bomb attack at the […] Read more – ‘You’re asking for trouble without a breaking news strategy’
Stanford-NBC News fellowship unites journalism and medical students
One of my favorite things about Stanford is the diversity of students. Since arriving on The Farm, I’ve taught young women and men from China, Pakistan, South Korea, India, Brazil, Mexico, Italy and England. In addition, thanks to the Stanford-NBC News Fellowship in Media and Global Health, a medical student joins my Public Issues Reporting course and Geri […] Read more – ‘Stanford-NBC News fellowship unites journalism and medical students’
Before the interview came words spoken to the wind
Sometimes the best thing a journalist can do is not ask a lot of questions right away. Take some time to look and listen first. There can be gold in those moments before The Interview begins. In this podcast, journalist and Columbia University professor Dale Maharidge – longtime collaborator with my friend Michael Williamson, the one-of-a-kind Washington Post photographer — […] Read more – ‘Before the interview came words spoken to the wind’
Step aside, Simon Cowell — My turn as ‘Pundit’ judge
One of my former students, Dean Schaffer, asked me to be a “celebrity judge” for an opinion-writing contest he helped organize as community manager and editor in chief of Allvoices, a social news site. I have mixed feelings about citizen journalism, which I’ll save for another day, but think the world of Dean and would do […] Read more – ‘Step aside, Simon Cowell — My turn as ‘Pundit’ judge’
How ‘planning to be spontaneous’ paid off on election night
When it comes to covering big news events, I’m a planning fanatic. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden put it best when he said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” So in getting ready for the November 2012 elections, a key lesson I wanted my graduate journalism students to learn was this: The more prepared […] Read more – ‘How ‘planning to be spontaneous’ paid off on election night’
Learning was two-way street in mentorship of exceptional scholar
Recently I wrote a recommendation letter for a former student, the incomparable Raymond Braun, and it opened with a story that’s worth sharing: My initial encounter with Raymond Braun had the potential to turn unpleasant. That’s what I braced for, at least. Here’s what I didn’t count on: I was about to meet a young […] Read more – ‘Learning was two-way street in mentorship of exceptional scholar’
Forget plastics — data is the magic word
There’s a famous scene in “The Graduate” (see film clip below) in which Benjamin Braddock, the title character played by Dustin Hoffman, gets some unsolicited career advice from one of his parents’ friends. “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word,” the man tells Benjamin. “Are you listening? “Plastics.” If they […] Read more – ‘Forget plastics — data is the magic word’
From watchmaking Sherpas to Mother Norway, a spring crop of good stories
Sherpas who became luxury watchmakers. A woman dubbed “Mother Norway” for opening her Berkeley home to hundreds of visiting Norwegian college students. A scavenger hunt through San Francisco’s hidden dining scene, and a profile of a “freeway farmer” in East Palo Alto. Stories about youthful ambition, the struggles of aging, an immigrant’s triumph and a […] Read more – ‘From watchmaking Sherpas to Mother Norway, a spring crop of good stories’
‘We were the last guys standing’ — of ambition, obsession and hard work
First let’s establish my bona fides on the topic: I’ve been to upwards of 50 Bruce Springsteen concerts since high school and can identify any of his songs, even the obscure ones, just by hearing the opening riff. So when David Remnick’s Springsteen profile in The New Yorker arrived in my mailbox this week, I […] Read more – ‘‘We were the last guys standing’ — of ambition, obsession and hard work’
Is Olympics uniform flap a story of patriotism or protectionism?
Meet Erchi “Archer” Zhang, one of the most impressive students I’ve encountered while teaching at Stanford. His news instincts are outstanding, and he is a gifted visual storyteller. Archer came to our graduate journalism program from City University of Hong Kong, where he did his undergraduate studies. He gained experience by working for Sohu.com, which […] Read more – ‘Is Olympics uniform flap a story of patriotism or protectionism?’
The truth reporters learn early on about lies and liars
As a young reporter, a vital lesson you learn is that respected people in positions of power can look you in the eyes and lie. Once I was lectured up and down by a district attorney, who insisted that prosecutors on his staff would never do the things my newspaper was told by reliable sources they […] Read more – ‘The truth reporters learn early on about lies and liars’
Always aim to pass the presence test
When you are starting in journalism, it’s easy to think in terms of a three-step process. You report. You write what you have. Someone else edits it. Drawing upon a book I admire, Samuel G. Freedman’s “Letters to a Young Journalist,” I encourage 10 steps: 1.) Exploring — This is journalism’s equivalent of the topographical survey. It […] Read more – ‘Always aim to pass the presence test’
Rise of the coders — Why courtship of ‘CmdrTaco’ matters
The Washington Post of Bradlee, Woodward and Bernstein is now counting on … CmdrTaco? The newest hire getting buzz is not a swaggering editor or a pair of investigative reporters. He’s Rob Malda, the founder of the tech news site Slashdot, who is better known in some circles by his moniker, “CmdrTaco.” This WaPo Labs move reaffirms my belief […] Read more – ‘Rise of the coders — Why courtship of ‘CmdrTaco’ matters’
When a gunman is at large, how real should a class get?
In the opening hour of our first class, the 17 Stanford University students in my Public Issues Reporting course sketched a plan for how to cover a big breaking news story. They discussed the best way to communicate with each other during a chaotic event such as an earthquake, choosing a service called GroupMe for text […] Read more – ‘When a gunman is at large, how real should a class get?’
In praise of Ricky Carioti’s path to a Pulitzer Prize
Ricky Carioti delivered pizzas and tended bar. He rebuilt automotive parts and labored as a carpenter’s apprentice. Now he can add something else to his biography: Pulitzer winner. Yesterday, Carioti and Washington Post colleagues Carol Guzy and Nikki Kahn won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking-news photography for their coverage of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. […] Read more – ‘In praise of Ricky Carioti’s path to a Pulitzer Prize’
David Broder became a reporting legend with integrity and humility
When I arrived at The Washington Post in the summer of 2002, I was 39 years old and already a quarter-century into my journalism career. Yet, still, I’d feel goose bumps whenever David Broder ambled through the newsroom. Somehow, he appeared regal and down-to-earth at the same time. These encounters gave me a sense of […] Read more – ‘David Broder became a reporting legend with integrity and humility’
What journalists can learn from singer’s use of detail
In song lyrics, a writer’s use of vivid, specific detail can make the difference between a memorable line and a forgettable one. The same is true in news and feature writing. An example I use in class comes from Justin Townes Earle, the talented son of musician-rebel Steve Earle. Listen to the last verse of […] Read more – ‘What journalists can learn from singer’s use of detail’
Remember when the aggrieved would call the local newspaper first?
Not so many years ago, if a citizen had a grievance she’d call the switchboard of the local newspaper, which would connect her with the City Desk. I was on the receiving end of many of those calls during a long career as a reporter and editor. This blog post by two of my former […] Read more – ‘Remember when the aggrieved would call the local newspaper first?’
My Visit to Athens — Ohio, that is
Thanks to Bob Stewart, Tom Hodson and all the faculty and students I met last week at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. They were great hosts. The visit to the campus in southeastern Ohio included conversations in five classes — magazine editing and production, computer-assisted reporting, ethics, online journalism and news writing — […] Read more – ‘My Visit to Athens — Ohio, that is’