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Top journalists reveal the best reporting advice they have received

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Columbia Journalism Review

Journalism as a profession is more art than science. There are few codified rules of the trade, no official list of industry do’s and don’ts. All of which makes the unofficial pipeline of advice—words of wisdom from one journalist to another—more important than ever.

CJR reached out to an array of prominent journalists, from veterans and legends to recent grads and up-and-comers, and asked them to share the best advice they’ve received, words that have stuck with them as they’ve built their careers.

The following responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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“One of the first editors I worked for after joining The Washington Post in 2014 was Terence Samuel, who at the time ran the paper’s congressional coverage (now he’s deputy managing editor at NPR). He told me that he wanted me, at all times, to be thinking of story ideas and writing them down. After every interview, what were two new leads? After every staff meeting, what tidbits were mentioned that would work as a stand-alone piece? When reading coverage by colleagues and competitors, what fact, statistic, or concept—often mentioned in the middle or end of the story—cries out for its own story, or series? What themes are surfacing in coverage by smaller, or more locally or regionally focused outlets that would benefit from coverage from a larger outlet with more time and resources?

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