Lessons on journalism

Posted on June 4, 2007 
Filed Under Journalism

Derek Powazek on founder-journos (edited):

Lesson 1: Seek the Truth

..Journalists live in a perpetual state of disbelief. Skepticism is the norm. Because, in journalism, nothing is true unless you can back it up. Just because one person says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. See if you can get someone else to confirm. Double, triple check. Your reputation is on the line. The journalist-founder needs be a dreamer and a skeptic. You need to have the desire to pursue your crazy dream to the bitter end, but you also need to retain your skepticism. If the plan doesn’t work, what’s the fallback? Are you sure you have all the right information to make your decisions? Are you double checking what people tell you?

Lesson 2: Be Relentless

…The journalist-founder needs to be dogged. When the email isn’t returned, call. When the call isn’t returned, visit. When that doesn’t work, try something else. You have to want it more than anyone else – that’s what’ll make your startup succeed where others failed.

Lesson 3: Shut Up!

…The meat of journalism is the interview. Asking the right questions, at the right time, in the right way, to get the most valuable insights out of the people around you. To do that, you can’t be the one talking. In fact, if you don’t shut up and listen, you’ll miss a valuable chance to learn from those around you.

Lesson 4: Produce Something

All of the above – seeking the truth, being relentless, talking less and listening more – are integral parts of journalism, but in the end, the product is what counts. For the process to matter, you have to produce a story to share your results with the world.

The journalist founder knows that there’s nothing to fear from producing something. It doesn’t have to be perfect – you just have to put it out there, listen to the feedback from your customers, and then do it again, making sure that each iteration gets a little better.

No one ever won a Pulitzer for the story they almost wrote.



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