I'm spending the week with twenty journalists, all of whom share a common bond: they focus on the tragic, and occasionally the comic side of the human condition, that is, they cover cops and/or courts for newspapers.
This is the second year the Poynter Institute has put "Covering Crime and Courts" on our list of seminars, and even with declining training budgets, the demand from this meat and potatoes beat remains strong. Nearly twice as many applied as we had space for. For those interested in the subject matter, we also feature a free online course in crime reporting, created with Criminal Justice Journalists, on News University, Poynter's joint distance learning project with the Knight Foundation.
We began the list with introductions, (16 Americans, two Canadians, from papers big and small), but went one step beyond name and news organization. We all took a minute to free write about the best cop/court reporter we ever knew and then boil that down to one characteristic.
My goal, as I explained to the group, is to fill the room with the spirit of these great journalists, and let us see what traits makes a journalist stand out.
The seminar runs from last night until Friday night. My hope is they'll scan the list from time to time and ask themselves how they stack up and what qualities they need to work on.
Whatever your job, I think it's important to identify the best practitioners, to ask yourself what makes them great (writing it down helps in the process) and boil it down to one word. You may know the answers from personal contact or from reading or watching. What's important is knowing who is great at the same job you have and trying to learn from their example.
Here's the list of names, and more important, the qualities that make them great
Peter Perl - Courage
Phil Trexler - Storyteller
Maurice Possley - Authoritative
Edna Buchanan (not surprisingly, more than one participant picked Buchanan, the legendary crime reporter for the Miami Herald, and attributed it to more than one quality - Tenacious, Curious
Janet Davis - Passionate
Jason Trahan - Empathetic
Eva Hoare - Tenacious
Truman Capote - Sponge
John Caniglia - Trusting
Renee Lepre - Descriptive
Natalie Pompilio - Compassionate
Rick Bragg - Voice
Susan Bardwell - Rolodex
Matt Lait & Scott Glover - Exclusive
Kenny Stephens - Inquisitive, Insightful
Sari Horwitz - Dedicated
Mike Connelly - Insightful
Who's the best crime and/or court reporter you know and can you sum up -- in a single word --what makes him or her stand out?