Keep in Touch

By John Currie

David Halberstam has been there, writing from the heart, the words his editor cut forty years back still intact.

Stay in touch with your sources, he said. I’m going to do that when I get back to B.C. I’m gonna call up the ex-street girl I profiled last year; see what’s new. Four men staying in touch, knowing each other sixty years, knowing the moment will never happen again — that was the seed Halberstam grew into his baseball book. Make your editor say, Damn, why didn’t I have that idea? he said. Get that time you need from your editor.

It’s not just dogging it, it’s thinking of ideas and asking the best question any reporter can ask a source: Who else can I see? The more views, anecdotes, perceptions, the better. Get too much and use your best stuff.

  • Read, read, read. A book a week. Everything.
  • Love talking to people. Don’t bullshit people. Don’t try to be more on their side than you are. It doesn’t work and it’s just not nice.
  • Good reporters know nuance and set up the interview ground rules. Make interviews congenial.

The more you do it, Halberstam said, the more you’ll have a sense of human nature, and there’s always a pattern there.

Good writing comes from tons of legwork. The keys, again: the perception of the story and legwork. “As you get older you waste less time.”

John Currie is completing his Master’s of Journalism at the University of British Columbia.

Posted in reporting, sessions.Welcome, speakers.David Halberstam on December 12, 2003 at 05:14 PM | Permalink