Tag Archives: reporting

A reporting lesson you don’t learn in J school

Here’s a key lesson I’m obliged to pass on to aspiring reporters out there (aspiring reporters? Do they still exist? *echooo echoo echoooo…..*). You should already know the hard basics about things like following up on FOIA requests, firmly shaking hands with officials while looking them in the eye, getting home numbers for late follow-up questions and all so forth, even (if you spent some time under the tutelage of Decent Reporters) how to camp out in the waiting room and sit there until the source who was avoiding your calls comes out of their office. One of the best (though obvious) pieces of advice I received early on was from the reporter who was the Wall Street Journal’s White House correspondent in 2003 (and a DBK alumna!) who said, “When you’re interviewing someone on a touchy subject, drop your question and then shut the hell up. Make them fill the awkward silence.”

But here’s one no one explicitly tells you in J school: become an expert at charming secretaries.

I don’t mean you should do this disingenuously: in addition to being the gatekeepers to the town managers, representatives, lawyers or other decision makers, secretaries are often the friendliest people you’ll meet while navigating the commonly cantankerous quarters of city hall. They’re most likely not directly engaged in the actual decision making so your probing won’t threaten to thrust them into the spotlight. But they know where to find things and how to get people on the phone and  — most importantly — they’re the only one standing between your message and the desk of the person you’re trying to reach.

They’re also often stressed and under-appreciated, with no one stopping to ask about their day. Just little touches of friendliness will win them over to your side.

Secretaries: the key to any scrappy young reporter’s heart.

This also ensure you’re doing the other key lesson you should have learned in J school: getting off your ass, get out of the office and go report.

Just a thought.

Loretta Lynn and the sirens of breaking news

Uh, so, there was supposed to be an interview for The Guide to follow this story, but after a long and in-depth phone conversation with her strongly disappointed (not at me) tour manager today, it became very apparent I shouldn’t bother to finish writing it up.

And suddenly, hundreds of miles away, I found myself right back into a familiar role reporting on intricacies of Hilton Head business deals. And to think I was starting to forget how much I love the rush of breaking news, which came back full force this afternoon as I made an brief yet whole-hearted attempt at the almost certainly improbable task of trying to get to get three people to call me back in the hour before 5 p.m. on a Friday.

But instead of following the news, I went to work and held a sign telling people where the end of the “12 items or fewer line” was.

Actual conversation today:

Female customer: Excuse me, where is the end of the line?

Me (holding a white laminated sign on the end of a 6-foot pole above my head with the words “End of Line” written on it):  I think it’s here.

All for the bigger dream, Tim. All for the bigger dream.


Loretta Lynn Busy With Two New Albums

Loretta Lynn
January 09, 2009 02:52 PM ET
Tim Donnelly, Savannah, Ga.

Country legend Loretta Lynn is preparing two projects this year to follow up her 2004 crossover hit, “Van Lear Rose.”

Lynn, 74, is working on an album of new material that she says could be ready by late spring. The album will be in her traditional country style but will deal with modern issues. “(A friend) told me: ‘Loretta, don’t quit writing, because if you do, no one in Nashville is writing songs,'” Lynn tells Billboard. “I write about what’s happening today and how I feel.”

The second project, an album of re-recorded versions of her No. 1 hits from the past four decades, is being produced by John Carter Cash and could hit stores this summer.

Lynn says the idea for that album came out of her live performances, at which she finds crowds clamoring for old favorites, particularly “Dear Uncle Sam.” Lynn released that anti-Vietnam War song (“I hate war,” she said) in 1966, and it became her first self-penned track to make the top 10. But, she says, it has gained new resonance with anti-war crowds today.

“I want to make sure that they get all the old No. 1 hits over the years,” she says. “They holler for them.”

Lynn’s children and grandchildren usually join her on stage for live performances these days, and have also been in the studio to help with the album. John Carter Cash, the only child of Johnny Cash and June Carter and a country music singer and songwriter himself, is easy to work with because Lynn and his father were close.

“Van Lear Rose” was produced by the White Stripes Jack White, who also contributed vocals and guitars. The two stay in touch, but Lynn says she doesn’t get to see him very often. But she says she plans to call him soon “see what the devil he’s up to.”