I have always loved heroes, met so many, learned so much and came to realize that evil is alive and the world is a battleground in the war between good and evil. Some people are born bad and can’t be fixed.
All told, the best, most productive and the most interesting years of my life were those spent as a reporter for The Miami Herald.
What do you miss and what don't you miss about being a newspaper reporter?
One of the true joys of journalism is that reporters are among the few people left in the world who can be catalysts for change, who can often find the truth and bring about justice in cases where it might never triumph otherwise. Work a story hard, tell it right, and the good readers will never let you down. I miss that instant gratification that came from their calls, letters, reactions and feedback, that quick connection to them through my stories in tomorrow morning’s paper or Sunday’s at the latest. I miss them every day.
I once received a letter from a reader complimenting my lead on a news story. She said it was best she’d ever read in a newspaper. I never forgot her kind words and used that lead again much later, as the opening paragraph of my first novel: “It was the night of the full moon over Miami. The shooting started early.”
I miss the excitement of being on the trail of a great story, and also miss the rare, talented, and thoughtful editors who never do anything to your story except make it better. In my entire life I’ve known just three. I don’t miss the others, and always warn the ambitious, young, and surprisingly optimistic journalism students I often address. I give them their three most important rules for success:
Never trust an editor!
Never trust an editor
Never trust an editor!
There has to be some irony to me retyping this part:
Editors can burn your source, sprinkle errors into the copy over which you have labored, then proudly conceive and place a totally inaccurate headline atop your story. They will often delete the first name and title of someone you quote, leaving readers to wonder who the hell was speaking and why you didn’t tell them.
Editors will also drop your carefully written kicker, and neglect to show you the art selected to accompany your story, most often the smiling photo of an upstanding church-going, innocent citizen whose name may, or may not, be vaguely similar to those of the serial sex killer, indicted scoundrel, or child rapist about whom you’ve written.