Someone over at POLITICO had this crazy idea: find a dozen young journos who want to breathe politics, have the best people in the business inject them with their wisdom, and unleash them in Washington, D.C. to produce quality journalism. Oh, and do it fast.
That’s the POLITICO way — take an innovative idea, bring together the best people, and then watch it all fall into place.
Thank God, I am one of the first 12 students who, from June 31 through Aug. 8, got the opportunity to get knee deep in political reporting.
Arguably, the highlight of the institute was listening to the thoughts of the people who know how to do it best: News executives, editors and reporters, from POLITICO and elsewhere. Here are some of the things they shared with our group of aspiring journalists.
Rick Berke, executive editor, POLITICO | To young journalists hoping to rise in the field: “Do your job as effectively as you can do it, and that will work itself out.”
Kevin Merida, managing editor, The Washington Post | To young journalists in big newsrooms: “Make sure people know you are there.”
Anna Palmer, senior Washington correspondent, POLITICO | On contacting sources, “Be clear and honest about what you are writing about.”
Dianna Heitz, deputy managing editor, POLITICO | “Be a good citizen of the internet.”
Gene Policinski, chief operating officer, Newseum Institute; senior vice president, First Amendment Center. | “Without you, the Republic fails.”
Manu Raju, senior congressional reporter, POLITICO | On developing rapport with members of congress, “It’s better for them to fear you, that to love you.”
Angie Chuang, professor, American University School of Communication | “Good journalism is not just accurate, it’s human.”
Jim VandeHei, executive editor and co-founder, POLITICO | “Train yourself to soak up what people around you do great.”
** I also have Jim to thank for my mantra of sorts. In a well-read New York Times profile of Mike Allen, VandeHei said he was hiring reporters who were, “fast, fearless, and ruthlessly competitive.”
John Harris, editor-in-chief, co-founder, POLITICO | “Ask yourself, what is my distinctive value?”
Mike Allen, chief White House correspondent, POLITICO | “If you are trying to reach everyone, you’re trying to reach nobody.”
Glenn Thrush, senior staff writer, POLITICO Magazine | “Don’t leave the editing to the editors.”
John Watson, associate professor, American University School of Communication | “Sometimes the immoral decision is the ethical one. Ethics should be the primary motivator for journalists.”
Susan Goldberg, editor-in-chief, National Geographic Magazine and News | “Every time a female leader gets fired, it shouldn’t be a national story.”
Rachel Smolkin, executive editor, CNN Politics Digital | “This is a hard business, but if you love it, you almost can’t imagine doing anything else.”