Take chances, Pulitzer-winning reporter urges young journalists

Gangrey

Lane DeGregory, a reporter for Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times, wrote an email to a journalism student who asked her: “Is there anything you wish you could tell yourself when you were as inexperienced as us?

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized, it’s okay to not know — it can even be endearing,” DeGregory, who won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for this series, writes about boning up for interviews. In another section, she suggests taking risks:

I wish I had known that it was okay to make mistakes, that no matter how brilliant — or bad — your story is, another paper will come out tomorrow, so it’s okay to try something that might not work. But it’s not okay not to try. Or to bore yourself by always doing what’s safe. Or to think your readers will care if you don’t.

In a video for Poynter this summer, DeGregory talked about developing sources, saying she always tries to get people she’s interviewing to show them their bedrooms: “I feel that’s where a lot of masks come off,” she said.

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  • Scott Feldman

    It’s easier to say in hindsight that young journalists need to take more risks. But when you gamble and lose, it’s very hard for a young reporter with little experience to explain what went wrong or why the story wasn’t on time to an editor with a decade or more of experience.
    Now when your gamble pays off, it’s great, but in my admittedly limited experience, its easier for editors to remember screw ups than successes.