On Journalism Trends

>> Thursday, October 22, 2009

Time: If you had a single piece of advice to offer young journalists, what would it be?

Malcolm Gladwell: The issue is not writing. It's what you write about. One of my favorite columnists is Jonathan Weil, who writes for Bloomberg. He broke the Enron story, and he broke it because he's one of the very few mainstream journalists in America who really knows how to read a balance sheet. That means Jonathan Weil will always have a job, and will always be read, and will always have something interesting to say. He's unique. Most accountants don't write articles, and most journalists don't know anything about accounting. Aspiring journalists should stop going to journalism programs and go to some other kind of grad school. If I was studying today, I would go get a master's in statistics, and maybe do a bunch of accounting courses and then write from that perspective. I think that's the way to survive. The role of the generalist is diminishing. Journalism has to get smarter.
This is so true. Glenn Greenwald is another example of this. He's a former constitutional and civil rights litigator. He owns his "beat" so to speak. I don't know of anyone that I read online who is as thorough as he is. (Marcy Wheeler, aka emptywheel, comes close on some occasions though.)


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