The Gray Line Tour: My Three Rules for new reporters

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 15, 2002


Someday, before I dodder off to my well-deserved retirement, I may go after that master’s degree and work for awhile, teaching in a journalism program at some area university. The idea would be to pass along whatever lesson’s I’ve learned along the way during my career and bestow them upon the coming generation.

Lesson One, therefore, would be for the budding young journalists to show some respect. Generally, if one behaves with respect, one is treated with respect. I’ve rarely felt the need to bash someone over the head with the First Amendment to get the information I need.

To put it another way, you can attract more flies with honey than vinegar.

I’m quite aware the above advice flies in the face of generally accepted practice, that They are the Enemy and You are the Crusading Knight to wrest the information out and to heck with the consequences.

On the other hand, I cajole, I entice, I flirt and I winnow information out of people, while instilling in them the idea that they can trust me.

Lesson Two, therefore, is for the budding journalists to learn to exude trustworthiness and you will be trusted.

This has served me in good stead on many occasions when I’ve been privy to information on both, or several sides of an argument.

Lesson Three, hand in hand with the above, is Thou Must Be Fair.

Having the information is one thing. Presenting it to represently the views of all concerned in a fair and just manner is the work of a journalist.

From time to time, I’ve seen colleagues adhere to my Three Commandments with varying degrees of success. Geneally, I keep a silent, but low opinion of those who do not.

But working consciously to practice them hasn’t hurt me much.

LEONARD GRAY is assistant managing editor of L’Observateur.