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Back in the game

A friend called last night. He's a newspaper editor, and he began the conversation by joking, "I never call you unless it's to ask for advice," but it's not really a joke because it's true. But we usually spend half the conversations wisecracking, so it's always good to hear from him.

Anyway, he and one of his reporters were working a story, but he wasn't quite sure what direction the story should take. I began by asking what his reporting had turned up. I suggested he was connecting some dots that didn't necessarily connect, and I also pointed out he needed to be careful with one of the "givens" of the story, because it wasn't necessarily a given.

As we talked, a picture of the story formed in my mind. One "end" of the story lay in the community where my friend's paper is, but the other end lay hundreds of miles away. I asked him if he'd been trying to find any sources at the other end of the story. Turns out he hadn't. I then suggested whom he might call and suggested alternatives if those sources didn't work out.

He called back later and said one of those calls had paid off in a big way by providing him with important new information. That information, in turn, helped the story gel. Then, we spent several minutes weighing the ethical considerations of the story.

Something I tell the students who take courses from me is that I can't teach them experience or instincts. While discussing the story last night with my friend, my experience and instincts kicked in. I haven't worked in a newsroom in eight years, so I was a little rusty at first, but last night it felt good to be back in the game, if only for a little while.

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Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

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