June 26, 2005

Breslin on Reporting

Jimmmy Breslin spoke yesterday at the National Writers Workshop here in Fort Lauderdale, playing his best curmudgeon to the assembled crowd of reporters and writers.

I didn't take notes, but I can pass along a few anecdotes that show how little the principles of good reporting have changed in the many decades of Breslin's career -- and, sadly, how rarely they are practiced today.

Breslin told the story of his legendary interview with JFK's gravedigger. When Breslin arrived at the Capitol where the dead president's body was laid out, he saw a mass of what called "3,000 reporters." I thought, said Breslin, if I stay here I'm going get a story like 3,000 other reporters and get paid like 3,000 other reporters.

So, Breslin left the Capitol and made his way alone to Arlington Natioinal Cemetery -- after all, he said, it was just "a story about a dead body" -- where he found the man who dug JFK's grave.

The resulting column is considered by some to be the definitive piece of reporting on the assassination.

The lesson, of course, is obvious: The best journalism comes from independent thinking.

There were many young journalists in the room and several asked Breslin for advice on how to be a good reporter. His best response: You've got two feet. Use them. In other words, get off the phone, out of the office and connect with real people.

Good advice for the 1960s. Good advice now.

Posted by Tim Porter at June 26, 2005 03:29 AM

I didn't know the anecdote of Breslin's interview with JFK's gravedigger. It's interesting and, yes, and example of good reporting.
Usually they say: news are where journalists are. But, maybe, news are where journalists "aren't".

Posted by: Leon on June 27, 2005 07:57 AM
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