Yesterday I met Scott Calvert, news correspondent in Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania & Delaware for the Wall Street Journal, for my feature writing class.
Most of the conversation was about his experience as a journalist. Some great questions included: how do you organize all your material for a story and as someone who has been in the field for 20 years, how he thought journalism had changed and will continue to change.
He talked to us about topics ranging from his stint as the last international correspondent for the Baltimore Sun to ethical practices for quotes when creating a story to his first every experience as a journalist in New Hampshire.
He gave my class a lot of good tips for gathering ideas for stories. He scans Twitter constantly because of the speed of news released on the social media site. He also looks more deeply into topics he’s curious about or very interested in.
All the while trying to keep more of a business perspective in his writing for the WSJ.
After he has a story idea he always prepares for the worst. He jokingly states that many times, obstacles come in a journalist’s way as he or she starts to actually find people for their story idea.
However, he believes that even if one or two people don’t want to talk, a journalist still needs to talk to as many people as they can. This way a journalist can get all the possible information he or she would need to complete a story.
He also gave us an example of a time where he had to make an ethical decision involving a person he interviewed for a crime story in Wilmington, Delaware.
Personally, I enjoyed that story the most as we all know if any person consents to be interviewed and he/she gives us his/her full name we can write down their words exactly as he/she says them. This is not a problem but sometimes people tell us things they did not mean to and they do not realize what their words will sound like for them when it is printed in a newspaper article.
Scott made me think about how much power we have over someone’s interview in that moment. He brought up the idea that a lot of the time we, as journalists, had to look out for those people and do what is right by them. Besides politicians for example, who say something incriminating and then afterwards add, “that was off the record” by then, for them it is too late and will be published.