I'm writing. Which means procrastinating.

So I've been thinking about some Rules for Reporting:

1. Pick up the damn phone. You know less than you think but someone out there knows something. This is scary and won’t get easier over time. (credit: @Colarusso42)
2. Ask dumb questions. Your job is to look at closed priesthoods and ask why they do the things they do. You will be told you are dumb. That’s ok. One of those questions will turn out to be newsworthy.
3. Destroy your ego. The process of becoming a good reporter is figuring out it's not about you looking smart. (Harder for some than others.)
4. Surround your story. Don’t just focus on the subject. Figure out all the kinds of people who intersect w/ your subject. If you are covering a company, that means customers, suppliers, regulators, investors, attorneys, contractors, high-, medium-, & low-level employees, etc.
5. Prepare for an interview. Don’t prepare forever (See rule #1). But even two minutes of googling while you are introducing yourself is better than nothing.
6. Honor the complexities & expertise of the subject & interviewee. Nothing builds more trust than to truly demonstrate that you take the subject seriously.
7. Then be actually trustworthy. Emphasize you care about fairness & accuracy. Keep your word.
8. Listen. Don't perform listening. Don't plot your next question & forget to listen to the answer.
9. Ask for "help”: You aren't looking for information; you definitely aren't "investigating"; you're just throwing yourself at the mercy of the most important person in the world.
10. Flattery works. Flattery works, even when the person knows he/she is being flattered. Everyone you talk with is the most interesting, most heroic person imaginable.
11. Broadly, there are two reporting techniques: Pretending you know more and pretending you know less. Employ both but strategically.
12. Low stakes/high stakes technique. Sometimes you want to convey that the source only needs to help you w/ one tiny, little, no big deal thing. Sometimes you want to convey that the source is the most important person on the most important story in the yawning universe.
13. Don’t over-value secret information. Just because something was hard to get doesn’t make it important or newsworthy.
14. Fight fact aphasia. All facts are not equal. The key skill of journalism is telling the important ones from the unimportant ones. This particularly plagues "investigative" reporters. (Credit: @ericuman)
15. Believe and disbelieve your own story. A big story is lonely and people will tell you it’s wrong. You have to trust yourself that something is there, while also doubting everything you think you are learning.
16. Finding people to talk is hard. Finding people who talk and know something is harder. One hack: Talk to people who talk to journalists. Who knows? You might ask them something no one has asked before. At least you had a conversation.
17. Credit widely. It’s the right thing to do. It spreads goodwill. It makes you look learned.
18. No surprises. Every subject of every story deserves a chance to respond to every fact and the context of those facts. (This is scary; you are going to be told you are wrong.) It’s fair. It also covers your ass, protecting you from getting small and big things wrong.
19. You can get all the facts right and still be wrong. Understand the larger context of your story.
That's it for now. Back to work.

Subscribe to my Substack! Hire me out for parties!

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More from @eisingerj

25 Mar 20
NEW===> A Republican US Attorney in Texas wanted to indict Walmart over opioid dispensing.

Trump appointees at the DOJ quashed it.

From me and @jamesbandler:

I know that Covid-19 (legitimately) is almost all anyone can think about, but this is a rare window into how the corporate justice system really works in America.
Prosecutors uncovered evidence that Walmart pharmacists were trying to not fill opioid prescriptions they thought illegitimate. They pleaded for help from national compliance.
Read 14 tweets
6 Sep 19
Wow, this is a total weaponization of the DOJ against Trump antagonists happening right before our eyes:

In keeping with the possible charging of McCabe, the hounding of Bruce Ohr, the IG report on Comey, etc.

Two and a half years in, Trump and his acolytes are figuring out how to use the apparatus of the state to reward friends & punish enemies. A direct attack on the rule of law.
Always seemed to me the Antitrust division was a great vehicle for weaponization of the state. The investigations strike at corporations & whole sectors (controlled by the wealthy & influential); they are incredibly time consuming & expensive; they are by their nature opaque.
Read 4 tweets
19 Jun 19
Comes the news that Bernard Arnault joins the exclusive $100 billion worth club! Congrats to him! Here's a story about suspicious securities transactions and journalism. bloomberg.com/news/articles/…
Back in 2001, LVMH, which was controlled by Arnault, mysteriously acquired a significant stake in Bouygues, a French telecom company. Bouygues stock had been collapsing in the wake of the global stock market bubble bust.
Analysts and investors were upset because you may have noticed that LVMH is (and was then) a luxury goods company, not a telecom company.

Oh, also, Arnault controlled some opaque personal companies that were selling Bouygues stock -- at around the same time!
Read 14 tweets
2 Jun 19
Yet another failed Trump Org project, this time in Uruguay. @JesseDrucker has details. Man oh man those Trumpees must just be lousy at business. Or are they? Here’s a theory of failure. nytimes.com/2019/06/02/bus…
Drucker found that like other Trump projects, it has dubious partners and the condos are being snapped up by some real sweeties.
Add this name to other failures. Or “failures”: Panama (detailed by @hvogell, @AndreaWNYC, @Meg_Cramer here: features.propublica.org/trump-inc-podc…), Baku, Trump Soho, Vancouver, Baja, Toronto, etc. etc.
Read 10 tweets
28 May 19
I sometimes get emails from people about journalism careers. This weekend, someone asked me for advice about how to break into "long-form investigative journalism."

I'm a little wary, since the world has transformed since I started my career in 1993. But here's what I wrote.
This is a thread for journalism aspirants. Experienced reporters should feel free to weigh in with their own thoughts. Anyone who disagrees with me should think about why they are wasting time on Twitter instead of responding.
The currency of our realm is clips. You need to write stories that get noticed, either because they break news, cast important issues in a new light, or are written beautifully.

A journalist wants to get the story out. The story should govern the form, not the other way around.
Read 11 tweets
25 Jan 19
Got a call from Zia Ahmed, a PR guy from Citadel, complaining about this tweet. We weren't bailed out! he said. So here's a reminder of this thing called the financial crisis of 2008. Spoiler: Yes, the $10billionaire Ken Griffin was absolutely bailed out by the govt.
Citadel is and was a giant hedge fund. It didn't just go long and short stocks. It was mainly in credit instruments. And we had a global credit crisis in the fall of 2008.
And Citadel, like many hedge funds, was highly opaque. Even its limited partners had no idea what it was in. Certainly its counterparties had little idea. Those were the most vulnerable institutions,. Citadel was a source of systemic risk back then (and still is today).
Read 9 tweets

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