A good friend of mine Dan Purjes works as a freelance journalist within the world of finance, a great writer and a well respected journalist. I met Dan last week in Rockwood, NYC to pick his brains a little about what makes a great journalist. Dan is well respected, he has written for Barrons on subjects such as asset investment and fund investment, he has also written a main story for the New York Times based around Wall Street stories, as well as the odd report on real estate and cryptocurrency. The main story today however, is not what is going in the world of finance, but rather the world of journalism and how you can be great at it.
One of Dan’s greatest attributes is his relentlessness when it comes to getting to the bottom of a story and he tells me that this is a common attribute amongst the very best journalists. Many journalists end up not completing a story which they have been working on simply because they weren’t prepared to keep pushing until they got the full story, leaving some great stories left unwritten.
Dan keeps his contact list top secret and won’t ever reveal a source. What he will tell me however is that a journalist is only as strong as their contact list and he stresses the importance of building and maintaining relationships. Dan tells me that he has lost count of the amount of times that his contacts in the world of finance have called him up to let him know about breaking news, or the amount of times that he has relied on them for comments or quotes. Dan reminds me that indeed it is not what you know, but rather who you know when it comes to being the best journalist that you can be.
Writing at the Right Times
I would have thought that a great journalist should be constantly churning out the stories but Dan tells me that a great journalist actually does the opposite. Whilst he will always write for himself to keep himself sharp, in terms of actually writing stories Dan tells me that the best level to get to is where you are only writing stories which matter, and not getting bogged down in insignificance. The key he tells me is not to write all of the stories, but to give your all to the very best stories.
A danger which every journalist faces is the day that they become irrelevant, and a great journalist understands when this is happening, and can change their tone, style and topic. Dan tells me that the journalists who are looking to the future and speaking with the people involved, is a trait of a great journalist and these are the ones who will end up staying the course.
There is a stark contrast between just any journalist and a great one, understanding the difference is the first step.