Thursday, March 24, 2011

If you want to be a versatile writer, here's some practical advice

Frank Bruni has been a reporter with the New York Times, one of the world's great newspapers, for many years now. Apparently, he does not have a set beat; instead he writes about a wide variety of topics. As his interviewer notes in this insightful Q&A with him on the Poynter website, Bruni has written about "food, politics, culture, and more".

What are the challenges he has faced in writing about so many topics? That is the question posed to Bruni by Mallary Jean Tenore.

Bruni's reply:

I wouldn’t say that writing about different topics is a challenge. More an opportunity — or a sign of a short and fickle attention span. I think journalists who write well and with great depth about one genre or topic face a greater challenge than those like me who wander and mix it up, because they’re expected to convey a higher degree of authority, and they have to keep breathing fresh life into a subject with certain parameters. The fact that my bosses have let me explore different areas is a privilege, not a challenge.

Bruni also expounds on how reporters can step outside their beat and become more versatile writers:

Journalistic training and preparedness are what they are, whether one is trying to be versatile or narrow. Read, read, read. Keep your eyes peeled for what’s interesting in the world. Pay close attention to the people you’re interviewing. Try to write up the results in a careful and lively fashion.

Aspiring journalists can pick up some handy tips by reading the full interview and going to the links provided on this page: "New York Times’ Frank Bruni shares his tools for versatile writing".

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