Advice from the Media | Josh Gohlke
1) Describe your typical workday in 140 characters or less.
Respond to e-mails. Budget pages. Respond to e-mails. Edit copy. Respond to e-mails wondering why I haven’t been more responsive. Repeat!
2) What’s the best pitch you’ve ever received?
I’m lucky to have so much commentary to choose from, but sheer math forces me to decline (politely, I hope) most of the submissions I get, including some perfectly good ones. So I think my sentimental favorites are from the people who become enraged when I say no, demand explanations, urge me to reconsider, and, best of all, tell me something like, “Well, I think it’s really good!” I have yet to meet someone who agrees that I should not publish his submission.
3) The greatest words of wisdom an editor ever gave you?
My best editor in college told me to remember the acronym “KISS: Keep it simple — smart!” He was being nice; it really stands for “Keep it simple, stupid!” Most good editing comes down to this admonition.
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch famously put it another way: “Murder your darlings.” That is, if you’re madly in love with the beauty or wit of a passage you wrote, you should probably delete it.
4) If there was one thing you could tell every PR practitioner, what would it be?
Many PR people are very conscientious about the submissions they handle. But others seem to be acting as mere conduits for whatever their clients give them — and then blaming editors for failing to publish it. I think many clients could be done an immense service by a representative who edits them or encourages them to rewrite, and who is honest about what is and isn’t likely to be published and why.
5) What’s your craziest or most interesting newsroom story?
When I was a reporter, I got a tip that a candidate for sheriff had once suffered a breakdown during an investigation and gone into hiding in the northern New Jersey swamps. It sounded preposterous, and when I asked the candidate about it, he assured me that it was. A couple weeks after he won the election, his best friend published a memoir that recounted the episode in minute detail, including the bit about hiding out in a foxhole in the Meadowlands.
6) What sets your reporting (or page) apart from the competition?
I hope that it’s especially relevant, locally pertinent, often contrarian, occasionally humorous, and usually well edited.
7) Any shameless self-promotion you want to add?
I don’t mind saying I know my way around a semicolon.