A successful reporter’s approach

He’s won three Pulitzer prizes, writes a regular column for the New York Times, and his non-fiction books sell like crazy. Okay, so Tom Friedman isn’t your average reporter, but a profile in the New Yorker magazine offers some insight into what makes him so successful.

First of all, he genuinely likes people.  Friedman tells writer Ian Parker, “I’m always amazed by the number of journalists who hate people.”  Because he likes being around people, it seems, they respond in kind.

He liked to conduct group interviews that put him in the role of seminar leader, and put his interviewees into an unconscious competition to deliver lines that would be rewarded by the sound of laptop keys being struck

Second, he gives to get.  Parker notes that Friedman tends to ask a question by offering “a prepared riff.”

He pitched ideas to people, and people pitched back. “Come empty, you leave empty,” Friedman said to me one evening. “Come with a point of view, and you could come back with something original.”

Finally, he works fast.  Parker writes that Friedman got the idea for his book, “The World is Flat,” during a conversation with Nanadan Nilkani, the head of the software computer company Infosys.  The book was published just over a year later.  Nilkani says what he learned from Friedman was speed.

I realized, when you have a story to tell you can’t dither over it for years and years—you’re going to be obsolete. That’s why I often refer to him as an intellectual entrepreneur: entrepreneurs succeed because they get a business idea and then they move faster than the rest, they bring the product to market. He does the same in an intellectual sense.

Friedman’s approach won’t suit everyone, of course, but that final piece of advice is more critical now than ever: Move faster than the rest.


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