Authors In The Media With Ned Hickson

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Authors In The Media With Ned Hickson

I recently did a Q&A with author & former journalist & editor, Ned Hickson. We spoke about his books and briefly about how journalism has helped with his writing and research for his mystery novels. In this edition of Authors In The Media we will discuss his journalism more in depth.

Q: Ned, when did you know that being a journalist before becoming an author was your calling in life?

A: When my rent came due! Lol! That’s only partially true. I’d been writing short stories and horror fiction for several years while I was still a chef, wanting to hone my writing skills and practice wielding the tools. When the opportunity to work at a newspaper came along, I decided — if I got the job — what better way to learn deferent styles of writing (hard news, features, sports) than being able to do it every day, with deadlines, and the need to interview people and learn the different avenues for research. And the best part? Getting paid while learning. I learned a tremendous amount about writing, as well as the inner-workings of local government, organizations, politics, and fringe groups — not to mention some very interesting people.

Q: In our Q&A you spoke about how you had no experience and degree and still got that journalism degree. I find that impressive! What was that experience like?

A: I still think about that, and how different my trajectory likely would’ve been had I not been hired. Several years ago, after I’d become editor, I asked Bob, the editor who hired me, why he hired me. He said what he looks for most are two things: Solid writing skills, and drive. I’d been a chef for 10 years but still found time to write and have stories published. He told me that showed him a true desire and drive to write; I wasn’t doing it because I had a degree in it, I did it because I had a passion for it. The journalism part you can learn; you can’t learn passion. I thought that was very insightful and used those gages whenever I hired reporters — and it served me well. (He still denies he’d been drinking that day…)

Q: What important lessons do you want future journalists to know before entering the journalism field?

A: We were fortunate enough to be part of an annual three-month internship program with the University of Oregon Journalism school (I know, Ironic, right?). One of the things we really tried to instill in our interns (who were all terrific) is the value and importance of true objectivity. In today’s world everyone has a platform of social media as well as opinion-driven reporting on everything from Fox to MSNBC — it’s easy for a reporter to feel as if, culturally, they’re entitled to their opinion in how they approach a story. That’s wrong. Anytime we did a story and had both “sides,” liberal and conservative, mad at us, I knew we were right where we needed to be in our reporting, i.e., in the middle. It’s a sign that you covered both sides of the issue because both sides felt it was “unfair.” A reporter’s job is to present all the facts, all perspectives, and allow the public to form their own opinion based on those facts and perspectives. Today more than ever, you need to leave your opinion at the door whenever you walk into the newsroom.

Q: Would you like to tell the readers of the blog and I about the people you’ve interviewed in your career and what those experiences were like?

A: Wow, that’s a tall order! I’ve interviewed coaches, local and state politicians, the unhoused, elementary schoolers, artists, parents of teens who died by suicide, carnies, priests, felons… some left me inspired while others took a few days to shake off. What I can tell you is that the one thing they all — we all — have in common is our own story, perspectives, and motives. Regardless of how right or wrong, good, or bad someone is, something or a series of events led them to this point. That’s where the story is and, I feel, how good feature reporting (and writing) can teach us lessons about ourselves through understanding others’ journeys.

Q: Do you have any favorite shows about journalism & journalists that you enjoy watching on tv? One of my favorite ones is Tokyo Vice about another journalist & author I interviewed Jake Adelstein. If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out.

A: I’ve heard of that show and it’s in my cue! One of my favorites, and one that I felt really captured the importance of community journalism, was Alaska Daily with Hilary Swank. Great writing and clearly by someone who was in the business. My favorite journalism movie is Spotlight. Hands down.

Thank you for having me as your guest, Bianca!