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`If you get tired telling people's stories, quit' - and other nuggets of advice

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Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 12:00 am

“If you get tired of telling people’s stories, quit.”

That bit of advice was offered up during our recent writers session.

We try to hold writers sessions every week or two. We discuss writing, reporting, ethics, media law. Sometimes, we delve into the fusion of culture and journalism - favorite song lyrics that tell a story, for instance - or talk about the techno-future of our dynamic industry.

Our homework for the most recent session: Ask a mentor (or person we generally admire) to provide the best advice they’d ever heard — or given.

Some of the advice was about journalism. Much of it was about life.

A sampling:

Pam Bauserman shared advice from Irene Spencer, author:

“Take a risk.”

Lauren Nelson offered this counsel from Lisa Glatt, one of her former creative writing professors at Long Beach State:

“Write what you know. Tell the stories you experience personally.”

From Brian Fuelner, who sought advice from Joe Sartore, noted wildlife photographer. (The advice was passed along by one of Sartore’s assistants.)

“Be positive and be persistent.”

Advice provided to me by Phil Bookman, former executive editor at The Record:

“Make that extra phone call.”

Joelle Milholm quoted a former Denver Bronco lineman, Keith Bishop. It was the Super Bowl in 1987, just minutes to go. The Broncs were down by a touchdown and were starting a final do-or-die drive from their own two yard line. And Bishop said:

“OK — we’ve got ’em right where we want ’em.”

Steve Hansen referred to a tough-but-wise seventh-grade teacher, John Cochran, who drilled into his charges:

"Never underestimate your abilities or where your abilities can take you in life."

Jordan Guinn recalled the advice of several mentors from Sacramento State:

"You are only as good as your last byline."

Maggie Creamer offered the quote I cited as the lede of this item, “If you get tired of telling people’s stories, quit,” offered by Steve Swenson, a veteran reporter at the Bakersfield Californian, where she worked as an intern before joining us.

Robyn Grace Jennings cited her husband's thought:

“Be an optimistic skeptic.”

I have a couple of other directive offerings that will take a bit more space, so more on this topic soon.

In the meantime, especially for any journo-folk out there, what do you think?

Best advice ever?