Top journalism maxims

“If your mama says she loves you, check it out.”

“Silence can be the best question of the interview.”

“Always listen to the nagging voice in back of your head.”

My Facebook friend Steve Gunn, former editor of the Virginian-Pilot, asked his friends for a list of the top journalism maxims that propel reporting and writing. Boy, did his friends ever respond. Right now, the post has nearly 100 responses, all classic. I liked it so much that I shared it on my Facebook page. And the comments started up there, too.

My contribution: “When someone starts a sentence with “To tell the truth,” he’s about to tell a lie. (Pat Stith told me that one.)

Some of my favorites:

“Readers won’t remember who got it first, but they will remember who got it wrong.”

“If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

“Don’t tell me what you think, tell me what you know.”

“Get off your ass and knock on doors.”

“Every time you assume something, you assume wrong.”

“If I’d had more time, it would have been shorter.”

“Get the name of the dog.” (Joe Killian elaborates.)

“Silence can be the best question of the interview.”

“Never trust an editor. Never trust an editor. Never trust an editor.”

“For copy editors: Always read the last three paragraphs. Nobody else has.”

“Get it first, but first get it right.”

“News is something somebody’s trying to keep out of the paper. Everything else is advertising.”

“If you don’t want it in the paper, don’t do it.”

“When in doubt leave it out.”


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