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World Journalism Institute: A Morning with Pulliam

I hardly have time to write anything--I'm spending a solid 12 hours a day solely on class and homework. (As in, I have to be in the classroom before 8:30 in the morning and I don't get back to my room until after 8:30 at night.) But I don't care.

The WJI program is amazing. It's the biggest challenge I've had in journalism--definitely on the level with my challenge in my Spanish major of being plopped into a Spanish-speaking household when barely able to string two sentences together in Spanish.... if not even more challenging. I'm learning from Russ Pulliam today, who's a senior editor at the Indianapolis Star (woohoo Indiana!) and whose family has been in newspapers for a few generations. From reading a collection of his editorials and features in preparation for this course, I thought he'd be in-your-face and blunt.

I couldn't have been farther from the truth. He's very Midwestern, as he said himself, where people are polite and nice--at least, nicer than New Yorkers. He's a quiet speaker, and not intimidating at all, despite his incredible journalistic resume. Right now we're rewriting a news story to shorten it and tell only the absolute key parts (in 100 words or less--definitely a challenge), and he's going around the room, reading our rewrites and asking us kind questions to help us understand how we can do better.

He points out what is great, and tells us what he wouldn't do--"I wouldn't worry about..." or "I'm not sure I'd...", for example. He gently tells us what we need, but not as if he's telling us what to write--he's telling us how we can tell the story we want to share more concisely and with more interest. He's letting us know how we might "want to be careful" about keeping a reader in suspense too long, or how we need to clarify what the real story is.

Pulliam couches all his advice in unassuming terms. Try to imagine hearing "I think you might be trying to do too much here..." in his soft voice. It's very reassuring to a young journalist the day after staying up late finishing a grueling assignment.


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