Car. As soon as he heard the word, Fallow experienced a feeling that journalists live for. Before the mind can digest what the ears have heard, an alarm puts the nervous system on red alert. A story! It is a neutral event, a feeling as palpable as any recorded by the five senses. A story!
-Tom Wolfe The Bonfire of the Vanities
Ross, who has died in New York aged 99, worked hard at being forgettable. Her advice for young journalists, she said in a 2001 interview with the magazine where she worked for more than six decades, was to stay out of the story.
“Be interested in your subject, not yourself,” she said. “Listen carefully, with your own ears; don’t turn over the job to a tape recorder to listen for you. Be accurate, honest, responsible. Do homework and be prepared. Your point of view should be implicit in your choice of facts and quotes in your report. Don’t exploit your position as a reporter to divest yourself of pettiness, bitterness, jealousy, prejudice, resentment.
“Don’t be catty,” she continued. “Don’t gossip about people who try to help you in your reporting. Don’t gossip about your colleagues. Don’t try to go where you’re not welcome. Don’t write about anybody you don’t like. Try to be original by following your own instincts, your own ideas, your own thinking. Find the humor in everything you see or hear or feel. If you have anything to say, about the world, about life, look for a way to say it without making a speech. Have a baby before you reach 40.”
–Gary Silverman “Lillian Ross, journalist, 1918-2017” Financial Times