Whether you are writing professionally or looking to write a great piece for your blog, it is important that you understand how to put a piece of journalism together. Today I’m going to let you in to some of the secrets of Dan Purjes, a gifted writer from Barrons who reports on things like fund investment, finance, asset investment, as well as the report Wall Street is concerned about in terms of the financial markets. In any field of journalism, be it writing the New York Times main story or writing a smaller piece, the methodology is the same. I caught up with Dan in Rockwood NYC to find out more about how what is needed for a great story.
Dan always makes sure that he puts huge amount of research into his pieces. He tells me that if it is a breaking story then he must go off what he has, but a deeper investigative story requires lots of background work. When working on a story Dan will work 15-17 hour days in order to get all of the information which he can. He tells me that if a story is not properly researched or backed up with facts, there is a potential that the story will not be make the impact that it should.
Somewhat surprisingly Dan tells me that he will generally switch writing styles depending on the type of story that he is writing. He says that he learned this from his old college professor Mr. Mctague, who reinforced the point that the way in which the words flow should help to tell the story as much as the words do. For example if Dan is writing a long piece about deep-rooted issues, he will use long sentences and a wide variety of lexicon, if however Dan is writing a sensational piece about a business, he will keep it short and punchy, to drive the scandal home.
No journalistic piece should be made up entirely of opinion and it should be supported with some facts or quotes from key stakeholders. Dan tells me that he tries to work on around 30 – 40% fact-based material, and the rest made up of speculation or opinion. The reason for this Dan tells me is that facts are indisputable and they serve to back up an opinion. Whilst facts are rarely conclusive as they can be used in different ways, having them in the piece is what Dan prioritizes in order to make his story believable and more powerful.
Dan tells me that he has left many stories on the shelf because they were no longer topical. Readers want to see stories about the now and the world moves so fast that this is why Dan is forced to leave many of his stories on the shelf. When writing a great story, it must be relevant to what is going on.