That’s why, from time to time, in addition to posts about sources and strategies for finding and analyzing business information, you’ll find some discussion here that relates to reporting and journalism.
About a week ago, my wife and I attended a fascinating talk sponsored by the Rochester, NY Jewish Book Festival by the journalist and author Gail Sheehy. During her career, Sheehy has been a writer for the New Yorker, conducted one-on-one interviews with presidents, Kings and world leaders, but is best known for her ground breaking book about adult life patterns titled Passages. Sheehy’s newest is book is Daring: My Passages: A Memoir.
In her 90 minute talk about her life, challenges, struggles and rich career, Sheehy shared a few valuable insights with the same underlying theme, and these are of particular value to all researchers and journalists:
* The best career advice that Sheehy ever received, she told the audience, was not to go after smaller stories. Instead she was told to tackle a big story that “everybody is talking about” and uncover the “why” behind the story.
* In response to my question to Sheehy as to who she would most like to interview today and what she’d want to find out, she answered Vladimir Putin. And to find out what drives him and why he acts as he does, she said she would encourage him to talk about great leaders in Russian history.
* In discussing the rise of social media as the newest form of reporting, Sheehy made the point that long form journalism is what gives us context and answers to our questions; but how do we get to “the why” in 140 characters?
So to Sheehy, it’s all about answering the why question, and that’s something that despite the rise of big data and computer generated news story creation, it still takes a human mind to answer. A computer, for example, could not have taken data points and put together PBS's Frontline’s compelling exploration of the origin of ISIS, answering the question why did it come to be the force it is today.
Nor can automated systems answer the most important "why" questions that you can find and tackle as a qualified business researcher either.