Ask A Pro
Examples of Work
Dave Lieber's video columns
A link to Lieber's recent columns
Lieber's personal Web site
What motivated you to become a journalist?
When I was a teenager growing up on the upper west side of Manhattan in New York City, I used to go buy the final edition of The New York Post. As I walked home at night, I'd read the columns of Pete Hamill. They made me laugh, cry and get angry. I thought that any job that can affect someone so emotionally as they read while walking down the street was a great job! I was right, too.
How much has technology affected your job in recent years?
Tremendously! It has really helped me be very efficient, very busy and very organized. I rely most on my Palm Pilot, which keeps all my information. I actually have two, and even take notes on one with a foldable keyboard. I love my two computers, all my great publishing software, my digital camera, laser printer, cell phone, bluetooth device and, yes, my BlackBerry!
What do you like most about writing a column, and what is most challenging?
I like the fact that you are around people all the time as a columnist. You are there like their favorite TV show. They really get to know you. Most challenging is the constant deadline. I wrote three times a week for a dozen years. It takes over your life.
As a volunteer adviser, what have you learned about journalism from students?
At first, they don't seem to get it, but then all of a sudden they produce these masterpieces. So confusion leads to excellence. I just have to be patient as they pick up all the stuff I am trying to teach them.
In looking at high school newspapers, what's the most common type of error you see and how can it be avoided?
This applies not only to high school papers but to ALL newspapers. Newspapers everywhere write boring stories that aren't really stories. They are articles. Stories have beginnings, middles and ends. They have heroes and villains with a plot and a climax. Most newspaper articles by most writers read like they just wanted to write the thing and go home. I really wish reporters would emphasize their writing and really focus on becoming both great reporters and great storytellers, too.
With the newspaper business going through so much change and tumult, is it still a rewarding option for teens?
More than ever! Whatever form journalism will be sold to the public in during the coming decades, there will always be a need for bright reporters, writers, storytellers, researchers, producers of content, humorists, essayists, photographers, videographers, etc. The jobs will always be there. But what kind of media product is, of course, unknown – and very, very exciting.
What kinds of classes would you recommend that students interested in journalism take while in college?
Well, one thing: Don't take journalism classes. Yes, I wrote that. OK, take a few, but don't major in journalism. Get your journalism education by being a reporter and editor for the college paper. See, college is the one time in your life when you can learn about all the things that will make a great journalist. So study architecture, art, music, movies, literature, history, philosophy, economics, political science, etc. A liberal arts major is the best way to prepare to be a generalist as a writer.