Wesley Lowery, national correspondent at the Washington Post
"One of the first editors I worked for after joining The Washington Post in 2014 was Terence Samuel, who at the time ran the paper’s congressional coverage (now he’s deputy managing editor at NPR). He told me that he wanted me, at all times, to be thinking of story ideas and writing them down. After every interview, what were two new leads? After every staff meeting, what tidbits were mentioned that would work as a stand-alone piece? When reading coverage by colleagues and competitors, what fact, statistic, or concept—often mentioned in the middle or end of the story—cries out for its own story, or series? What themes are surfacing in coverage by smaller, or more locally or regionally focused outlets that would benefit from coverage from a larger outlet with more time and resources?
Making these lists became an obsession of mine. The key, for me, was being unafraid to write things down, and stimulate that side of my brain. I still keep the first list that I wrote at [Samuel’s] urging, on my nightstand. As you can see from the picture, it was just a list of disjointed thoughts and overly broad concepts. My lists now strive for razor precision. But I did end up writing a thing or two from the bottom of that first list, and dozens more from the lists that have followed.”