The 7 habits of successful journalists — starting with curiosity

  1. Curiosity (including imagination)
  2. Scepticism
  3. Persistence/tenacity
  4. Empathy
  5. Creativity
  6. Discipline
  7. Passion

Why good journalism starts with curiosity (and imagination)

Image by Ampersanden. CC BY-NC 2.0 license.
  • What type of car was it?
  • How did it crash? Did it leave the road, was it a collision with another car, or with some other obstacle?
  • Why did it crash? Did the driver fall asleep? Were they distracted? Were they under the influence of alcohol or another substance? Was it someone else’s fault? A problem with the road?
  • Who was in the car? Was it just the driver?
  • Was anybody else involved, either as participants or witnesses?
  • Is the driver hurt? Anyone else?
  • What has the driver been arrested for?
  • Have they been charged? Released? When will the police need to decide one way or another?
  • Is it rare or common for crashes to happen on this road?
  • Where on the road did it take place?
  • What?
  • Who?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

Curiosity and the interview

Curiosity doesn’t just have a role in news reporting — good interviews also often have their origins in curiosity.

  • “How does this work? Who can explain?”
  • “What makes someone successful at this thing? Let’s find someone who is successful.”
  • “Why did this happen? Let’s find out.”
  • “Where are things happening with this issue — let’s speak to someone from there.”
  • “When was a key moment? Can we find someone who was there at the time?”

Methods to develop curiosity

Image by Zubrow. CC BY-NC 2.0
  • He was under the influence of drugs, not drink
  • He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt
  • The car wasn’t fit for the road
  • He assaulted officers
  • He was wanted for another, unrelated, crime

Updates and further reading:

Mario Livio “was so curious about curiosity that he wrote a book about it.” You can listen to a podcast interview with Mario here.

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Paul Bradshaw

Paul Bradshaw

Write the @ojblog. I run the MA in Data Journalism and the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism @bcujournalism and wrote @ojhandbook #scrapingforjournos