Rick Reilly returned yesterday to the University of Colorado's J-School to deliver a speech to graduates. A 1981 alumni himself, Reilly sent out the last pure CU journalism grads, as the program converts to "journalism plus" next year. Gathered from reports by the Denver Post and Daily Camera, here are some of the words of wisdom he imparted:
"When you get out there, all I ask is that you: DON'T WRITE FOR FREE! Nobody asks strippers to strip for free, doctors to doctor for free or professors to profess for free. Have some pride! What you know how to do now is a skill that 99.9 percent of the people don't have. If you do it for free, they won't respect you in the morning. Or the next day. Or the day after that. You sink everybody's boat in the harbor, not just yours. So just DON'T!"
"And don't ever use the word 'enjoy.' Ever."
A professor back in college told him that he was too good for sportswriting.
"I look at my tax return this year and say, 'Pfft, no I'm not," Reilly said.
He told graduates that journalism will always be relevant, and the "digital house of cards will fold" without trained professionals to dig up documents, check facts, interview people and write well. Bloggers who hold down couch springs in their mothers' basements and write for a few people, he said, aren't carrying out those duties.
"One of my rules is to write sentences that have never been uttered before in the history of the English language. . . . So when you get out there, say things people have NEVER said before, like: 'Tiger, I'd like you to meet my sister.' 'Brett Favre has finally made up his mind.'"
Young journalists, the biggest present you give yourselves as you head out into the workplace is to NEVER FUCKING LISTEN TO RICK REILLY. His big advice about not writing sentences people have already read? Reilly has made a career of writing sentences people have already read. Here are a few selected instances of Reilly's never-before-uttered sentences.
Never Write a Sentence You've Already Read.
That was said by Oscar Wilde, but it's still the best way to make words jump off the page and squirt grapefruit juice in the reader's face. Why write: "He beat the crap out of the guy" when it's so much more fun to write: "He turned the guy into six feet of lumps"?
Patrick: "How about the column, ‘Things that you will never see,' and you wrote an entire column on that?"
Reilly: "Oh yeah, sorry. That was pretty good. Thank you."
Patrick: "OK, so you stole that."
Reilly: "No. I changed it to ‘Sentences that have never been uttered.'"
"I've been doing this for 30 years and my No. 1 goal in writing is to never write a sentence you've already read...
"I don't know if the guy wants me to just write sentences that everybody's already read..."
My #1 rule is something Oscar Wilde once said: "Never write a sentence you've already read."
I emailed Rick from SI for writing advice and he gave me something great. He said, "never write a line you've already read."
No, journalism will always need "trained professionals to check facts and write well," trained professionals like Rick Reilly who traffic in recycled material and fake MLK quotes. Reilly was on Colin Cowherd's show yesterday, and had this exchange:
Cowherd: Did you have a problem with Americans cheering for the death, even if it's for an evil guy like Osama Bin Laden?
Reilly: Well, I immediately thought of Martin Luther King, I think it was him, who said, 'No matter what, no matter if it's...even if it's my most hated enemy, I will never cheer for a death." That's the first thing I thought.
It's unlikely that the King quote was Reilly first thought, because it wasn't a King quote at all. He, like the rest of us holding down couch springs in our mothers' basements (at least the fourth time he's used that reference, by the way), saw it on Twitter and unthinkingly parroted it. Unfortunately for Reilly, by the time he was parroting it on the radio, the quote had already been thoroughly debunked.
That's "journalism plus," people.
One of the sprightly CU grads was thrilled with Reilly's speech, telling a reporter, "[Reilly] has been around a lot so he really has a lot to teach about writing."
Now that's a sentence we definitely haven't read before.
H/T Hayes for the Cowherd info