Paul Mason: ‘Sling Michael Herr’s Dispatches in your bag and you’ll be OK’

Asked what piece of journalism he would pass recommend to an aspiring journalist, the BBC’s Paul Mason said: "Michael Herr’s Dispatches – just sling it in your bag and you’ll be OK".

Michael Herr’s memoir of his time as a correspondent for Esquire magazine from 1967 to 1969, first published in 1977, was described as the best to have been written about the Vietnam War.

And the best piece of advice Mason received during his career?

It was a lesson from a feature writing tutor at Reed Business Information in the 1990s who taught him about the "nut graf". 

The nut graf is the part of the story that reveals the story’s content and message and explains its significance as a news story. It’s called the nut graf because, like a nut, it contains the “kernel,” or essential theme, of the story. You can read more about the nut graf here.

The Reflections events at the Frontline Club are a great opportunity to hear about the craft of journalism from the experts. 

ITV News’ Bill Neely’s discussion with VIn Ray was full of insight , as were those by other Reflections interviewees, including Lindsey Hilsum and Nick Robinson, who also reflect on what makes good television reporting.

If you want to hear more from Paul Mason, the BBC Newsnight’s economics editor about the lessons he’s learnt during his careers and the work of those journalists who inspired him, then book now for the latest in our Reflections series on Wednesday. Paul Mason will be in conversation with Matthew Eltringham, editor of the BBC College of Journalism website and events.

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