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Today's Journalism Lesson

Aspiring journalists are always asking me, "How did you become such a famous writer, in addition to being a sparkling conversationalist and an extraordinarily manly man?" The first part is easy. Good writing comes from good reporting. And good reporting sometimes comes from standing around, waiting to get lucky. You want to put yourself in the position where luck will bump into you. The single best place to get lucky is in the halls of the Capitol. You will never get an appointment with a Senator, but on a good morning, hanging around, cooling your heels, you might bump into 10 of them, and they will usually let you tag along on the subway tram as they zip between the Capitol and the Senate office buildings. Sometimes you can follow them right into their inner sanctum. Once, during the Clinton impeachment, Orrin Hatch took me into his office and played some of the music he'd composed. He sang along, swaying back and forth. The things you discover from just standing around!

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 25, 2005; 10:24 AM ET
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