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March 19, 2015updated 04 Jul 2016 3:24pm

Editors Rusbridger, Dacre, Witherow and others reveal what it takes to be a good journalist

By Dominic Ponsford

The UK’s top national newspaper editors have shared their tips on what makes a good journalist for press marketing body Newsworks.

It is a round-up of priceless insights.

Who would have thought that the number one journalism skill for new-media visionary Alan Rusbridger of The Guardian is still shorthand?

Or that Mirror editor Lloyd Embley’s number one book for journalists is classic military strategy text The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre’s seven-figure salary means he is a wealthy man himself these days. But he clearly hasn’t let himself become seduced by the rich and famous.

He says a good journalist has: “An ability never to forget that the rich and powerful only want to befriend you for two reasons: to get stuff into your paper or, far more likely, to keep stuff out.”

Here’s a round-up of the best bits from Newsworks’ fascinating annual review.

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Three qualities of a good journalist:

Alan Rusbridger

Shorthand. Still!

A full range of digital skills (social, search, data, audio, video, linking etc).

The usual, now-clichés : cunning/plausibility/modest literary ability.

John Witherow, The Times:

An eye for a lie and a tooth for the truth; a willingness to get up the noses of authority; a wish to entertain and inform.

David Dinsmore, The Sun:

You still need the nose to scent a good story, the nous to work your way through the multifarious regulations and compliance issues, and, finally, the willingness to learn new ways of doing things.

Lloyd Embley, the Mirror group:

Tenacity, lateral thinking, a good contacts book.

Amol Rajan, The Independent:

Scepticism, curiousity, bravery.

Sarah Sands, London Evening Standard:

Resourcefulness, adaptability, being technologically savvy.

Jason Seiken, the Telegraph:

First and foremost, courage – the ability to persevere when powerful obstructionists do all they can to stop you. Second, a curious mind that embraces new challenges. Third, integrity – with sources and with readers, your word needs to be your bond.

Paul Dacre, the Daily Mail:

An instinct to know when to be bold and when to be careful. Any fool can be either. It’s getting the balance right that’s difficult.

An ability NEVER to forget that the rich and powerful only want to befriend you for two reasons: to get stuff into your paper or, far more likely, to keep stuff out.

Boundless stamina, intuition and an eye for detail.

Top journalism books and films:

The Front Page (Witherow)

The Art of War by Sun Tzu (Embley)

Publish and be Damned! by Hugh Cudlipp and Headlines All My Life by Arthur Christiansen (Dacre)

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford (Rajan)

Hack Attack by Nick Davies and All The President’s Men (Rusbridger)

Read the full Q and As with editors here.

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