Earlier this week, FBLA wrote about journalist Terry McDermott and today, we’ve followed up. He’s just finished a series of stories on the bio-chemistry of memory, scheduled December publication. About which he told us:
After dealing with fundamentalist terrorism for four years, brain science was a walk in the park.
FBLA asked if thoughts of Pulizers, etc. weren’t always in back of any editor’s mind:
TMcD: As to the prizes, for much of the time we were reporting the stories we weren’t even sure there would be stories; we were prepared to fail. So unless somebody gives prizes for noble failures, I’d be hard-pressed to see how that would be a motivation. I guess it sounds pretentious or corny, but we really did think we were doing the right thing.
FBLA asked if he’d planned to do a book based on the series.
TMcD: I had no thought of doing a book on the hijackers. The subject had exhausted me, but when an agent contacted me about a book on another subject (believe it or not, the rap group, NWA), I told him I was too deep into 9/11 to even consider it. He suggested doing a book on that. I thought I had more to say, so when I finished the last of the pieces for the Times, he shopped a proposal, somebody bought it and, for the next year, I did more reporting and wrote the book.
FBLA asked how much more reporting was needed for the book.
TMcD: This subject was unusual in that the information was so sparse and hard to find, so it required quite a lot of additional reporting. I wouldnâ€™t recommend it to anyone. I did an additional seven or eight months of reporting on the ground, plus continuous reporting up to publication.
FBLA asked about the costs of his series.
TMcD: There are opportunity costs for everything and I suppose those are the toughest decisions news managers have to make, but one of the glories of having a robust staff like the LAT is that we ought to be able to do local, national and foreign – an awful lot of things – simultaneously. And we do. Thatâ€™s the whole point of our complaints about reducing staff. We will increasingly be faced with either or decisions.
FBLA won’t sully this with mentioning that he’s dreamy.