Thomas Friedman Distills the Essence of Good Column Writing

Three-time Pulitzer winner spoke at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS).

Following a recent visit to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., by the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, the NPS has published a valuable record of some of The New York Times columnist’s sage advice.

Friedman teased his forthcoming book Thank You for Being Late, which he said begins with a series of discussions between the author and an Ethiopian-blogger-slash-parking attendant. He also provided this vivid metaphorical description of what it takes to engage readers of opinion:

“A news story is meant to inform. A column is meant to provoke. I can write a story about NPS, but I am actually in the provocation business. I am either in the heating business or the lighting business. I am either stoking up an emotion inside of you or illuminating something for you, and if I do it right, I do both together. I create heat or light. I create a reaction,” said Freidman.

Friedman went on to note that creating both “heat and light” requires an act of chemistry that involves a combination of personal values, an understanding of the forces that shape people and events, what he refers to as the “machine,” and insight into how those forces affect the peoples and the cultures that interact with them.

Another very intriguing point touched on by Friedman is his belief that the year 2007 will go down in the history books as a momentous one. To find out why the journalist is of that mind, read the rest of Kenneth Stewart’s excellent write-up.