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Reporting Lessons From the Front Lines

Investigative reporter Serge Kovaleski is known as the Mariano Rivera of the New York Times – its closer. He gets sent to the front lines of virtually every major news story – in pursuit of the impossible interview, the hidden document, the telling detail. Terror incidents; political scandals; mass shootings; airliner crashes. He’s confounded the competition on all of them, while winning the respect and admiration of those he covers.

He joins ProPublica senior editor Joe Sexton on the podcast this week to talk about some of his most memorable reporting moments, and the lessons he’s learned in the process.

Highlights from their conversation:

  • On getting that impossible interview. How Kovaleski managed to speak with the Unabomber’s family, who eventually helped turn him in, and experienced “one of those journalism moments when you feel like real history is happening here.” (8:34)
  • The importance of knowing when not to publish. Kovaleski had a groundbreaking report on Alex Rodriguez’s use of performance enhancing drugs but only “had it 99 percent.” He didn’t run it, which was the right call any good journalist would make, Kovaleski says, but he concedes it would have been nice to break the story a year and a half ahead of A-Rod’s eventual season-long suspension. (17:01)
  • What it was like seeing Donald Trump mock his physicality, and how “on a more simplistic level, bullies need to be stood up to and stared down hard.” (25:20)

Listen to this podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. And you can also read all of Kovaleski's reporting for the New York Times here.

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