Mark Schoofs will teach English 467, Journalism, this spring. Win- ner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for international reporting, he has worked as an investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal and a staff writer for The Village Voice. He currently serves as a senior editor at ProPublica, a non-profit online news organization devoted to investigative reporting.
Writing today needs more …
It doesn’t need more, it needs less. The Internet is a vast plumbing system for logorrhea. Mothers should update how they admonish their children: if you can’t say something substantive or witty, don’t say anything.
You can’t live without …
Dark chocolate and mountains.
If you could ask President Obama one question, what would it be?
Can I interview you, one-on-one, on tape, with no handlers present, for an hour every week until the end of your Presidency?
What’s the most difficult piece you’ve ever had to write?
My first eulogy.
If you could go back to college now, what would you do differently?
What is your favorite word and why?
A painter once told me that any color — any at all — could be beautiful, depending on its context. The same is true for words. My favorite word is the one that’s perfectly, absolutely apt.
The most embarrassing moment of your career was …
For a series on Medicare fraud, a Wall Street Journal researcher, a fellow reporter, and I had identified a medical provider whom I’ll call John Michaels. Not only did he have suspicious billing patterns, but he had also been convicted of manslaughter in 1981 in South Carolina. So my colleague and I did a meet- and-greet, showing up unannounced at his home. Michaels wasn’t there, but his wife was. I gave her my card, and she gave me her husband’s cell number. I called it, and he promised to call me back. He didn’t. Over the next couple of weeks, I called him again and again and again. He never answered. I also called his wife, who kept assuring me that she still had my card, and that her husband would call me back. By this time, I had retrieved court records and newspaper articles about the manslaughter conviction. Michaels had shot a man I’ll call Peter Green with a .22 caliber rifle. I had also interviewed the judge and one of the lawyers, as well as some of Michaels’ relatives. So I knew a lot. Certainly, I knew why he was avoiding me. One day around lunchtime, I called and Michaels finally picked up. But as soon as I introduced myself, he said, “I can’t talk to you now because I’m in line at a bank.” “OK,” I replied, “but do call me back, because I really am not pre-judging you for what happened in South Carolina.” “What do you mean?” he said. “I mean manslaughter!” I replied. “In 1981 you shot a man.” “Impossible,” he said. “In 1981, I was still in high school in Delaware.” Oops.
Most importantly, why is Yale better than Harvard?
Flair. Look, let’s give the devil his due. Harvard has a few heroes, sure. But who among them had style? We’ve got Nathan Hale. Not only was he a charmer “to chums and more than one lady friend,” as Yale’s online biography delightfully puts it, but when his time came he knew how to shame the tyrants, inspire his chums, and go out with panache.