Dan Purjes is a journalist and one of the most gifted writers that I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Dan currently works freelance for publications like Barrons and even recently had a main story in the New York Times. Generally he specializes in finance, writing about Wall Street, asset investment, fund investment and even the odd report on real estate. I caught up with Dan in Rockwood, NYC to find out more about what it takes to become a journalist, and here is his advice.
Dan tells me that from the beginning of his career he has found it hard to get jobs, even in a freelance capacity. With this in mind he tells me that any budding journalist must have thick skin to deal with rejection, and to get over the fact that nobody may read a story which they have poured their heart and soul into. Dan was lucky to have a great mentor in professor Mcatague, who was instrumental in finding him his first gigs.
Whether writing like Dan in finance or any other topic, Dan says that you must be relentless if you want to really get to the heart of a story. Very often he has seen journalists and reporters get on to a great story but they ended up shelving it because they didn’t have enough information, the real reason he tells me is that they weren’t relentless enough in their pursuit of the story.
One of the most precious tools of a reporter or journalist Dan tells me, is the contact list that they have and the strength of their relationships with key stakeholders. Dan tells me that he has many friends in Wall Street who will regularly give him storylines, comments, quotes and information. Dan mentions some of his colleagues from the past who never quite understood the strength of friends in high places, and that for this reason they didn’t quite make it to the levels that they should have done.
Dan has reminded me on numerous occasions just how much hard work, long hours and days without a break goes into delivering a brilliant story. Whilst he does tell me that he has more time on his hands since going freelance, he says that if there is a story that he is working on then it is 15 hour days and 7 day weeks.
Dan finishes our chat by reminding me that talent is one of the most important skills which you need in this position. Many think that they can write well simply because they can write, this is not the case and many fail to ever realize that they simply don’t have the talent in place to deliver great pieces, time and time again.