My Mentor: Paul Beckett on Rob Goldberg

'His single best piece of advice was just to be a polite pain in the arse'

Interview,Sophie Morris
Wednesday 10 July 2013 01:01

Rob was the television critic for The Wall Street Journal. I'd barely heard of the paper then and I was doing a law degree, but it got The Wall Street Journal embedded in my mind as a kind of iconic place to do journalism.

I looked over a lot of what Rob had been writing and it seemed very colourful and exciting. He'd done an interview with Pete Townshend and a magazine piece about violence in grocery stores in New Jersey. It was just very compelling writing and it made me want to do the same thing.

So I came back to Edinburgh and started writing. Over the next few years Rob kept giving me excellent signposts about how to get started in journalism. His single best piece of advice, either for sources or for hiring editors, was just to be a polite pain in the arse. When I got hired at Dow Jones news service in 1993 I just called the hiring editor one week and then wrote to him the next week, and it went on like that. By the time they did hire me they said: "You were such a pain in the neck we thought that you must really want it!"

He was also a very good critic of my work, and it wasn't quite plagiarism but I did try to emulate his writing. One of the first pieces I wrote for The Observer was about South African students and I used the same kind of lead I remember from one of Rob's stories.

He's since written a few books, but I always wanted to work for The Wall Street Journal and it became a lifelong obsession.

Paul Beckett is London bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal

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