David Jackson has been a reporter at the Chicago Tribune since 1991, with the exception of a one-year break in 1998 when he worked at The Washington Post, where he shared a Pulitzer Prize. A Chicago native, he also spent time as a senior editor of Chicago Magazine.
PRWeek: What do you enjoy most about your work at the Tribune?
David Jackson: I get to do some good, I hope. That's gratifying. I also get to exercise my curiosity and learn about the world, which I love to do. There's no better way to learn about things than to be able to knock on doors.
PRWeek: Do you enjoy reporting about your native city?
Jackson: I spent some time in the Tribune's DC bureau. And while I loved it, I think there's a profound difference about reporting on things happening in your own town as opposed to those in another place. It's more meaningful. It brings a kind of drive to the work that otherwise isn't there in the same way.
PRWeek: Do you think there is an element of investigative reporting missing from journalism today?
Jackson: No. I think investigative reporting is getting better. I hear from time to time that it's disappearing or not being funded, but there's really not a lot of evidence of that. There's a lot of terrific investigative reporting being done and more and more cross-pollination between investigative journalists. The craft is getting better on the whole. I think it's much more widespread now than when I started.
PRWeek: Is technology helping?
Jackson: Technology is making it much easier to do investigative reporting. Back when I started, before the internet and comprehensive services like LexisNexis, to research a business I'd spend days scurrying from one clerk's office to another picking up pieces of paper. I still rely heavily on actual public records, but a lot of the scouting of stories can now be done online, much more quickly and powerfully.
PRWeek: How do PR pros figure into your job?
Jackson: I actually spend more time talking to PR people that are representing companies that I'm writing about. Sometimes there's adverse information that we have to talk to the company about, and the PR person will essentially be the gatekeeper for the company.
PRWeek: In that situation, do you see PR people as a conduit for information or are they sometimes an obstacle?
Jackson: Both. These arrangements have worked successfully...when both sides of the table have talked frankly and asked hard questions. In many cases, what initially seems like
an obstacle can end up being a good, fruitful conversation.
PRWeek: There's been a lot of news about cutbacks at newspapers across the US. The Tribune recently eliminated positions from its newsroom. How is that affecting the climate there?
Jackson: The layoffs at the Tribune have been wrenching to watch. Colleagues go through that and you face the anxiety. I see the people in charge of these newsrooms as really among the best investigative journalists and storytellers of their day. I think they are trying to face the realities of a declining circulation in a way that will promote excellence in the craft.