• September 2014

How Can You Reach Reporters? Tom Shroder Offers Insight

How can you get reporters to pay attention to your pitches?

Veteran journalist Tom Shroder, former editor of The Washington Post Magazine, says: “You should approach your client’s story as a journalist would approach it, which means you want to dig around until you find the most fascinating aspect of the story you are trying to tell.

“Ask yourself what grabs your interest. If you pitch something that you genuinely find interesting or important—not because your job is to find it interesting, but because it is interesting—chances are, a journalist will think so, too.”

Schroder is also a popular speaker. An award-winning journalist, writer, and editor during a career that has spanned more than 30 years, he was editor of The Washington Post Magazine from 2001 to 2009, where he conceived and edited the story, Fatal Distraction.

Written by fellow award-winning journalist Gene Weingarten, the article probed the case of a toddler named Chase who died in a hot car after his father accidentally left him there in the summer of 2008. The story asks: “Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?” It was awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing.

He also edited and contributed to Pearls Before Breakfast, which was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. Weingarten and Shroder persuaded world-famous violinist Joshua Bell to play classical music on his $3 million Stradivarius violin in the Washington Metro, incognito, as a social experiment to see how commuters would react. Of the several thousand who streamed by during the 45-minute concert—a cultural treat that would have required $200 tickets under normal circumstances—only a handful even bothered to glance at him, much less stop and listen.

Shroder is one of the foremost editors of humor in the country. He has edited humor columns by Weingarten, Dave Barry, and Tony Kornheiser. And, he conceived and launched the internationally syndicated comic strip, Cul de Sac, by Richard Thompson. Along with Barry and Weingarten, Shroder created Tropic Hunt, which has become the Herald Hunt in Miami and the Post Hunt in Washington, a mass-participation puzzle annually attended by thousands.

Shroder is the author of four books:

  • His most recent title is the critically acclaimed Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster, singled out as the one book to read about the blowout among all the Gulf oil disaster books, with The New York Review of Books calling it “an excellent book that wraps concise explanations of technology into a fascinating story of danger and tragedy on the rig,” and the LA Times saying the book “marries a John McPhee feel for the technology to a Jon Krakauer sense of an adventure turned tragic.”

  • His first book, Seeing the Light, was a biography of Everglades photographer Clyde Butcher. It featured black-and-white images of what Kirkus Reviews called a “primeval-looking landscape,” noting that “Clyde Butcher’s unusual life as chronicled by Tom Shroder and John Barry is nearly mythic in its sweep.”
  • His fourth book, Acid Test, published in September 2014, features the stories of three men, which together form a compelling argument for the unprecedented healing properties of psychedelic drugs that have for decades been characterized as dangerous, illicit substances.

Born in New York City in 1954, Shroder is the son of a novelist and a builder, and the grandson of MacKinlay Kantor, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his Civil War novel “Andersonville.” He attended the University of Florida, where he became editor of the 22,000-circulation student daily newspaper despite the fact that he was an anthropology major (an affront for which the university’s journalism faculty was slow to forgive him). After graduation in 1976, he wrote national award-winning features for the Fort Myers News Press, The Tallahassee Democrat, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and The Miami Herald.

Praise for Tom Shroder

Of Tom’s editing, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author Dave Barry said: “Tom Shroder is the best in the business— the rare editor who has the analytical skills to see what needs to be done and the writing ability to show you, when necessary, exactly how to do it. He is especially good at finding the flaws in long, complex pieces, and getting writers to perform at the highest level they’re capable of. I’d trust him with anything I’ve written.”

The Perfect Storm author Jon Krakauer said: “[‘Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster,’] is one of the best disaster books I’ve ever read. I tore through it like a novel, but with the queasy knowledge that the whole damn thing is true. A phenomenal feat of journalism.”

Shroder’s editing project, Top-Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State, by Dana Priest and Bill Arkin, was a New York Times best-seller. Of his editing, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Priest said: “[Tom] is a master at pacing, tension, and drama and knows how to pull them out of a reporter’s notebook like a rabbit from a hat.”

Tom Shroder’s Speaking Topics

Old Souls: Compelling evidence from children who claim to remember previous lives based on Tom Shroder’s travels with past-life researcher Dr. Ian Stevenson

All across the globe, small children spontaneously speak of previous lives, beg to be taken “home,” pine for mothers and husbands and mistresses from another life, and know things that there seems to be no normal way for them to know. From the moment these children can talk, they speak of people and events from the past—not vague stories of centuries ago, but details of specific, identifiable individuals who may have died just months, weeks, or even hours before the birth of the child in question.

For 40 years, Dr. Ian Stevenson traveled the world, from Lebanon to India to suburban Virginia investigating and documenting more than 2,000 of these past-life memory cases. Shroder, the first journalist to have the privilege of accompanying Dr. Stevenson in his fieldwork, brought his essentially unknown work to worldwide attention.

In the book, Shroder follows Stevenson into the lives of children and families touched by this phenomenon, changing from skeptic to believer as he comes face-to-face with concrete evidence he cannot discount in this spellbinding and true story.

In this speech, Shroder discusses his research and findings. The conversation that ensues is always passionate and fascinating.

“Fire on the Horizon”: What really happened in the blowout of Deepwater Horizon and who was most responsible?

This speech discusses the book by Tom Shroder, which is a real-life thriller in the tradition of “The Perfect Storm.”

“Fire on the Horizon,” written by Shroder with the assistance of veteran oil-rig captain John Konrad, recounts in vivid detail the life of the rig itself, from its construction in South Korea in the year 2000 to its improbable journey around the world to its disastrous end, and reveals the day-to-day lives, struggles, and ambitions of those who called it home.

In the spring of 2010 the world watched for weeks as more than 200 million gallons of crude oil billowed from a hole three miles deep in the Gulf of Mexico. Warnings of various and imminent environmental consequences dominated the news. Deepwater drilling—largely ignored or misunderstood to that point—exploded in the American consciousness in the worst way possible.

From the little-known maritime colleges to Transocean’s training schools and Houston headquarters to the small towns all over the country where the wives and children of the Horizon’s crew lived in the ever-present shadow of risk hundreds of miles away, “Fire on the Horizon” offers full-scale portraits of the Horizon’s captain, its chief mate, its chief mechanic, and others.

“What emerges is a white-knuckled chronicle of engineering hubris at odds with the earth itself, an unusual manifestation of corporate greed, and the unforgettable heroism of the men and women onboard the Deepwater Horizon,” Shroder explains.

Shroder’s talk reveals the lives behind the headlines and gets to the bottom of what really went wrong—and who is most to blame. Hint: It’s not the people who will stand trial for the tragedy, but others, higher up, who so far have escaped personal responsibility.

Be sure to book Shroder to deliver this exciting speech!

Other topics from veteran journalist and award-winning editor Tom Shroder:

  • The fate and history of long-form journalism in a digital world
  • How to write compelling, narrative nonfiction
  • “Acid Test:“http://www.amazon.com/Acid-Test-Ecstasy-Power-Heal-ebook/dp/B00INIQTD8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410187478&sr=1-1&keywords=acid+test+tom+shroder Can once-feared drugs heal our wounded warriors and liberate our souls? The astounding saga behind the renaissance in psychedelic healing. This book is available in early September 2014.
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