Don Clark is a Musician and Journalist. He’s been writing about technology since 1980. Don is currently a freelance journalist for The New York Times. Previously, he worked at The Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle. Don also plays music professionally in several bands such as the Irish band Blind Duck and the rock band Off the Record.
ES: This is 5 minute mentor, a podcast where you’ll get advice from prominent authors, researchers, engineers, artists, and more, in 5 minutes or less.
ES: Today’s mentor is Don Clark, technology journalist and musician. Don has been writing about technology since 1980. He’s currently a freelance journalist for The New York Times. Previously worked at The Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle. Don also plays music professionally in several bands such as the Irish band Blind Duck and the rock band Off the Record.
DC: I’ve written about technology for 40 years. And I’ve gotten to interview some of the most amazing people like Steve Jobs, Gill Gates, Larry Ellison, Andy Grove. I’ve also seen many young people come up in the profession and I watched how they progressed. All the while I’ve been a musician, mainly for fun, but in a pretty serious way. I play Celtic music with my wife, and we have a theater company I write music for, and we have a rock band.
DC: If I had to give a piece of advice in both areas, in journalism, remember that the words you end up writing are not the only thing that matters. How you ended up writing them, is just as important. In other words, don’t take any ethical shortcuts, and treat anyone you encounter along the way with respect and kindness. Don’t think of your dealings with information sources as a transaction, but the beginning of a relationship that could bear different kinds of fruit long after you first meet them. You want them all to remember you positively even if you wrote something that they wish you hadn’t. In technology in particular, it’s important to understand and take an interest in what these people are creating. Even if that’s not the point of the article you’re writing at the moment. It’s all about karma. If you’re a jerk to people, there will come a time in your career where that will come back to bite you. Like some important person or company will choose to give an important story to someone else.
DC: In music, I recall something that was said to me and to my friends by a great Irish accordion player by the name of Martin McHugh, who has lived in Minnesota for many years. He said, “you don’t pick people in the band for the gig. Pick them for the ride home”. In other words, the best music is always about friendship. Play the kind of music that attracts the kind of people you want to be with, as well as play with. Give those other players an equal chance to shine. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get some harmony along the way. To me there’s no greater kick than collaborating with a bunch of people who all listen to each other, respect each other, and also have a good time just hanging out with each other. If you do all this, the audience can’t help but enjoy the experience. As Marty knew, the ride home can be wonderful, even if the gig doesn’t go all that well.