- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inspired by Andrew Exum’s exumple, I decided to try writing down my rules for living and working as a reporter for two decades in policy-oriented Washington:
•Treat people decently. The less power they have, the more conscious you should be of this.
•Be cordial with the people you cover, but don’t be friends with them. Socialize with them only rarely if ever.
•Partisan views have nothing to do with character. There are good people, and world-class shits, across the ideological spectrum.
•Enjoy the game, the passing pageant of life you are lucky enough to witness. (This is similar to Andrew’s rule about keeping a sense of humor.) When you stop enjoying it, you run the danger of becoming embittered, so try to leave Washington when that happens.
•Be loyal to your institution, but also be conscious that eventually it probably will disappoint you.
•Remember that in Washington, all victories are temporary, and to a degree self-correcting, especially in a system built on compromise and balance. This is especially helpful to remember when you lose.
•While we’re on the subject: Losing, including public humiliation, is actually a good thing to experience. It will make you more empathetic. You also will find out who your friends are. Make a point of reaching out to people who are down.
•Discover a way to find and maintain perspective. For me, this was escaping into history and nature — kayaking at Great Falls, hiking in the Blue Ridge, weekends with my wife and kids at state parks in West Virginia. History and nature, and time with family, made me realize that the quotidian ups and downs were less important than they felt.
What rules would you add? Delete?