Why little things mean a lot

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”

Those wise words put into the mouth of Sherlock Holmes have always struck me as a guide for life.

The allegedly minor decisions we make about everything from who we invite to the Christmas party through the way we treat waiters to our five-second thank-yous reveal huge insights into our mindsets and can also have a big impact on morale.

It is often something that to an dispassionate outsider will appear trivial which can push someone over the edge.

But it can also be a gesture that takes little time, expense and effort which can leave you feeling ten foot tall.

And, as sports presenter Dan Walker told the NCTJ annual awards last night, doing the little things well can be the difference between job success and failure.

He urged journalism students and young reporters at an uplifting dinner in Sheffield to find ways of standing out – even if that just meant making the best tea.

As I have said before, I asked the best reporter I’ve ever worked with to apply for a job after listening to her for less than a minute as she interviewed a primary school age boy on the phone while on work experience with us.

Just as you usually know within seconds of an interviewee walking through the door whether they’ve got that je ne sais quoi, you can extrapolate potential and talent from the simplest actions and attitudes of work experience students.

It was good to hear that message from Dan, and to witness him emphasising the crucial role of basic journalism training.

His final message was that all journalism on all platforms was in the end about the very best writing – making your words do justice to an event, issue or situation, and assembling them in a way that takes people on an engaging journey to the last sentence.

Someone who can do just that is Bristol Post reporter Louis Emanuel, who took the prize for best feature-writing by a trainee last night.

We’re very proud of Louis.

But in truth it was a night to be proud of journalism – as well as a reminder of something that, to paraphrase Mr Holmes, ought to be elementary, but is often forgotten.


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