Just Say Nott
“Be prolific and competent,” says Santa Fe New Mexican education reporter Robert Nott about working as a journalist, or just about being a person in general. This, he explains, will take you far.
The New Mexican hired Nott as an administrative assistant because he could type 100 words a minute. Nott also had a history of working in the theater, which prompted the arts and culture editor to assign him a theater review. Nott wrote the story, the editor told him he was a natural born writer, and he has been a reporter since.
This story makes working as a journalist—even being hired as a journalist—sound embarrassingly easy, but keeping at it requires Nott’s considerable energy and focus.
Nott is busy, not just as a journalist, but working on his own creative projects on the side; he has three, almost four books out, and regularly writes and directs plays. In all of his work, Nott believes in the importance of a sense of humor; he is a creative person who loves learning; and Nott is a constant advocate of exactitude, accuracy and efficiency. When it comes to his journalism, sometimes he has to “amuse myself into a story,” by writing a crazy opening for an article just to get interested and “keep it fresh,” so to speak.“If you’re able to laugh at things,” says Nott, “the days just keep getting funnier and funnier.”
This appreciation for each day being a fun—or funny—new adventure is a part of what keeps Nott in journalism.
“I could go back to bartending, or be doing something different,” says Nott, “and still have time to be directing a play at the Santa Fe Playhouse, or helping to start up a newspaper at a middle school, because I’m creative and I know how to make the time to do creative work.”
But what makes journalism special as a job to support him while he does creative work on the side is that, “almost every day is different.” Nott feels that, as a journalist, he is constantly learning, and every day he gets to be an expert about a new topic.
Being an expert about a topic, even with a sense of wit and humor, is not to be taken lightly. Nott calls journalism “the most imperfect business in the world,” but does not use that as an allowance for sloppiness. Nott, who double and triple checks his facts instead of leaving fact-checking up to his editor, boasts that he is responsible for just one published wrong fact in the last year. Nott understands the importance of doing a job and doing it right, partly from being in the military when he was younger. “Just get the story done,” he says, “cause if you don’t, somebody else will.”
There are rewards to punching out stories at high speeds, while being prolific and competent, beyond the satisfaction of working under and making a deadline on a regular basis. For Nott, even throwaway stories yield results. Sometimes he hears, years later, that a story he wrote saved somebody’s life. “Ultimately my gut tells me,” says Nott, “that somebody will be touched by my story.”
Robert Nott was a guest speaker in October for The Jackalope class.