Reflecting on Wil S. Hylton

My favorite thing about my feature writing class (aside from the fact that it’s taught by a working reporter) is that we have a lot of guest speakers. I love hearing from a range of journalists.

Not so long ago, Wil S. Hylton, who writes long-form stories for a number of publications, visited our class to talk about profile-writing and journalism in general.

Hylton is a cool guy. There’s no other way to say it, really. From his relaxed posture and simple speaking style, it’s easy to see why people become comfortable with him while he’s reporting.

He said that, as a reporter, you should make people comfortable with you “by an means necessary.” To Hylton, that means “Put[ing] your chips on the table next to theirs.”

Perhaps it’s because of his philosophy of honesty that made it difficult for me to imagine a source having trouble opening up to him.

Hylton stressed the importance of being open and honest as a reporter. He reminded us to be transparent.

He did more than preach honesty to us, though. He answered, thoughtfully, every question that a student had for him — more than once admitting that, maybe, he didn’t have the answer.

His honesty extended to the debate about opinionated journalism. Hylton didn’t shy away from the fact that people are biased.

And, besides, people are inherently biased. That’s just a part of the human condition.

But Hylton didn’t say that he was in favor of anyone in the media running around and spouting whatever nonsense that they want. Hylton said that reporters and writers and people have to earn their bias.

“Make the case for what you’re saying,” he said.

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