Q&A: Bill Sizemore, The Virginian-Pilot reporter

by January 21, 2010

Bill Sizemore, government/military reporter at The Virginian-Pilot

Government/military reporter at The Virginian-Pilot

Age: 60

Home: Norfolk, VA
What I do: Government/military reporter at The Virginian-Pilot
Hours worked per week: 40-plus

Why I do what I do: It’s all I know how to do and all I’ve ever wanted to do. I like to think the work I do makes a positive difference in the world – giving people information they need and can trust. Besides, printer’s ink is in my blood. My father was a weekly newspaper editor and publisher.

Favorite story I reported: I revealed that Pat Robertson, the televangelist, used airplanes owned by his tax-exempt charity in a for-profit diamond mining venture in Africa.

Biggest accomplishment: Pulitzer finalist in 2007 for an in-depth series on Blackwater, the private military company.

Biggest mistake: Buying a weekly newspaper. I learned that while I may be good at journalism, I’m lousy at running a business.

Bill Sizemore’s series on Blackwater was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting in 2007.

Best advice for investigative business journalists: It applies to investigative journalism of any kind, and there are several ways to say it: The more sources, the better. Or: Even if your mama tells you, check it out. Or as Ronald Reagan put it: Trust, but verify.

Best online resource ever: Depends on what kind of story you’re working on. If you’re covering a business that does a lot of federal government contracting, it’s hard to beat fedspending.org.

What reporter’s work do you follow religiously and why: Jeremy Scahill of The Nation. He’s made a career of dogging Blackwater.

Who was your mentor: My father, who was a weekly newspaper editor and publisher. More than anyone else, he was responsible for my becoming a journalist.

Last book read: ‘The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition,’ by Joel Vaughan.

What I do for fun: Camping in my vintage VW microbus. I’m an old hippie at heart.

Quote: I know, I know, I’m a dinosaur. I’m working in a dying industry. But if I’m ever tempted to take a PR job, somebody just please shoot me.