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John DeDakis on Working With Wolf

John DeDakis is the author of the Lark Chadwick mystery-suspense-thriller series. You can find out more about him on his website, www.johndedakis.com or by clicking here, and buy his books here. This is his debut post.

Wolf Blitzer credits Saddam Hussein for his fame. Wolf had just joined CNN in 1990 as the network’s Pentagon correspondent. But his background was print, not broadcast, so — in a story he tells often — he said to his wife, Lynn, that CNN didn’t feel like a good fit.

John DeDakis

“Just give it a little more time,” he says she told him. “Maybe you’ll feel differently in a few months.”

Not long after that, the Iraqi president invaded Kuwait and Wolf Blitzer was on the air 24/7 as he – and CNN – simultaneously became household names.

At the time, I was a copy editor at CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta. I had yet to write fiction – although some CNN critics would later allege that’s all I was writing.

Fast forward to 2005.

I was now based in DC editing “Daybreak” anchored by Carol Costello, but just as Hurricane Katrina was battering New Orleans, CNN cancelled “Daybreak.” Amazingly, I landed on my feet as one of Wolf’s editors on his new program “The Situation Room.”

After working overnights for seventeen years, my new in time was when I usually went to bed.

Not long after I landed in the “SitRoom,” a paperback edition of my first novel FAST TRACK was published and Wolf wrote a generous blurb calling my story “an emotional rollercoaster.”

Lesson one for any wannabe novelist is “write what you know.” I’d been a journalist since 1969 so all five of my novels have a journalism backdrop. (In fact, I was in journalism school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison with our fellow Blackbird writer, Christine DeSmet, but I’m pretty sure Christine’s grades were better than mine.)

          In all my novels, I try to give the reader a glimpse behind the veil to show how real journalism is done – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Plus I write in the first person as Lark Chadwick, a twenty-something young woman who stumbles into journalism when she solves the mystery of the car accident that orphaned her as an infant.

Fast Track cover

Why do I write as a woman?

Thanks for asking.

That’ll be the subject of a future blog. So, as they say in the biz, stay tuned.

Back to journalism. And Wolf.

I retired from CNN in 2013, right about the time my third novel, TROUBLED WATER, was released. By this time I’d been a member of “The Wolfpack” and a dedicated Wolf watcher for seven years.

Since my retirement, my speaking gigs have increased exponentially and at almost every event I’m asked about “fake news” and what it was like to work with Wolf.

This may surprise some people, but I have no idea what Wolf’s political persuasions are. He doesn’t talk about them — certainly not on the air, but not off camera, either.

I’m told he doesn’t vote so that his decisions won’t have even a subtle impact on his reporting.

As near as I can tell, Wolf cares more than anything about accuracy and fairness. During live interviews, I’ve seen him stop both liberals and conservatives in mid-spin to correct the record if they begin to misrepresent the facts.

In my opinion, Wolf Blitzer is a journalist’s journalist.

And he’s very funny.

Often he quotes his dad’s Yogi-Berra-isms.

Example:

“As my late father, David Blitzer, always used to say: ‘Rich, or poor, it’s good to have money.’”

In future posts, I’d like to talk with you about all things writing – but I’d especially like to be responsive to what’s on your mind.

My thanks to Tracey Phillips for inviting me to fly with you after she and I met a few weeks ago in Minneapolis at Bouchercon.

Thanks to all of you for the opportunity to be part of your flock.

Your thoughts?

John DeDakis

Award-winning novelist, writing coach, and manuscript editor John DeDakis is a former editor on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer." DeDakis is the author of five mystery-suspense-thriller novels. In his most recent novel, FAKE, protagonist Lark Chadwick is a White House correspondent dealing with “fake news” in the era of #MeToo. His website is at www.johndedakis.com

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    I’m glad to hear you say that Wolf cares about accuracy. In my (moderately extensive) experience with many media outlets, that’s rare. Thank goodness there are still some real journalists. And, welcome to the Blackbirds. I look forward to learning from your experience.

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    sdmlove

    What a great post. Thanks for sharing the experience.

  3. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    I love your character Lark (savvy woman!) and the name because it’s so memorable. Good novel writing all the way! And you’re a good speaker and teacher. I encourage people to take advantage of everything you do, including your free Facebook interviews with novelists. Welcome to the Blackbirds!

  4. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    John, you’ve had–and I assume still do have–a fascinating life! Thanks for sharing the behind-the-scenes look at your job with Wolf Blitzer. I look forward to reading your Lark Chadwick novels and your blog about why you write as a woman. Welcome to the flock!

  5. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon

    Blitzer sounds like a journalist’s journalist. I know I went to at least one press conference when he was on a panel for the TV Critics Association (maybe more). And he was very interesting. I don’t think I actually spoke with him, though.

  6. Avatar
    saralynrichard

    Glad to meet you, John, and to have a glimpse into your journalism experiences. (I’m a former teacher of journalism.) Interesting about Wolf Blitzer, and a great first post.

  7. Avatar
    Avanti Centrae

    Thanks for sharing your background. Fake news also made it into my latest thriller. Looking forward to checking yours out!

  8. Avatar

    You gained a new reader when you said you take us behind journalism, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’d enjoy the book just for that, and the crime aspects are gravy. Welcome aboard.

  9. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    Welcome to the Flock, John! I just finished reading Fake and loved it! (Reviews coming, soon!) Thank you for the insights in this post.

  10. Tracey Phillips
    Tracey Phillips

    John, I’m so glad you came to the nest. What an intriguing first post! You clearly had a fascinating life and as I know from talking to you at Bouchercon ’22, you have many more stories to tell. Can’t wait to read your books!

  11. Avatar
    Laurie Buchanan

    It’s so good to see you here, John. You already know that I love your Lark Chadwick series!

  12. Donna Rewolinski
    Donna Rewolinski

    Great post. I love writing about what I know or can ask an expert for an opinion. Glad to hear that Wolf was good to work with. It’s hard to find out that someone you respect is a jerk to others. Welcome to the Flock.

  13. John DeDakis
    John DeDakis

    Thanks, Everyone, for your responses to my blog post’s maiden flight.

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