1. See it for yourself. This can be tricky with a moon landing or an undersea nuclear submarine collision, but you get the point. You've got to be there. If sealed borders or gunplay keep you from getting close, find the next best vantage point.
2. Find your fixer. Good local stringers with multiple skills are the backbone of global reporting. They help you get credentials, find sources, and score a solid vehicle with clean fuel. As translators, they are your ears. They take you into homes. On occasion, they save your life.
3. Think particular, not general. This is from Hugh Mulligan, a past AP correspondent for whom “legend” is no cliché. When I once wrote about refugees “with their belongings on their heads,” he made it “with cooking pots, torn blankets, and bundles of sticks...” Better.
4. To be lucky, be where luck happens. You can trace this back to Voltaire: inspiration comes to the prepared mind. If you analyze how events are taking shape and expend the effort to follow your instincts, you'll find all the luck you can handle.
5. Check back, keep at it. Remember the Dag Hammarskjold crash. People make mistakes, and they lie. A quick check on the Web may result in repeating someone's mistake. Go back to original sources. Then double check with new ones.
6. Take names, write down numbers.You will be astonished at who suddenly gets to be pertinent to a story. Reporters are no better than their contacts. Nurture them over time. Remember if they like cigars or good chocolate.
7. Show interest. If you don't feel it, feign it. People notice when your mind wanders. If they think you don't care what they have to say, they'll stop saying it. And what emerges if they warm up is what you want most.