University of Georgia students learn from top business journalists in NYC as part of SABEW fellowship, Part 2

Cox-SABEW Fellow at NYSE
The University of Georgia’s participants in the Cox-SABEW fellowship were Kathleen LaPorte, Keith Herndon, visiting professor of journalism, Maria Torres, Cailin O’Brien and Nick Fouriezos.

By Kathleen LaPorte and Cailin O’Brien

NEW YORK- Business journalists still report stories from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange even though computer trading has reduced the action there, but the audience for those stories has expanded well beyond the affluent investors often associated with Wall Street.

At a time when the average smartphone can easily display stock prices and companies use Twitter to release news directly to their investors, business journalists are required to do more than simply report the numbers.

They must explain how the numbers are relevant to an increasingly diverse audience, according to business reporters and editors who met in New York with four University of Georgia journalism students attending a fellowship of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. The fellowship was sponsored by the Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Business and Mass Communication.

For example, editors and reporters at Yahoo Finance told the students they strive to report business news in ways they believe makes it more accessible to Yahoo’s general visitors.

Mandi Woodruff, a reporter for Yahoo Finance, said she is expected to produce text-based stories, but also supplement her writing with video.

“I have had to get a lot more comfortable on camera since I joined Yahoo,” said Woodruff. “(We) have a handful of ‘TV’ shows for Yahoo Finance alone and if they happen to be interested in a story I’m working on, I have to be ready to talk about it in front of thousands of viewers.”

Bringing business news to a broader audience requires journalists to use a wider array of reporting outlets. Woodruff, who covers personal finance, said she constantly uses social media to promote the content she produces.

“I’ve hosted Twitter chats and spoken on panels and I find it’s much more interactive when you reach out to real people on Twitter; not just other folks in your industry,” said Woodruff.

The increasing use of video and social media in business news reporting makes it important for news organizations to find talented journalists who can establish their own voice without crossing over into opinion, said Michelle LaRoche, The Wall Street Journal’s editor of development.

“We want the authority that our reporters and editors have to come across in the story, but there is also a fine line between saying that and saying something is an opinion,” said LaRoche.

Steven Russolillo, a markets reporter for the Journal, said he strives to achieve that delicate balance in his reporting and writing.

Russolillo is the lead writer of the Morning MoneyBeat, which is an example of business reporting that goes beyond covering the numbers. It is essentially a blog that seeks to explain the markets’ movements, he said.

In order to convey expertise to his audience, Russolillo said he does not write his newsletter like an average newswire story.

“Someone told me once that you want to write the way you speak; that that is the best way to write. I think there’s a lot of truth to that,” he said.

LaRoche added, “With a blog especially, [journalists] need to be able to speak with authority.”

Russolillo also said he is expected to go beyond writing only text.

“Multimedia is a huge focus,” Russolillo said, noting that he is expected to incorporate these elements, “while still remaining focused on the story.”

Shayndi Raice, a banking reporter for the Journal, said that though she must be prepared to translate her reporting into video and other media sources, those techniques cannot overtake her journalistic mission.

“We are writing a snapshot of one moment in history,” she said. “It’s not my job to believe in companies. I have to tell readers what is happening today and where the company is right now.”

Working for the Journal requires solid reporting skills above all else, said Jim Pensiero, editor, talent. Successful Journal reporters have native intelligence, good sourcing ability and a strong work ethic, he said.

“Ultimately you have to get to the facts,” he said. “You’re nothing if you don’t start with a good brain, desire and a good work ethic.”

With those attributes, he said a business journalist can adapt to the increasing digital requirements of the job.

The basics of business journalism at Bloomberg News remain the same despite increasing its new media resources and appealing to a broader audience, said Matt Winkler, editor-in-chief. He said the best advice for business journalists continues to be: follow the money.

Winkler said his reporters and editors have used that approach to investigate policies of the Securities and Exchange Commission, develop thorough company profiles that have moved markets, explain the causes of the economic crisis and bring about court ordered disclosure of how the Federal Reserve used funds to bail out financial institutions.

“The world can’t operate without money,” Winkler said. “Truly focusing on money is how (Bloomberg reporters) get up front of these stories.”

Kathleen LaPorte is a senior Journalism and Sociology major with a minor in Public Health at the University of Georgia and a Cox/SABEW fellow. She will intern this summer with a communications firm specializing in healthcare. She has previously interned with the Centers for Disease Control. For more of her work, visit

Cailin O’Brien is a senior Journalism major at the University of Georgia and a Cox/SABEW fellow. She was the Atlanta Press Club intern last summer and worked on the breaking news desk at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. For more of her work, visit

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