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Cronkite Students Discover Business Journalism

Jennifer Johnson
Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson

I always knew I wanted to be a journalist, but I never planned to focus on business. I’d always avoided anything that involved math and numbers. The two were never my strong suit.

When I graduated from college I began working as a freelance writer for a small publication based in St. Louis called West Newsmagazine. Most of my stories were about development, local government and tax funding. I also did a bit of freelance writing for the St. Louis Business Journal. I really wished I’d had some business journalism training.

Then I got an internship working for a European Union Parliament member (MEP) in Brussels, Belgium. The MEP I worked for was vice chairman of the International Trade Committee. I’d learned a little bit about international trade while studying at the Danish School of Journalism, but I was hooked by the World Trade Organization Doha trade round negotiations. The negotiations gave me a profound understanding of how crucial it is for journalists to understand the global financial world.

The International Trade committee quickly became my favorite committee. I realized that international policy and trade often go hand-in-hand. Economics and business are really the foundation of most global relationships.

A year later, I was offered a full-time position as a political assistant at the European Parliament. I enjoyed following the international trade committee so much that I decided I wanted to go back to school to study business journalism. I was impressed by the Business Journalism Specialization at the Cronkite School. It was one of the few programs that combined my interests in both journalism and business.

I’d begun the program last fall, when a Bloomberg representative visited our class. We learned about the company and how to use the Bloomberg terminal. I really love working with the terminal because at any given moment, viewers can find articles that have depth about financial topics around the world. The topics range from the Greek debt crisis to the new health care legislation. The terminal also can be used to do financial analysis on just about anything!

I was especially excited about Bloomberg’s internship program because of the company’s global focus and its strong emphasis on business reporting. The company has almost 150 bureaus around the world. I took the Bloomberg internship test and interviewed with the company last fall.

I found out in November that I’d been offered an internship in Bloomberg’s Chicago bureau. I’ll be working with the North American commodities team to cover commodities like orange juice, corn, hogs and wheat. Given my strong interest in international trade, the beat is a perfect fit. Commodities have an especially global reach because strong rains as far away as Brazil and Argentina impact soybean prices here in the states. Likewise, the European debt crisis impacts commodities trade around the world. While commodity prices largely rise and fall, writers have to understand the global events that shape trade.

I’ve taken two of the Business Journalism Specialization courses with Andrew Leckey, the Reynolds Endowed Chair in Business Journalism at the Cronkite School, to prepare for my summer internship at Bloomberg. I also had the opportunity to attend the Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference this spring. And I’ll receive extra training at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters before beginning my internship.

At a time when many papers are struggling financially, it’s inspiring to see organizations focused on financial news, like Bloomberg, are thriving. The internship is a tremendous opportunity to improve my business writing, work for a global organization, and train under experienced business editors and writers. I’m thrilled about the opportunity to work with one of the top news organizations in business journalism this summer.

Carolina Madrid
Carolina Madrid

Carolina Madrid

When I was first assigned the business beat at Cronkite News Service, I was terrified.

I automatically assumed that, because of my fluent Spanish skills, I’d be covering immigration or other border-related issues. And I thought that covering business at a time when the economy was at its worst would be too complicated a task for me to tackle.

In retrospect, I should have thanked my editor for assigning me that role.

A couple dozen clips and a major epiphany later, I realized that – unlike any other beat – business is intertwined not only with immigration and border-related issues, but also with every imaginable topic out there. I also realized that, like me, many journalists shy away from business journalism, thinking it’s too complex.

But if we don’t grasp the basics of economics, finance and investments, how do we expect the general public to make knowledgeable decisions about their money in their everyday lives?

I was covering state unemployment rates and other government issues at the state Legislature that I never pictured myself reporting on. It was the most stressful and challenging journalism I’d ever done.

It was also the most rewarding.

I couldn’t believe how much I was learning. I loved the feeling of being thrown into a topic I had no prior knowledge of and coming out an “expert” in it.

A chunk of my stories at CNS involved border businesses, international trade and currency exchange rates – topics that undoubtedly benefited from my bilingualism. They were also stories that hit close to home, surging from conversations that I had had with my dad or uncle, and just being familiar with border communities.

In the midst of preparing for a semester abroad in Spain, I decided I would enroll in the business journalism specialization when I returned. I touched base with Andrew Leckey, the Reynolds Chair in Business Journalism and head of the Cronkite School’s Business Journalism Specialization, before leaving – just so he’d know I’d be around.

A few months later, I found myself scrambling for my best clips and application materials to send to Thomson Reuters for a summer internship in Los Angeles. Leckey had relayed some information about the position being suitable for me, so I jumped on it. Shortly after, the Reuters’ West Coast bureau chief requested an over-the-phone interview with me in Spanish.

From the bottom bunk bed at my home stay in Barcelona, I asked my roommate to please keep it down when I received the Skype phone call at 9 p.m. my time (noon L.A. time). The following morning, I found out I had gotten the position, which focuses on the entertainment industry. It brightened the rest of my stay and travels abroad.

I took two business journalism courses in preparation for my internship at Reuters in summer 2010. To soak up as much biz journalism knowledge as possible, I also attended the Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference.

Though this time around I’ll be covering business out of a personal desire, I’m still somewhat nervous about doing it for an international news agency. But who wouldn’t be?

My past experience at CNS taught me that feeling uncertain about a topic you’re covering is a great scenario (in most cases) because you’re forced to learn as much as possible about it, which is always rewarding, and also because you can explain it to readers in a way you know they’ll understand.

I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to learn about the entertainment business while gaining top-notch writing and reporting skills at Thomson Reuters.