Born Oct. 6, 1925. Described as “Man of Many Hats” because of diverse career as journalist, professor, business executive, Navy commander, public servant: Senior officer of four major companies, served on 14 public and private boards of directors; syndicated newspaper columnist; author; speechwriter for President Dwight Eisenhower; professor at four universities for 30 years. Holds five academic degrees and diploma from Oxford.
Fifty years ago, I wrote an article for the Bulletin of the American Society of Newspaper Editors titled “Requisite for Better Business Pages.” In the lead paragraph, I wrote, “Of the major sections in today’s newspapers, the business and financial pages are probably the worst.”
That article indicated that only a handful of newspapers had above-average business and financial sections despite the growing number of Americans who owned shares of American companies either directly or indirectly through pension and profit-sharing funds.
Part of the problem can be traced to the lack of objectives: apparently, no decision was made as to whether the section should be edited for the investor-reader, local business, or personal business interests. Meanwhile, some of the business journals, such as Business Week, Fortune, and The Wall Street Journal, flourished.
This changed with the growing popularity of television and the Internet, as well as the recession. As for the business sections of newspapers, they have returned to their old status because of the shrinking size of the newspapers, caused by their reduced readership, advertising, and profitability.
However, business news and coverage increased on television and through the Internet, and a great number of investment and financial newsletters made their appearance. Business publications that were dependent on advertising suffered, the most notable example being BusinessWeek, which after major financial losses was sold to Bloomberg.
For those interested in business writing, there is still a good deal of opportunity. For those who like the ambiance of living in a small city, I believe the key is to concentrate more on local business. Interviews with the CEO of local firms should be a staple. Covering annual stockholders meetings of local business firms should be a must.
Running personal business articles, with information gleaned from some of the better personal business newsletters, and supplemented with interviews with local financial planners, brokers and insurance agents, also can create a great deal of reader interest.
Business writers in these communities might also consider having a local radio or television program to give reports on local business news or to tackle consumer interest items by interviewing local experts (brokers, bankers, insurance agents, etc.) and use knowledge gained by reading personal finance newsletters.
For those on major newspapers, continue to expand your knowledge of business by attending special business seminars or taking courses at local universities. If you have the time and your employer is willing, you might consider going for an MBA or take an executive MBA program.
You might also try and concentrate on a special area of business in which you can become a real expert. You might also consider writing a book on an area of business which has not been adequately covered.
The key to success as a business journalist in the years ahead is to be flexible. The Internet and television are changing the way the public wants to get financial information and advice.
Working for, or creating your own business newsletter, may be an exciting and profitable way to go. Appearing on television with a business news or feature program can be exciting. Utilizing the Internet to present business news and features will also be an exciting possibility.
The next few years will bring important changes in how business and financial information will be delivered. What is clear is that there will be a growing need for business writers and editors to provide these growing providers with information. The challenges are there. Be sure to take advantage of them.