NPR reporters Shereen Marisol Meraji (left) and Brian Watt (right) who spoke to Cal State Fullerton students as part of Comm Week in April 2017.

NPR reporter Shereen Marisol Meraji (left) and Brian Watt (right) discussed careers in business journalism with Cal State Fullerton students on April 26. They agree that new communication technologies, such as blogs and podcasts, have opened doors for careers in business reporting.

From The Wall Street Journal to blogs and podcasts, there are thousands of career positions in business journalism across Southern California and around the world. NPR news anchor Brian Watt and reporter Shereen Marisol Meraji visited campus in April to discuss how students can prepare for careers in this field. If you like to write or speak and are interested in business, a career in business journalism may be for you. 

The ups and downs of the stock market, the latest corporate mergers, monetary and fiscal policy, and pocketbook issues are closely followed by millions of business professionals, policymakers, students, researchers and the working public. Providing them with the latest perspective and commentary are business journalists, including writers, reporters, producers and photographers.

Business journalism is a broad term that encompasses world-renowned economics publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review and Bloomberg Weekly; trade journals; mass-market magazines such as Entrepreneur or Money; business blogs; and podcasts on economics or market trends.

NPR business reporters visit Cal State Fullerton

Brian Watt, anchor of NPR affiliate KQED’s morning news program, and Shereen Marisol Meraji, reporter for NPR’s Code Switch, visited Cal State Fullerton on April 26 as part of Comm Week, the College of Communication’s annual spring speaker’s series.

Watt has had a career in NPR business programing, including producing the daily business program Marketplace from 2003 to 2007, and reporting for KPCC, Southern California’s public radio station, from 2007 to 2016, before relocating to San Francisco to anchor KDEQ.

He encouraged students to find the business angle of stories they are interested in. “More stories than you realize are business stories,” he said. “At Marketplace, we would find the money component on just about every story. There are business stories on every corner that involve people.” He noted that his first two business stories were on advance teams in presidential campaigns and the wine industry, both of which are outside of stereotypical stock market-related content.

A young female reporter interviews a business executive on CNBC.

From CNBC to podcasts, business journalism offers a career path for those interested in business and who have strong communication skills. Photo from Wikipedia

Meraji, who studied Latino studies at San Francisco State University before beginning her journalism career, was a reporter for Marketplace before joining Code Switch, which covers race and ethnic identity issues. She said that podcasting is a major trend in journalism that students can take advantage of to launch their business reporting careers.

“Podcasting is the greatest thing,” she said. “We have a relationship with our listeners that traditional radio shows do not have.” She noted that podcasting is a good path to report on niche business topics.

What you need to succeed in business journalism

Watt emphasized that writing skills are crucial to success in business journalism. This not only includes the mechanics of writing, such as grammar and style, but also tone and framing, which can vary depending on your employer and the audience. “Make sure you know how to write,” he said. “What served me well was that I had a lot of people standing over me making sure I knew how to write early in my career.”

A side benefit of having a career in business journalism is that interest in money-related topics often increases during recessions, which can translate into job security during economic hard times. “There is more of an appetite for business stories when the economy is bad,” said Watt, noting that NPR’s Planet Money team was hired during the Great Recession.

Meraji stressed that diversity is key to success in business writing. “So much of business reporting here in Southern California is reporting about the wider world,” she said. “Keep following the things you are passionate about and the things you find interesting. You want to be specialized.”

Leave a Reply