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Andrew Leckey

Andrew Leckey was named president of the Reynolds Center and became the Reynolds Chair in Business Journalism in 2009. He was the first director of the center at its launch in 2003. Andrew is a long-time syndicated investment columnist for the Chicago Tribune, a former CNBC anchor and the author or editor of 10 financial books. He received the National Association of Investors Corporation’s “Distinguished Award in Investment Education” and was the first director of the Bloomberg Business Journalism Program at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Why you should consider Cronkite’s online business journalism certificate

Andrew Leckey, President Reynolds Center for Business Journalism

Andrew Leckey, president of the Reynolds Center and faculty member of the certificate program.

This article was first published by ASU Online which is running the Online Graduate Certificate Business Journalism Program in conjunction with the Reynolds Center and Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism.

Business and the economy have been dominating the headlines and taking over water cooler talk for years. The Dow plummets. Mortgage rates increase. Retirement tips abound. The best cities for new business are rated. There is more interest, argument and passion surrounding the condition and the future of business and the economy than there has been since the Great Depression.

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Arizona State University
Online Graduate Certificate:
Business Journalism

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about the certificate
Why you should consider
the certificate program

Email Cassandra Nicholson
or call 602-496-9189.

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Not surprisingly, the demand for business journalists has increased as well.

“Quality coverage of people and their money is something that does not go out of style,” says Andrew Leckey, president of the Reynolds Center and faculty member of the certificate program. “Research shows us that there is a great desire on the part of readers and viewers to learn more about business and the economy. There is a demand for business journalists that exceeds what is available.”

ASU already offers journalism degree programs through the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and business-specific topics through its Reynolds Center for Business Journalism. Now, ASU will be offering a graduate certificate in business journalism, completely online.

Leckey, who was previously a long-time syndicated investment columnist for the Chicago Tribune, a CNBC anchor and the author or editor of 10 financial books, explains that the certificate is ideal for nearly any writer today. It is relevant for those interested in specializing in business journalism, those who want to hone their reporting skills, and those who want to be able to incorporate business angles into their writing.

“The graduate certificate in business journalism is a way to understand all the facets of the world of money and how they are covered,” says Leckey. “How to avoid mistakes. How to find out information before others do. How to eloquently explain complex topics.”

The power of business

Business writing often includes interpreting data, understanding global markets and knowing enough to ask the right questions. All of this will be covered, but because business is part of the fabric of our global society, business writing for journalists covering other topics will be taught as well.

“There is business in every story: whether you are talking about a movie box office, sports teams, or employment,” says Leckey. “The ability to add that extra dimension gives credibility to a story and is important. And it’s also about human interests and needs. The desire to provide for your family. The desire to have your children do better than you did. The desire to have a stable retirement. They are universal needs not tied to any country or ethnicity. They are all subjects of broad human interest.”

The Reynolds center currently offers many webinars online that have drawn a worldwide audience. Leckey says that he anticipates the certificate program to be popular internationally as well.

“It offers an opportunity for those overseas to find out how America covers business and the economy,” he says. “It is an area that both Americans and those around the world have become interested in because of the increased connectivity among the world’s markets.”

Reaching out to global students

Making the course available online not only opens up access to people all over the world, but it gives participants the flexibility to do their coursework without interrupting their careers or interfering with their personal obligations . Of course, at the end of the day when people are short on time and disposable income, looking at the return on investment for continued education becomes important. Leckey warmly recalls his father’s words.

“My dad would always ask: ‘What is the downside of knowing all those things?’,” says Leckey. “You don’t have to wonder about the relevance of anything in this certificate program. There is no downside. For writers, it’s gratifying to provide information that people really want. That’s about the most you can hope for as a journalist.”

5 online courses

There are five online classes in the 15-hour graduate certificate in business journalism program. The courses will include:

1. Issues in Coverage of Business and the Economy. Understanding the workings of the financial markets, financial statements, the economy, banking, credit markets, real estate and the issues involved in their coverage.

2. Reporting on Business and the Economy. Producing basic business stories, including ones on a public company, a small business, a consumer issue, an earnings report, court records, demographic info, a CEO interview, financial statements, a nonprofit, an IPO and a merger.

3. Better Business Storytelling. Identifying ideas, cultivating sources, gathering scenes and sensory detail to construct narratives, finding real people to interview, interviewing techniques, covering a beat, reporting stories for multiple platforms, using social media in reporting and promoting stories.

4. Data in Business Journalism. Using Excel and public databases; using ratios in financial statements and 990s; localizing economic indicators; researching stocks, bonds, derivatives, currencies and commodities; using the Bloomberg terminal; and creating data visualizations.

5. Investigative Business Journalism. Identifying and researching an investigative story, using public records, including SEC documents, and databases. Producing a capstone investigative business story.

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Reynolds visiting profs going to U. of Oklahoma and Cal State Fullerton

Reynolds Visiting Professor Program:
HOW TO PARTICIPATE

Learn how to become a Reynolds
visiting business journalism professor
or to bring a visiting professor
to your university.

Journalism programs at the University of Oklahoma and California State University, Fullerton will receive visiting business journalism professors next spring under an Arizona State University program funded by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

This is the third year the foundation has funded business journalism professors at universities to encourage development of stronger business journalism education. The $1.67 million grant is administered through the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“One of our goals in funding this grant was to broaden the reach of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism into other institutions across the country,” said Steve Anderson, president of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

Micki Maynard Central Michigan visiting professor

Reynolds Visiting Business Journalism Professor Micki Maynard taught at Central Michigan University in spring semester 2013.

“This year, two new grantees will join the existing cadre of institutions that will be able to enhance and expand their ability to teach the principles and skills necessary to train the next generation of business journalists.”

The five-year program will ultimately create 11 visiting professorships at 11 different schools. Inaugural visiting professors taught at Colorado State University, Grambling State University, the University of South Carolina and Texas Christian University in spring 2012.

This past spring, visiting professors have taught at Central Michigan, Elon and Louisiana State universities.

Andrew Leckey, president of the Reynolds Center and the Reynolds Chair in Business Journalism at the Cronkite School, said the two schools were chosen from dozens of applications, and both presented “immediate and longer-term plans for solid business journalism coursework.”

The visiting professors, who have yet to be selected for these two schools, will bring with them years of professional business journalism experience.

Deans of the selected programs committed to continue teaching business journalism at their schools after the grants conclude.

Joe S. Foote, dean of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, said the school “is excited to have this opportunity to expand its coverage of business through the Reynolds Professorship. We are especially looking forward to offering a course on coverage of the energy industry, constructing a business reporting module for our multimedia reporting course and partnering with the Journal Record business newspaper in Oklahoma City.”

William Briggs, dean of the College of Communications at Cal State Fullerton, said this grant “will allow us to enhance our curriculum, further our strong relationship with the Orange County Register and help cover the dynamic business community of Orange County. We look forward to hosting a visiting professor and collaborating with the Reynolds Center. Understanding how business affects all of us is critical for students and media consumers alike.”

In addition to teaching courses in business journalism in the spring 2014 semester, visiting professors help establish partnerships with local business media and contribute to BusinessJournalism.org. The schools, which also are eligible for funding for business journalism internships and visits by business journalists, provide space as well as technical and administrative support for the professors.

ABOUT THE REYNOLDS CENTER
Since 2003, more than 17,000 journalists have learned to cover business better through free training from the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism. The center is part of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University’s Phoenix campus. The center offers free training in business journalism, both at regional workshops and online, as well as through daily tips on its website, BusinessJournalism.org. It is funded by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, it has committed over $145 million nationwide through its Journalism Program.

 

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Are we seeing the start of the Greatest Generation of business journalists?

Andrew Leckey

Andrew Leckey

The Greatest Generation of business journalists will come from today’s university students.

A perfect storm of events, technology and globalization has equipped this generation to better understand and effectively report on the world of money than any that preceded it.

Its words and visuals for financial issues that matter will also carry faster and further than ever before to a mass audience.

Just as Tom Brokaw couldn’t dub the Depression/World War II generation “The Greatest” until long after the fact, time and perspective will be required here as well.

But here are seven advantages this generation has going for it:

  • It has seen a dramatic economic downturn and volatile financial markets directly impact family finances. Job security, home values and money issues have been as common dinner discussion topics as the weather. This generation “gets it.”
  • It has watched giant investment scams, inflated executive compensation, corporate failures and government bailouts dominate the news. As a result, it takes nothing for granted and possesses a healthy degree of skepticism.
  • Instant access to financial data and information, the ability to report immediately and multimedia platforms help this generation tell dynamic stories. There are apps for everything. Numbers-heavy data can be tailor-made to the interests of consumers and readily accessible through clicks, pull-downs and other features.
  • The branding of most everything is an ongoing part of its life. There is understanding that products, services, companies and industries may not last forever. Web and cellular phone leadership, for example, has changed hands many times in this generation’s lifetime. Car brands come and go. You must keep up. These young people mourned Steve Jobs’ passing and hope Apple Inc. innovations continue unabated.
  • An array of views on current events—from the reliable and intelligent to the ridiculous and superfluous–barrage it daily through Internet and video channels. This generation must make daily personal decisions on what is credible. This drives home the point that thoughtful and accurate reporting on business and the economy can play a vital role.
  • Stories have become global with any region capable of rocking the worldwide economy and markets. Opportunities in business journalism similarly stretch around the world. Major international news organizations that hire reporters have clout Business stories images and are fond of bilingual reporters. Closer to home, local media now considers business to be an unquestioned lead item that attracts wide interest.
  • The political debate is focused on the economy and other issues that involve money. Federal funding, Social Security, healthcare, trade, immigration and the environment all have dollar signs in their equations. History’s free-enterprise economist Adam Smith or government-interventionist John Keynes would fit right into today’s arguments in Washington.

These add up to a generation of journalists that doesn’t need to have the importance of business and the economy impressed upon it. The difference between today’s students and those of even five or 10 years ago is significant. They’ve lived in the maelstrom of business and the economy all their lives, many of their fellow students major in those subjects and business journalism is increasingly being offered in university curriculums.

That’s not to say that, like many other generations, it may miss its golden opportunity. Or that we as business journalists and educators might overlook our responsibility to keep this group’s interest alive in the name of good journalism and public service. Finding pertinent numbers, being a watchdog for the benefit of society and intelligently simplifying difficult concepts are demanding tasks.

I am, of course, biased because I spend a considerable amount of time with this generation as I teach courses in business journalism. I have also had opportunity to talk with many students in other countries. More than my parents’ generation, my own generation or those leading up to the current one, this generation is trying hard to understand the complex business and economic world it has inherited. I always learn something new from these young people taking a fresh view.

Whether it becomes the Greatest Generation of business journalists remains to be seen, but it is further along and better-equipped than its predecessors. Doing a better job of coverage will make a difference in its future and that of subsequent generations. Money isn’t everything, but it has powerful effect on the lives of everyone around the world. Assuming the responsibility of reporting on business and the economy accurately, creatively and relentlessly is a first step on the road to greatness.

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The rise of business journalism education

By Andrew Leckey

The semester had just begun a decade ago when one of my students, recently named stringer for one of the nation’s most prominent newspapers, came up to me before my Business Journalism class.

“I’ve been asked to write a story tomorrow when the proxy statement of Hewlett-Packard comes out,” he said. “Would you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
“Sure,” I said. “Fire away.”
“OK,” he said, then paused before asking: “What’s a proxy statement?”

Both of us can laugh about that now because he went on to have a successful business journalism career. However, being thrust into the eye of the business journalism hurricane is not easy whether you’re a beginner or a veteran—if you don’t know a thing about what you’re covering.

A participant at one of our East Coast workshops gave this explanation as to why she was only thrust into the coverage of business:

“My editor said I dressed presentably and I would fit in if I was talking to business people, so I became a business reporter.”

Business journalism education

Business journalism students in one of Andrew Leckey’s spring 2011 classes listen to a report on their stock picks. Photo: Robin J. Phillips

This scenario has changed. More and more business journalists know what they’re doing and understand balance sheets, the global financial markets, the economy, government documents and fundamental analysis. The Reynolds Center is playing a role in the change.

Through daylong workshops, weeklong seminars and online training, we have been privileged to train more than 12,000 journalists nationwide since our 2003 inception. Our Reynolds Business Journalism Professors Seminar has each January for a half-dozen years trained prospective business journalism professors. The university level remains one of the most important places for effective training.

That’s why we’re excited about the new Reynolds Visiting Business Journalism Professors’ Program that begins January 2012. As noted in the detailed information on BusinessJournalism.org, the program will assign visiting professors to four journalism programs to teach business journalism during a semester in residence.

I encourage you to let your local university know about it and, if you are a veteran business journalist, consider applying to be a visiting professor. Another possibility is to look into teaching a business journalism course at your nearest university.

Some of the past problems with business journalism education have been:

  • Not enough schools have been insightful enough to offer it. If they do, they may not promote it properly so the students can see the correlation between business, the economy and their lives.
  • Not many professors have been up to teaching it. That’s often because they can only teach from their own professional experience, which may not be broad enough to cover all the bases the students will encounter.
  • It is such a rapidly changing field that the coursework must take into account current events and changes ranging from global markets to government legislation to company quirks. It moves quickly, so the the professor and the students must be up to the task.

All of these issues can be resolved with the proper information, goals and presentation. Today’s students have gone through a wrenching economic period, have seen the rise of branding of products and know more about changing technology than the prior two generations put together. They are ripe for business journalism education.

Of course, every journalist is an educator, whether for readers or viewers. Perhaps just as important is a commitment to the younger journalists in our newsrooms. Providing useful information and encouragement based on your own professional experience is vital to keeping business journalism vibrant.
Remember that you didn’t always know what a proxy statement was either.

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Foreign language skills are essential for global business journalists

Andrew Leckey Angel Gonzalez

Reynolds Center President Andrew Leckey introduces Angel Gonzalez, Dow Jones Houston bureau chief.

Angel Gonzalez, who in recent weeks of his coverage for Dow Jones News Wires has flown over the BP oil spill by helicopter and ridden in boats with local officials, is the prototype for today’s global business journalist.

He is trilingual, he writes online, he writes for print, he does video and he has written a number of long stories on his BlackBerry. Whatever works at the time.

In today’s coverage, fluency in languages other than English and confidence in reporting with a variety of mediums makes a journalism graduate attractive to global business journalism organizations expanding their reach country by country. News bureaus in places like Shanghai and Dubai want bilingual reporters.

The “hottest” languages these days for journalists are Chinese and Arabic, since fluent speakers who can also write well in English are few and far between. But proficiency in a number of other languages can also be a selling point in a young journalist’s career. The importance of adding another language simply cannot be overstated to journalism students.

In Angel’s case, he grew up speaking Spanish in Venezuela. Then he became fluent in French, which led to his B.A. degree in Communications Studies in France at Universite Paris II. He then became fluent in English, receiving an M.A. in Journalism and Latin American Studies at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

At Berkeley, I was his business journalism professor, where he turned in stories in English, in French and in Spanish. Who else but Angel could gave me an “extra credit” centerpiece story that was featured in Le Monde?  His stories have also appeared the Buenos Aires Herald, El Pais in Spain and the Oakland Tribune. His investigative work with the Seattle Times led to a formal federal probe of a biotechnology firm.

Angel Gonzalez is the Houston bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires, where he plays a key role in anchoring U.S. energy coverage. He was recently “deputized” by The Wall Street Journal to bolster its coverage of the BP spill. He blogged the hearings with BP top brass speaking before Congress as well.

He has extensive experience as a reporter covering the global oil and gas industry. He has tracked the fortunes of Big Oil and OPEC as well as the many harsh storms that routinely threaten the energy infrastructure along the Gulf Coast. Upcoming storms are of particular concern to the residents of the Gulf as they would disrupt clean-up efforts.

He has taken morning jogs with OPEC oil ministers and also covered hurricane season on the coast. His Spanish comes in handy in Latin America and his French helps when dealing with African nations. And, of course, he writes and edits in English.

If you google “BP oil spills” and “Angel Gonzalez” you will fill up many computer screens with just this year’s events. But you will also find his stories about the 2005 explosion at a BP refinery in Texas City that killed 15 people. And his story about the BP pipeline corrosion in 2006 that led to two oil spills in Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, the largest oilfield in the U.S., for which BP pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor in 2007. All part of a wide-ranging settlement that included the Texas City, Texas, blast and allegations of manipulations in the propane industry.

Oil is an obvious international topic, but just about everything is wrapping around the globe these days.

For example, Carolina Madrid, an ASU Cronkite School student who is interning in the Thomson Reuters Los Angeles bureau this summer, is covering entertainment business stories that cross cultures. She grew up in Nogales, Ariz., and is fluent in Spanish, which helped her land the summer opportunity. A lengthy interview in Spanish before being selected served to underscore her language ability for her summer employer.

Advice to students and journalists: Fluency in a second language is a tremendous career boost and being able to handle three languages even better.  Writing and speaking another language at a journalistic level is not easy, but that coupled with business knowledge assures that you will be an impressive job candidate  throughout your career.