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Q&A: Alexandra Berzon, Wall Street Journal reporter

January 21, 2010

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Reporter for the Wall Street Journal, whose work led the Las Vegas Sun to the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Age: 30

Home: Los Angeles, CA
What I do: cover casinos/hotels for the Wall Street Journal
Hours worked per week: many!

Why I do what I do: 1) I believe – and have found to be true – that there’s an important impact that comes from finding out and reporting on things happening in the world that might not otherwise be told. 2) it’s a challenge! 3) I like learning new things and looking at those new things from lots of different angles, and then telling people about it.

Favorite story I reported: Clearly the most impactful story I’ve reported was about a string of deaths on Las Vegas Strip construction sites and the limited response from regulators, companies, unions and others involved. I also really love some of the feature stories I wrote for the San Antonio Express-News about rural Texas, and a story for Salon.com and Living on Earth about Pacific Islanders who have already moved to New Zealand because of concern their islands will drown due to global warming.

Biggest accomplishment: I’m toldfrom many people involved that my construction deaths/OSHA stories helped to lead to positive changes in construction safety in Las Vegas that may have

prevented more deaths/injuries.  That, to me, is a huge accomplishment. We also won the Pulitzer Prize for that series.  My other proudest achievement was winning an NCAA basketball pool a few years ago.

Biggest mistake: Trusting used car salesmen!

Best advice for investigative business journalists: I’m still learning a ton myself, all the time. My advice is not to let people (i.e. people within the companies you’re covering,  and other “experts” or whatnot) talk you out of it early on if you have good reason to think there’s an important story.

Best online resource ever: Depends too much on what you’re trying to find out…

What reporter’s work do you follow religiously and why: In terms of investigative reporters, this changes constantly from story to story as I am constantly impressed by the work of other reporters. Otherwise, I have long adored the writing of Heather Havrilesky, the TV critic for Salon.com. Reading her work is one of my favorite things about Sundays!

Who was your mentor: I was incredibly lucky in graduate school and the papers I interned at to find wonderful, generous editors who mentored me. Most recently, Drex Heikes formerly of the Las Vegas Sun (and currently at the LA Weekly) was incredible.

Last book read: ‘Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Disappearing Water ,’ by Marc Reisner.

What I do for fun: cook, hike, talk to friends, explore, travel, think about/research stories I want to report/write…


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