Two Minute Tips

3 essential qualities for today’s business journalist

November 28, 2016

Share this article:

Becoming a better business journalist means doing the right research, asking the right questions and having the right contacts. ("Write" image by StartupStockPhotos via Pixabay)
Becoming a better business journalist means doing the right research, asking the right questions and having the right contacts. ("Write" image by StartupStockPhotos via Pixabay)

If you report on business, you already know that the media industry has changed dramatically and continues to evolve. To stay afloat, you must write well, maintain deadlines and report accurately, but what else helps your work become noticed and sought-after? Here are three essential qualities to thrive as a business journalist.

Dig deep for research

Business reporters must provide solid research and thoughtful analysis. If you’re quoting data, don’t reference the numbers reported in a secondary source such as the Huffington Post or The Wall Street Journal; go to the original source of the study and link to that. If the data you find is more than two years old, reach out to the organization’s media specialist and ask if any fresher numbers exist. You can also supplement the information by surveying several experts and asking them how they’ve seen the numbers change.

Get the most from an interview

To help distinguish your reporting and writing, you need memorable quotes. And yet it’s becoming increasingly tricky for reporters to secure interviews, let alone get their sources to provide candid ideas. These tips and approaches usually work for me:

• Show you’ve done your research before the interview so the source doesn’t feel you’re wasting their time.

• Listen well and in turn continue to ask deeper questions until you get to the substance of the idea.

• Don’t accept a superficial, jargon-y or confusing answer; ask your sources to rephrase what they said until the message becomes crystal clear.

• Avoid starting off with probing questions; ease into them.

• Strive to make the interview more of a conversation than an interrogation.

• Offer some of your own ideas to stimulate a discussion.

Create a strong knowledge network

Finding sources on a tight deadline can be tough. But if you have a strong knowledge network—a broad range of people who can comment on the issues you cover—you’ve already done half the work. To build your network of experts:

• Attend conferences within the sectors that interest you.

• Apply for fellowships so you can meet with other reporters from different regions and countries and share resources.•

• Travel, both domestically and abroad. No quicker way to meet people than getting out there.

• Read well. Store the names of any experts you read (and like) so you have a go-to name when writing on their topic.

• Ask for referrals. Typically, my last question in most interviews becomes, “Who else do you recommend I speak to when reporting on this subject?” Even if you don’t need to interview the person in the end, you’ve gained a referral to a fresh expert for the future.

More Like This...

Five takeaways from recent business investigations

For business beat reporters looking for story ideas or inspiration, here are five watchdog stories to spark creativity. The stories, all published in the first seven months of 2022, touch

Think like a business owner. Not a freelancer.

Not all journalism grads will work as full-time staff for a news organization. Maybe after searching on and following up with journalism school contacts, you’ll choose to become a

Two Minute Tips

Sign up now.
Get one Tuesday.

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism.

Subscribers also get access to the Tip archive.

Get Two Minute Tips For Business Journalism Delivered To Your Email Every Tuesday

Two Minute Tips

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism. Sign up now and get one Tuesday.

Our New Look
The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism is starting 2023 with a new look that we hope better illustrates our core mission to provide accurate and authoritative resources about business journalism, in order to help both reporters and news consumers understand the importance of business news and to demystify the sometimes arcane topics it covers.
Businesses, markets, and economies move in cycles – ups and downs – which is why our new logo contains a “candlestick” chart representing increases as well as downturns, and serves as a reminder that volatility is an unavoidable attribute of modern life. But it’s also possible to prepare for volatility by being well informed, and informing the general public to help level the information playing field is the primary goal of business journalism. The Reynolds Center is committed to supporting that goal, which is why the candlestick pattern in our logo merges directly into the name of our founding sponsor, Donald W. Reynolds.
Our new logo comes with a shorter name. Business is borderless, and understanding the global links in supply chains, trade, and flows of funds and people is essential to make sense of our fast-paced, globalized world. So we’re dropping the word “National” from our name and will aim to provide content that is applicable to business news globally.
We hope you like the new look. Best wishes for 2023!