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Reporter’s Notebook: Reynolds Center graduate assistants attend SABEW training in New York

January 23, 2024

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“Raise Your Game and Get Booked” panel, moderated by Mary Duffy at the SABEW Skill UP event.

Kelechukwu Iruoma and Sahara Sajjadiankhah are both graduate assistants at the Reynolds Center for the 2023-24 academic year while completing their MA in Mass Communication at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. They were both offered the opportunity to attend a workshop for business journalists organized by The Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) in New York City at The Wall Street Journal newsroom.

Here is what they had to say about their experience.

Kelechukwu (KC) Iruoma:
I have always wanted to visit New York City. As a journalist who has spent seven years reporting out of Nigeria, I see New York City as the hub of journalism in the U.S. When I arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, in mid-August to begin a master’s program in Mass Communication at ASU, New York was one of the cities I promised myself I would visit in the summer of 2024. When an opportunity came earlier than planned, it was impossible to resist. 

My heart was filled with joy as days and weeks went by, knowing that I was attending a workshop that would strengthen my skills as a business journalist, network with journalists and editors, and visit one of the cities I have always wanted to visit.

It was so cold that Thursday morning I was to travel. My flight was scheduled for 7 am, but I had not flown domestic airlines in the U.S. so I woke up at 4 am to prepare for the trip I felt would shape my U.S. experience. 

Sahara Sajjadiankhah:
KC and I found each other past the security gates and soon boarded our plane heading towards Newark, New Jersey. The nearly six-hour flight flew by (literally) and we caught the train into New York City.

We walked through the bustling streets of New York City and towards our hotel in Times Square. My senses were overwhelmed by the bright lights, the billboards, the smell of pizza, the chatter amongst New Yorkers, and the slight breeze. With my luggage in one hand and my backpack in the other, all my senses were amplified and I fit the description of the stereotypical tourist, with my head moving back and forth to take it all in. I had never been to New York before and was mesmerized by its uniqueness.

The next morning, KC and I woke up bright and early and hopped on the subway toward Central Park. It was raining but we were determined to have a quick stroll in the famous, scenic park before the workshop began. I could only ever imagine living in a place with such beautiful nature! Central Park really is something else.

Shortly after, we arrived at the News Corporation, the corporate office in Midtown Manhattan that houses several news organizations in the city, and headed straight to The Wall Street Journal newsroom. 

The workshop hall was filled with students and practicing business journalists and editors. Shortly after we arrived, Laura Cooper and Lauren Thomas of the Wall Street Journal took the first session of finding stories and building great relationships with sources to get scoops and stand out in your beat. 

We then heard from Bloomberg Law investigate data reporter Nicole Sadek on how data can elevate stories. Sadek talked us through where to find helpful data and how to utilize spreadsheets and statistics to sharpen our stories. Sadek stressed the power of data journalism and how numbers can tell us stories if we look hard enough and read between the lines.

Four reporters from CNBC – Kevin Flynn, Jeff McCracken, Kristina Partsinevelos and Antonio José Vielma – took part in a “Raise Your Game and Get Booked” panel, moderated by Mary Duffy. These four took turns answering questions about their careers and how they worked their way up to where they are now. They provided insights on how to excel in the field as young journalists, focusing on topics such as perfecting our pitches, creating multimedia content and presenting across platforms. They really stressed the importance of working across the board to make impressive content that will reach a wide-ranging audience and make an impact.

The last session was a one-on-one 30-minute mentoring session, where participants were assigned editors to discuss issues that would make us stand out in journalism. I got assigned to Oliver Staley, an editor at Time magazine and former reporter at Bloomberg and Quartz.

As an international student, he encouraged me to get an internship with a business-focused newspaper in the U.S. to understand how newsrooms in the U.S. operate. He also encouraged me to read more business stories to understand the business markets in the U.S., if I wanted to specialize in business journalism. His advice was helpful and encouraging.

I was paired with The Wall Street Journal’s Breaking News Editor Paul Ziobro. I told him about my aspirations and he tailored his advice for me, telling me that the best path for my journalism career is to either be a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond. I would have to decide which path made the most sense for me down the line. If I were a big fish in a little pond, I could focus on doing more of the journalism I want but with less of an audience, working towards being noticed by bigger journalism firms. If I were a little fish in a big pond, I would likely be working for big establishments but not reporting on topics I am particularly interested in, but it would be a headstart and down the line I could find work more tailored for my career.

I really value this advice and I look forward to applying these lessons to my future journalism career once my master’s program concludes.

Once these sessions concluded, SABEW brought out a fruit, cheese, and wine platter and allowed us to mingle and network with one another. KC and I stayed behind and spoke with fellow journalists from all over the country, hearing about their reporting work and exchanging information with quite a few of our fellow student journalists. 

We then headed back to the hotel in the pouring rain without an umbrella, but we both walked away from the conference feeling equipped with the skills and knowledge to further our careers as successful journalists.

The experience in New York is unforgettable. The SABEW workshop provided an avenue to learn from successful journalists and editors who have made a difference. I have already started to put into practice the advice and suggestions provided to excel in journalism and the guidance and teachings of The Reynolds Center.


  • Kelechukwu Iruoma

    Kelechukwu Iruoma is a multi-award-winning journalist with seven years of experience covering business, environment, politics, global health, and development, including exposing corruption, and social injustice. Some of his stories, which focused on...

  • Sahara Sajjadiankhah

    Sahara Sajjadi is a recent graduate from Arizona State University, holding a bachelors in political science with minors in women studies and justice studies, along with a certificate in cross sector leadership. She is now pursuing a master’s in mass...

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