Business Journalism – As a business journalist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Diane Mastrull has been reporting on businesses across Philadelphia since 2008.
While some think economic journalism is bland, Mastrull believes these coverages can tell stories about willpower and courage. While in many newsrooms, the business section does not receive as many resources as others. Menstrual has found that the best way to approach business journalism is to work hard, draw on his experience as a court reporter, and add a human dimension to his stories to capture your audience’s courtesy.
During a chat with IJNet, Mastrull shared what she loves about her job, what frustrates her. And some tips for connecting with her stories’ protagonists and audiences.
Mastrull spent much of his career covering politics and court cases. However, he says that the tragic and traumatic stories caused his rejection of this work.
“What I like about business journalism is that I don’t have to deal with those things,” he says.
But business journalism also gave him strict coverage, like the 2008 US recession. “These were stories about people losing their jobs, about downsizing and banks merging. They were sad issues.”
Journalism that brings it all together
The economy is not a topic that can handle in isolation because so many other issues — education, health, travel, marriage, divorce — are connected to money in one way or another, says Mastrull. “It’s all mixed up,” he added.
It is partly why Mastrull draws on his experience as a court reporter. The ability to find and analyze relevant documents – such as bankruptcy filings – has helped her make more substantial coverage.
The Human Element
The public tends to be more interested in the stories of the people behind the companies than the company itself, which contradicts the general perception that business journalism is dull, dry and eminently statistical.
Mastrull believes that people want to know what motivated successful people and what obstacles they had to face to get where they are. So, although business is talking about economics, reporting and good storytelling skills are still necessary.
“Companies are largely the people behind it,” says Mastrull. “Everyone has a story almost what led them to do what they’re doing, and sometimes they’re amazing.”
A Business Journalist is not a Business Promoter
Last year, Mastrull wrote about two women who launched a natural deodorant. Her first story absorbed how the two friends came together and decided to go into business together. However, in following up on his story, he told about the problems they had had when changing manufacturers and about customers not receiving their orders on time.
In this second story, Mastrull could not give the protagonists the positive coverage of the last time. But, as a business journalist, he had to give readers accurate information, and he explained that advertising a startup is not a journalist’s mission.
Connect with the public
Mastrull admits that he doesn’t manage to dominate social networks like other journalists, but he adapts to connect with his readers. The Inquirer staff are constantly encouraged to be on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
“Journalists are people who usually hide behind the signature,” he says. “People didn’t know who we were, and we liked it that way. Now we are urged to do self-marketing so that the audience feels a connection with us and continues reading us”.
Mastrull does not have an academic degree in business, commerce or economics, but he considers the pursuit of these degrees significant for those wishing to cover business. The best that would-be journalists can do is pursue a related academic degree, he explains, to understand the unique language of business.
“If you’re a journalist who deals with economics and business, it helps a lot to have a better command of the subject matter of your work,” he says. The more cunning you will be”.