The field of business journalism has grown dramatically in the past 20 years. Yet the preparation of journalists to write about economic and financial topics has not kept up with that growth. Daily newspapers, specialized magazines, Internet-news sites and television stations are all eager for employees who can both understand business concepts and communicate those concepts in terms that readers and viewers will easily understand.
At Washington and Lee
The business journalism program at Washington and Lee University addresses this need. Begun in 2002, the program bridges two historic strengths of the university: its journalism department and its undergraduate School of Commerce, Economics and Politics. The program also taps the resources at the Washington and Lee School of Law.
The program was launched with a $1.5 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which created an endowed chair for business journalism in the journalism department. In 2004 and again in 2007, the Reynolds Foundation augmented its original grant with three-year $450,000 awards In 2010, the foundation gave the journalism department a five-year $1.5 million grant.
The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. It is one of the 50 largest foundations in the United States.
Students following the business journalism sequence will take all of the required courses for the journalism major plus two specialized courses: Reporting on Business and Reporting on the Economy. They also will take at least six classes in the Williams School, including Introduction to Economics and Introduction to Accounting. Four additional upper level classes must be taken in Accounting, Business Administration or Economics, including at least one with an international focus. They must also complete an internship of at least 200 hours.
The Reynolds program regularly brings business journalists to campus to talk to students about the profession. Speakers have included Diana Henriques, The New York Times; David Fahrenthold, The Washington Post; Michael Hudson, Center for Public Integrity; Greg Ip, The Wall Street Journal; Dagen McDowell, Fox Business Network.
Preparation for the Real World
Because of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, paid summer business journalism internships are available for all business-journalism majors. Recent locations include CNBC, American City Business Journals, The Charlotte Observer and The Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Questions and comments: Alecia Swasy