UNC and business journalism

The Carolina Business News Initiative, founded in 2002, is the umbrella organization at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication that oversees educational initiatives for both UNC-Chapel Hill students and professional journalists who want to improve their ability to report and write about business journalism.

The resources and commitment of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill to business journalism education is unrivaled in the United States. The two business journalism textbooks produced by the program’s director, “Show Me the Money: Writing Business and Economics Stories for Mass Communication” and “Profits and Losses: Business Journalism and its Role in Society,” are now used by business journalism programs around the country.

The School offers a certificate in business journalism for news-editorial majors, a minor in business journalism for non-journalism majors, will offer a major in business journalism with the Kenan-Flagler Business School beginning in the 2011-2012 academic year. In 2008, 13 students graduated with the certificate in business journalism, and most of them went into careers in business journalism, including one now working at the Financial Times and two others working at Bloomberg News.

Past graduates of the business journalism program have gotten jobs throughout the business journalism world, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, American City Business Journal papers such as the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the Triangle Business Journal and the Triad Business Journal, and the business desks of metro papers such as the Charlotte Observer and Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The undergraduate program consists of three different courses — “Business Reporting,” “Economics Reporting” and “Business and the Media.” All three courses during the 2008-09 academic year had the maximum registration — 20 students — with waiting lists.

The students in the two reporting courses write stories on the local economy and business community. In “Business Reporting,” each student picks a publicly traded company based in the area and covers it for the semester, writing stories on everything from quarterly earnings to executive compensation. In “Economics Reporting,” students report about local unemployment, consumer spending, retail sales and other economic issues.

The quality of the students from the program can be seen in the winners of the student Best in Business contest from SABEW in the past five years, when the school has produced four winners and one second-place finish. In 2004, the first-place BIB winner was John Frank and Emily Steel for a story they wrote for The Daily Tar Heel. In 2005, the first place BIB winner was Steel for a story she wrote for The St. Petersburg Times. In 2006, UNC student Amy Thomson was the honorable mention recipient for a story she wrote while interning at Bloomberg News. In 2007, the student BIB winner was UNC student Daniel Johnson, for a story that was part of his master’s thesis and later appeared in the Seattle Times. In 2008, the BIB winners were UNC students Laura Marcinek and Catarina Saraiva. Marcinek won in the student publication category, while Saraiva won in the professional publication category. In 2009, the BIB winners were UNC students Andrew Dunn and Matthew Lynley.

The School has a number of scholarships for business journalism students. The School is the only journalism program in the country that participates in the prestigious Steamboat Scholars program. Every year, one UNC student receives a Steamboat Scholarship, which is $12,000 and comes with a summer internship at Bloomberg News in New York. There are two winners of the annual Van Hecke Award, named after a former Charlotte Observer business editor, who receive $3,250 each and internships at the Observer and Bloomberg News. The AT&T Business Journalism Scholarship receives $1,000 to help pay for their expenses during a summer business reporting internship. And the new Evelyn Y. Davis Scholarships pay a similar amount annually to six business journalism students.

In addition, the School has the Walter E. Hussman Sr. Distinguished Scholar in business journalism position on the faculty. An advisory council that includes business journalists from BusinessWeek, the Charlotte Observer, The (Raleigh) News & Record and American City Business Journals, as well as alumni who work in business at places such as J.P. Morgan, regularly communicate with faculty about the direction of the business journalism program. The members of the council can be found here.

Top business journalists from around the country regularly visit UNC-CH to speak to its students. Past guest speakers include Matthew Winkler, the editor in chief of Bloomberg News, Greg Ip, the economics reporter from The Wall Street Journal (now at The Economist), and Steve Liesman, the senior economics reporter at CNBC. UNC-CH alumni in top positions in business journalism include Alan Murray of The Journal, Consumer Reports editor Kim Kleman and business editors at metro papers across the country, including the St. Petersburg Times and The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

The School has also been a heavy contributor of professional education programs in business journalism for the industry. It has conducted its Business Journalism 101 workshop, in conjunction with the Kenan-Flagler Business School, three times, and held a symposium on the future of business journalism in the past five years.

Individualized training sessions for newspapers in the state and throughout the Southeast have also been held on a regular basis. Among the organizations that have received business journalism training from the School are The Associated Press, Motley Fool, Orlando Sentinel, Atlanta Business Chronicle, South Carolina Press Association, Mobile Register, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

The program has also been involved in international business journalism ventures, working with numerous universities and media outlets in South Africa and the University of Navarra in Spain.

It has also created online resources for business journalists, such as one of business news resources, click here; one on the history of business journalism, click here; and a daily blog on the world of business journalism, click here.

In conclusion, the School’s five-year strategic plan calls for it to look for ways to further expand the business journalism program, particularly during this time when coverage of business and economic issues seem vital.