Many current or former reporters can pinpoint “the moment when” journalism beckoned. For me, watching history unfold on CNN moved me to find a career (and calling) in information dissemination. For Angela Greiling Keane, editorial cartoons opened the door to appreciating news you think. She eventually landed as a cub reporter in D.C. — where she remains to this day.
Now news director of Bloomberg Government, she’s also held roles at Politico and the now-defunct Traffic World. Her impressive resume continues: Angela is a past president of the National Press Club, where she championed open government, press freedom and a greater role for women in newsrooms. This critical commitment to women continues today with the Journalism & Women Symposium (known as JAWS), where she has been a member since 2003.
I chatted with Angela about being a “Bloomberg boomerang” (yes, this is a thing!), her work with JAWS and her new passport to National Park adventures.
Dawn Wotapka: Tell me what got you into journalism.
Angela Greiling Keane: It’s what I always wanted to do since fifth grade. I always liked asking questions and writing and current events. I remember when I was little before I could read, I made my parents explain the editorial cartoons of the local newspaper (the Minneapolis Tribune) to me. Once I got older and realized journalism’s place in holding the powerful accountable, I was totally hooked.
Dawn: What led you to focus on reporting about the government?
Angela: I came to D.C. as a college senior in the University of Missouri School of Journalism’s semester in Washington and got to spend the time as a correspondent for the Topeka Capital Journal. I wrote about the transfer of power for Kansas in the Senate and dived into Superfund and the national debt. I quickly fell in love with the access reporters have at the Capitol and how many stories there are to tell for different audiences when covering government.
Throughout my career, I’ve also focused on state government coverage and believe intensely in the need for high-quality reporting out of state capitals. I was fortunate to spend two legislative sessions covering the Missouri statehouse in college, and that also planted the government reporting seed.
Dawn: What made you return to Bloomberg and can you explain the “Bloomberg boomerang”?
Angela: Fortunately, Michael Bloomberg has changed his earlier prohibition on employees returning to the company after leaving. I loved what I was doing in my previous job and the people I worked with, but the opportunity to lead a newsroom — and help it grow and evolve — was too good to pass up. And from having worked at Bloomberg News earlier in my career, I already knew about Bloomberg’s commitment to aggressive reporting and impartial journalism, which is needed now more than ever.
Dawn: What is the goal of Bloomberg Government?
Angela: We write for and about those who make and influence policy. We seek to cover the hell out of all things Congress and Congress-adjacent. We want to break news that our readers need and tell them what that news means and why it matters to them.
Dawn: Do you deal with PR people in government reporting or is it a different crowd asking for coverage?
Angela: I certainly get pitches but it’s a bit different than when I covered a company/industry-based beat as a reporter. That being said, all members of Congress have a communications staff and those relationships are important for the reporters on my team. Useful pitches in this space tip us off to a problem a company or industry experiences in navigating legislation or regulation. Stories about a regulatory or legislative mess can be good to shed light on.
Dawn: What does Bloomberg look for in its interns?
Angela: At Bloomberg Industry Group, we have a summer intern program for which we post in the fall. We look for people who are curious, have an interest in policy reporting, have experience in student media, and ideally have already done at least one other internship. While all interns have a lot to learn, we expect our interns to be members of our reporting teams during their time with us. So we look for people with the skills to hit the ground running.
Dawn: Who mentored you along the way?
Angela: So many people. While I have never had a formally assigned mentor, I believe in finding mentors everywhere. Any good journalist is curious, so ask questions of everyone. A few mentors who stand out: Barbara Cochran, a pioneering woman journalist who broke through so many glass ceilings and who gave me the advice to go into management when my daughter was about to become a teenager; Ed Dufner, Bernie Kohn and Joe Sobzyk, Bloomberg editors who are colleagues again and collectively taught me almost everything I know about editing stories and being calm under fire in the process; and Dawn Garcia and Kat Rowlands, two journalists I know through Journalism and Women Symposium who have guided me through conversations about compensation and leadership.
Dawn: You were president of the National Press Club. What was that like?
Angela: It was an amazing opportunity to spend a year as the organization’s volunteer president (while doing my full-time reporting job at the same time). The best parts were hosting VIP speakers — George Takei was a favorite — and representing the Press Club in a conversation with the U.S. Attorney General after it was disclosed that the administration had accessed AP phone records: a very concerning moment for journalists in this country. The part I later appreciated most was that the year I spent as Press Club president, I realized I like managing people. It helped eventually spark my move from reporting to editing.
Dawn: You’re now active with JAWS. What is this organization’s niche and why should women join?
Angela: At JAWS, we seek to advance women in journalism, understanding that while much progress has been made in newsroom representation, there’s no “mission accomplished” flag to fly. As in many industries, women are still underrepresented at the highest levels of newsrooms. And as we saw in painful detail during the #MeToo movement, there is still too much harassment and discrimination. Women should join JAWS for a place to network, learn new skills and add your voice to the goal of advancing women in the field. Find out more at www.jaws.org.
Dawn: Which story stands out to you the most?
Angela: I always have a hard time answering this question. I’ve won awards, but those stories aren’t the ones that have stayed with me the most. The stories I wrote when I was on the regulation team at Bloomberg News, that told complicated policy stories through human beings, stick out. The hardest story I reported was about a regulation being considered to require backup cameras to be installed in all new passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. Rather than just tell a story about how automakers were trying to forestall an expensive regulation, I told the story through the eyes of a mother in Iowa who had backed over her toddler and killed him. She became an advocate for backup cameras as a way to prevent similar deaths.
Dawn: Looking back, what would you do differently about your career?
Angela: I would have studied more history. I spent about three years on the White House beat at the end of the Obama administration and I constantly wished I knew more history, especially about international destinations or overseas hot spots that captured the White House’s attention. And if I could rewind and be younger without as many commitments at home, I might cover a presidential campaign.
Dawn: Finally, what do you do for fun when you’re not on deadline?
Angela: My husband and I are in our first year of empty nesting with our daughter off at college as a freshman. [As] much as we enjoyed spending weekends at soccer tournaments for many years, we are very much enjoying our newfound freedom. I love trying new restaurants; try to visit at least one new country each year; and am an avid fan of the Green Bay Packers and Washington Nationals. And in the learn-more-history vein, I recently acquired a National Park Service Passport book, so we’ve been visiting NPS sites wherever we travel.
Dawn Wotapka is a former Wall Street Journal reporter who found happiness on the PR dark side. She now lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children. She is a slow runner and an avid Peloton user. To submit tips for her Media Movers column, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to connect with Dawn on LinkedIn.