Dawn Wotapka's Media Movers

Media Movers: Bankrate’s Matthew Goldberg

July 7, 2023

Posted by Dawn Wotapka

Starting in sports writing, Matthew Goldberg left, got his MBA and returned to journalism as a financial writer. He’s now with Bankrate.

Two weeks ago, we profiled a sports writer. Last week, we spoke to a financial journalist. This week, we talked to a sports writer who became a banking reporter.

Matthew Goldberg started out in sports journalism, but the nights and weekends took a toll. So he left the field and spent time working in financial services. He also got his MBA … and went back to journalism. These days, he’s a reporter at Bankrate, a job that perfectly blends that sports journalism training with business acumen. You don’t see a lot of journalists changing careers and then returning to a field known for grueling deadlines and low pay, but he’s quite happy that he did.

I chatted with Matthew about what he learned covering sports that he still uses today, what his current job entails and the advice he’d give his younger self:

Dawn: Tell me about your job.

Matthew: I’m a consumer banking reporter at Bankrate. I write personal finance articles and write about bank accounts – helping readers find competitive annual percentage yields (APYs) on those accounts.

Recently the big story was that high-yield savings accounts are actually outpacing inflation. Getting readers aware of the importance of planning ahead, budgeting, trying to keep up with inflation and making sure they have an emergency fund in case something happens are the types of articles I write.

It’s a much more exciting time in this higher-yield environment. But it was also an important role during the start of the pandemic – answering readers’ questions. And people had many questions during that uncertain time. The bank failures this year were also another opportunity to help people understand Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) deposit insurance.

Dawn: You worked in sports journalism early in your career. What was that like?

Matthew: I was 16 when I saw the ad. I think it said something like, “Do you like sports? Do you want to get paid to watch sports?” In 2023, that might seem like a scam. But back then this was in the trusted local newspaper. After I became a correspondent, I’m pretty sure most readers had no idea a high school student was writing the sports articles.

At the two daily newspapers I worked at, you learn about writing quickly under deadline pressure covering Friday night football games or Saturday night races with very tight deadlines. The press room was pretty close to the newsroom at the first daily newspaper I worked at after college. And you didn’t want to be the reason why the press didn’t start on time.

Sports journalism set a great journalism foundation for me. It also taught me that just because you’re covering one event, there might be a different story out there. I was covering a baseball game when I heard some people talking about a football team meeting. Within hours I had the exclusive story of the town’s football coach leaving the school.

Dawn: You sound grateful to have landed and served in that gig.

I’m grateful I was able to tell people’s stories. That was the highlight of sports journalism for me. I found and told the story of an athlete thrown 200 feet out of a car in an automobile accident who recovered to eventually have a very successful season.

I found and told the story of an athlete who had liver failure when he was around three months old, prompting the nickname “The Miracle Baby” around the hospital. Years later, that athlete is still among the all-time leaders for the most receiving touchdowns at an Illinois high school. And I wrote about the athlete who skipped a baseball game to play in a soccer match – and broke his leg during that soccer match. He went on to give up soccer and earn a World Series ring.

Dawn: You then spent time at a State Farm agency and TD Bank. What led to that career shift?

Matthew: I left my second daily newspaper job after college to move closer to my family – from Illinois to New Jersey. I always wanted to earn an MBA. And it seemed like the right time to do that. Sports writing was a lot of fun. But games and events are usually, obviously at night and/or on weekends. So I wanted to give the business world a try. The MBA was a bridge from sports writing to something else in the business world.

I think journalists make the perfect financial services representatives. I’d ask clients questions to get their story. But instead of writing an article, I’d help them with their financial life. Journalists naturally ask the right questions. And they’re curious people.

Dawn: In 2018, you joined Bankrate. How did that come about?

Matthew: I always wanted to get back into journalism. And this turned out to be the perfect opportunity. Almost everything I’ve done professionally since 1998 has had to do with journalism or financial services. So it’s great when the stars align and everything you’ve done can help you on a daily basis.

Dawn: Many people think that once you leave journalism, you can’t come back. How did you show them wrong?

Matthew: You can learn a lot by talking to sources and reading. But my experience in banking/financial services is a major positive and gives me an edge when it comes to writing about the topics in my articles. With that said, I think it’s very important to continue learning every day.

Dawn: What did you learn at the State Farm agency you worked at and at TD that is useful today?

Matthew: Those jobs set the foundation for my banking knowledge. Banking was a major part of my role at the State Farm agency. The experience of explaining things to one client or a few clients helps me try and clearly explain things to many readers in an article.

Dawn: We see a lot of journalists. with advanced degrees in journalism, yet you chose to get your MBA. Why?

Matthew: I was trying to find a way to go from being a sports writer to the business world. As a mass communication major, with an emphasis in print journalism, I didn’t take many business classes. So an MBA was really valuable for me.

Dawn: How does this degree help you in journalism?

Matthew: It helped me learn the foundations of business. And it also helped me get into banking in the first place.

I applied for what ended up being my first banking/insurance position. The insurance agent needed someone – but he was surprised I applied since it didn’t seem like he had a current job posting. It turned out that the link I responded to on my university’s website was old. And I was hired very shortly after the interview.

I might not have ever ended up in financial services/banking/insurance, if that agent didn’t see something in a sports writer earning his MBA.

Dawn: You’ve been active with SABEW and have held leadership positions. Why are you active with the organization?

Matthew: Mark Hamrick, one of the only two-time presidents at SABEW introduced me to SABEW back in 2018. It was a perfect way for me to give back to journalism and also make sure that business journalists have a group that can help them continue to learn. It’s very rewarding, and an honor, to serve on the SABEW Board of Governors and be able to make an impact on the future of business journalism.

I lead SABEW’s training committee and its investment task force. I’m hoping that business journalists take advantage of the great moderators and panelists SABEW has during its training webinars. I’m grateful for the hard work done by all of the members of those committees.

Dawn: What advice would you give to someone studying journalism today?

Matthew: Try to work in a role that you’d like to cover. So for me, it was working in banking. Also, everybody has an interesting story: you just have to find it.

Dawn: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Matthew: It’s difficult to do as a younger journalist – but I would have contributed more in my 401(k) and contributed to an IRA. I could have saved a little more money back then cooking at home – like we do now.

Dawn: Finally, what do you do for fun?

Matthew: We have a mini/medium goldendoodle that just turned one. So going for walks/hikes is fun with him. I’m also hoping to get back into golf this summer. And win or lose, watching the New York Mets has been one of my most consistent activities for many years.

Dawn Wotapka is a former Wall Street Journal reporter who loves to read and write. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children. She is a slow runner and an avid Peloton user. Be sure to connect with Dawn on LinkedIn

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