I was thinking this weekend about Benita Newton, a business reporter at the Virginian-Pilot who died unexpectedly this summer. Everyone who knew Benita was shocked.
I first met Benita in 2004 when she had a year-long internship on the business desk of the St. Petersburg Times. She attended one of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism workshops in Fort Lauderdale, and she stood out in the audience because of the questions she asked and her knowledge.
Later, Benita and I had some conversations about what she was going to do with her life. She had an MBA from the University of Alabama, and she was interested in eventually going back to school and getting her PhD so that she could teach journalism. I had given her some information about the UNC graduate program and encouraged her to apply.
When I discovered that she had landed a full-time job at the Virginian-Pilot, working for Bill Choyke, I thought that she had been given an opportunity to learn more about the field. Last October, when I was in the area for my son’s soccer tournament, I ran across an article she wrote in the Sunday paper about Guidestar, the company that tracks non-profit financial information. She did an excellent job of telling the company’s story.
The fact that Benita was a young, black woman meant everything and nothing in the world of business journalism. She was a great writer and an easy person to get along with, which likely meant that she got a lot of good information from her sources.
She will be missed. If you can contribute to the scholarship fund in her name that is being organized through SABEW, please do so.