Washington Post reporter Keith Alexander told a group of journalism students from historically black colleges and universities Thursday night that they should work on becoming business journalists because that will present them with a number of opportunities.
“The business desks on the newspapers across the country, there are very few people who look like you,” said Alexander on the North Carolina A&T campus. “You will be in demand. You will be sought after.”
Alexander, whoÂ has worked as a business reporter at the Dayton Daily News, USA Today and the Washington Post, as well as at BusinessWeek,Â was the dinner speaker at a two-day workshop for HBCU professors and students on exploring careers in business journalism.
Students at the workshop were from HBCUs from around the Southeast, including Hampton University and Morehouse University. Alexander won the National Association of Black Journalists award for the best business story of 2006.
Alexander told the story of a Nortwest Airlines ad that stated, “Your Pasty White Legs Will Thank You” that drew a number of complaints from black consumers and was withdrawn. Alexander wrote a story about the ad, and he noted that white business journalists probably wouldn’t have seen a problem with the ad.
He also noted that being a black business journalist is often an advantage. He recounted several times walking into an interview with a company CEO and getting the impression from the executive that he wouldn’t know much about business because he was black.
“Let them think that you don’t know what you’re talking about because of how you look,” said Alexander. “You know that company as well as the executive.”
If black journalism students learn to write about business, he added, that will give them an additional advantage in getting a job compared to other journalism graduates.
“Business journalism has been very, very good to me,” said Alexander. “A business journalist has a niche. You have a specialty. And in your specialty, you can demand a little more money.”