I posted an item last week about Carol Loomis, the long-time Fortune writer whose memoirs of her 51-year career at the magazine were recently published in the 75th anniversary issue.
I had a chance to talk to Carol by phone on Monday, and I asked her directly about her friendship with Warren Buffett, which includes her editing Warren’s annual shareholders letter for Berkshire Hathaway. Such coziness has been criticized by other business journalists.
Here is what she had to say about her relationship with one of the world’s richest men: “Iâ€™m sure there are people who think itâ€™s a conflict of interest. I have written about Warren only a few times, and I have said heâ€™s a friend and that I own stock in Berkshire. Weâ€™ve handled it very up and above board, and I think in a commendable way. I think that people sometimes forget that itâ€™s supposed to be a good thing for people to have a source. So I feel very good about the way that weâ€™ve handled that.”
I also asked her what she thought about business reporting today and how it has evolved in the past 50 years. “I think itâ€™s a lot more penetrating,” she replied. “Journalism is much more sophisticated these days. Woodward and Bernstein probably had some effect on encouraging business writers to do a better job of reporting. And it helps of course that there are so many good publications, including The Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal, as far as I am concerned, is required reading for any business journalist. Obviously, online sources have helped us. And people learn, just like in every field, from the people before us. I think there are still failings, and what I see is that people start off with an idea of what the story is and sometimes refuse to look at what theyâ€™ve learned and revise their opinions of what the story is.”
Lastly, I asked her what advice she would give someone going into business journalism. She said, “I probably advise them to go into some entry-level job at some organization and learn as much as I can. There were courses I took at Missouri, like a course in public relations, and all of the liberal arts classes that I possible could, in addition to the journalism classes. And I would read broadly and I would read all of the business magazines and The Wall Street Journal and Financial Word. And I would buy some stocks. Iâ€™m very sure that publications are looking for competence, and I think that journalism is about as close to a meritocracy as it can get. I really think that journalism is a good example of meritocracy because there is a written product and relatively little politics in how you are judged. All you have to do is work hard and be good. ”
If you’re interested in reading the entire transcript of the Loomis interview, I hope to post it soon on www.bizjournalismhistory.org under the Q&A section.