Interesting move recently at the Palm Beach Post where long-time business journalist David Sedore was fired from the banking and insurance beat and replaced by Stephanie Horvath, a young reporter who has been covering the business of health care for the paper for about a year. Stephanie is a UNC grad who took my business reporting class in the Spring of 2004 before her internship on the Post’s business desk.
Stephanie is young, and she still has a lot to learn about business and insurance. She tells me that her editors want her to focus primarily on home insurance right now in the wake of Katrina and Rita and make banking a secondary part of her beat. They also want her to focus on other property & casualty lines, but not so much on health insurance.
In Stephanie’s own words, here is her challenge:
“In the meantime I need to learn the basics of banking and insurance fast, especially homeowner’s insurance which is in a death spiral in Florida. Are there any books or Web sites you can recommend that would give me a good overview of these industries — how they make and lose money, what market factors affect them, what things to look out for, etc.? Resources that would be good for a journalist?
“I get the feeling this will be a very different job from the health care beat. I’ve already been told I’ll be going to Tallahassee to cover the session and that I should be going to banking breakfasts and insurance lunches to make contacts. Should be fun.
“Otherwise I’m having a blast. I went out with a bang on the health care beat by traveling to Haiti at the beginning of September to do a story. That hasn’t run yet; the experience was very interesting. And I’m mentoring a local high school journalism class, which is fun.”
I think Stephanie is on the right track, and she has a natural nose for news, so I’m sure she will do well. I used to cover insurance and some banking in Florida, and that can be a competitive beat. Her main competition is Kathy Bushouse, who covers insurance for the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. I know Kathy as well. When she interned on the business desk of the Atlanta paper in the late ’90s, I was her mentor.
In the early ’90s, when I covered insurance in Florida, I was the only full time reporter assigned to the beat at any newspaper in the state. Now, virtually every paper has someone covering the beat.