Amy Resnick on issues facing women in biz journalism
Amy Resnick is the editor of Pensions & Investments, based in the paper’s New York City office. She joined the Crain’s publication in 2012 as executive editor.
A veteran financial journalist, she previously worked as Americas editor at IFR magazine, a Thomson Reuters publication focused on capital formation.
Prior to that, she spent 15 years at The Bond Buyer, the paper of record for the municipal bond market, including the last 10 years there as the editor in chief, the first woman ever to hold that job. She also was a reporter in the paper’s Washington bureau and its managing editor.
She is also treasurer of the Journalism and Women Symposium and a mentor-editor for the OpEd Project. (Another business journalist, Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times, is vice president of the symposium.)
She earned a master’s degree in journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and history from Tufts University.
Resnick spoke with Talking Biz News by email about women in business journalism and the issues they face. What follows is an edited transcript.
How did you get interested in business journalism?
I came to business journalism in the DC bureau of The Bond Buyer, so it was more policy first, but it was a great way to learn about how markets work and about the intersection of money and politics, which is fascinating.
Did you feel that it was harder for a woman to break into business journalism?
At first, I came across a lot of men (in the industry, not in the newsroom) who wanted me to know that their daughters were my age, and who were a bit condescending. But I also met a lot of men and women in the industry I was covering who were generous with their time and sharing their knowledge. Most people were more interested in making sure I was going to get the stories right.
Have you ever been treated by a male source as if you didn’t know what he was talking about? What was that like?
I have experienced that, and I learned to treat it as their problem. They needed to tell me something in a certain way (even if that way was condescending) but at least they were talking to me. Sometimes, I found I could use that attitude to my advantage, asking difficult questions with an innocent edge. As long as I had done my homework and in fact knew what I was talking about it sometimes helped.
What are some of the other ways that you think business news sources treat females differently?
Some sources want you to know that you are young, or remind them of their wife or daughter, which can be frustrating, if they mean it to be. Some sources will use any excuse to derail and interview and keep a reporter from getting to the meat of a story. So I find I just have to make it clear to them (sometimes bluntly) that I understand they are stalling and move back to my questions.
Once, when a drunk and angry source became very aggressive during a cocktail reception at an industry event, another male source was able to escort me from the room and away from the drunk. That was appreciated.
I’ve had some female business journalists tell me that male sources hit on them during interviews. What’s your advice for that?
That is a sticky and uncomfortable situation. The first piece of advice is when possible, meet in professional settings, the source’s office, your office, a diner, a coffee shop. If you have to meet someone at a hotel, meet in the lobby, not the bar and NEVER their room. If you have a bad vibe, either do an interview by phone or maybe with someone else present.
If it happens, and I agree that it does, I’d suggest that you be firm and clear and tell the person that you are there for the interview and ask them to please focus on that.
Always trust your gut. If you are not comfortable, and certainly if you have any concern about your safety, don’t go in the first place, or leave when things get uncomfortable. Everyone has different comfort levels, but no one should have to be harassed to get a story.
There are a number of females at the top of the Pensions and Investments masthead. Is that a conscious effort?
It is not. It is a happy coincidence. The first two editors of P&I were men. My predecessor, Nancy Webman, was the first woman to be the top editor and she held the job from 1997 to 2015. During her tenure, she had a couple of men work as her executive editor.
When I was promoted, I interviewed men and women for the job and hired the candidate I thought was best all around, Julie Tatge. P&I managing editor Elizabeth Karier has been with the paper more than 30 years and she brings a tremendous amount of knowledge to the role. I honestly don’t know of anyone else who has had that post in decades.
Studies show that 37 percent of business news bylines are female. What should be done by the industry to increase that number?
I think women can be very analytical and detail-oriented, which should make them good business reporters and editors. That said, I am not sure business is always presented as offering reporters a chance to write about people, rather than companies. The best business stories come from the human side, showing that the data we often cover represents jobs and livelihoods.
I also think that some women journalists’ resistance to math and numbers sometimes discourages them from business reporting jobs, and that can be addressed with education.
Especially in the U.S., so much business reporting is about consumer spending or consumer finances in one way or another, women should be the ideal people to write those stories, as most often women drive household spending decisions.
Bloomberg has told its reporters to quote at least one female in many stories. How does that help?
I think it helps to show that there are women in all areas of business, in leadership roles. But a quota of one per story might then overlook stories where it should be five or more. Rarely does an editor question when all the sources in a story are men, but I think under a policy like you describe above, they might question if all the sources were women, which is not what we want either.
What is the Journalism and Women Symposium doing to address increasing the number of female business journalists?
The Journalism and Women Symposium is continuing to offer women a network and networking opportunities, plus skills training in video, social media, public speaking. By bringing women speakers who come from the highest levels of the industry, in business reporting as well as in other areas, to our annual Conference and Mentoring Project, we call attention to role models in the industry and people who can help with career development.
We also have offered conference training in negotiation, finance, starting a news business or running your own business as a freelancer, among other topics.
How do you personally encourage other women considering a career in business journalism?
First I tell anyone seeking a career in journalism to make sure this field is something they love because it is going to be tough; long hours, not the best pay, perhaps moving around in order to advance your career, etc.
Then I tell women in particular that business journalism can be more family-friendly than some other beats, because we often deal with more set deadlines and interview sources during traditional business hours, which might be better for someone seeking to have a more 9-to-5 schedule.
It is not always the case, but it can be.