How a business journalist can improve in social media
Sapna Maheshwari covers retail for BuzzFeed News, which launched a vertical for business news in May 2013.
Before that, she worked at Bloomberg News from 2009 to 2013. Her first year was spent as a rotating reporter exposing her to a variety of topics including currencies, insurance and stocks. She then covered corporate credit before moving to retail. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in business journalism.
Sapna talked with Talking Biz News about how quickly business journalism is changing and the role social media plays.
What’s your favorite part of your current job?
Definitely the people I get to work with. My colleagues on the business team at BuzzFeed News are so creative, smart and hard working, and so is the rest of the editorial staff. It’s fun to be surrounded by people working on such a tremendous variety of stuff from deeply investigated features to spot news to DIY posts. Whatever the topic, people are super into what they’re doing, which makes for an awesome work environment.
How does working at BuzzFeed differ from Bloomberg?
I get this question a lot! There are lots of differences — for one, I’m not working on a Bloomberg terminal every day, and I’m not writing specifically for investors. I think BuzzFeed, given its voice and audience, has helped me become a stronger, more creative writer. (And like all former Bloomberg reporters, I very much relish using the word “but” in stories again.)
It’s also easier for me to put graphics and photos in articles here, which can be instrumental in storytelling. For example, this post on the Tinder sexual-harassment suit would have been a lot weaker without screen grabs of exhibits from the case: http://www.buzzfeed.com/sapna/tinder-sued-for-sexual-harassment#4kncf6y
BuzzFeed is a lot smaller than Bloomberg, so there are fewer editors and less bureaucracy, generally, which was something to adjust to. I learned an insane amount at Bloomberg and was really lucky to start my career there. There was an endless supply of wonderful mentors, and I loved being on the consumer team, which does amazing work so consistently.
Still, both organizations are fast and extremely ambitious and they put a lot of faith in their reporters so that’s been great for me. I’m still working to get a lot of the same kinds of scoops and exclusives on the retail beat here as I was there.
You were named one of Time’s best Twitter feeds for 2014. How did you develop your 140-character voice?
This is hard to answer without sounding embarrassingly navel-gazing or cheesy. We started using Twitter more on the consumer team at Bloomberg while we were trying to get a blog set up. It was just a good place for observations that didn’t make it into wire stories or Businessweek stories. My best friend and I also started a viral Tumblr while I was at Bloomberg called Onionlike.tumblr.com because I love odd, funny news, so I tweeted out that kind of stuff. I’m also pretty obsessed with puns and silly jokes so I have incorporated some of those into my feed, hopefully not alienating the people who follow me for consumer and business news too much.
What insights do you have for other journalists who need to improve their social media presences?
Always tweet your stories! I think some journalists can feel shy about tweeting (or Facebook-ing or LinkedIn-ing) their own stories, like it’s arrogant or too much of a self-call, but why wouldn’t you promote your own work? There’s so much stuff on the Internet, you kind of have to, I think. Also, don’t be scared of having a personality. It’s not really fun to follow someone who’s essentially an RSS feed. There’s plenty of stuff reporters observe on their beats that people who follow those topics are interested in hearing.
Where do you think journalism will be in the next five to 10 years?
I have no idea; there’s such a crazy mix of forces at work right now. It’s so easy for readers to tailor the news they consume, PR is getting even more enormous, people have shorter attention spans. But I think it’s promising that places like BuzzFeed are pouring so much time, energy and money into funding great journalism. I don’t think the appetite for awesome stories is going anywhere; it might just look a bit different down the road.