Lectures by the Cox Institute Industry Fellow and guests of the Cox Institute Presents lecture series provided significant industry perspective for students in the spring semester’s special topics course on business journalism.
With the rise of digital platforms and economic unpredictability, news organizations have struggled to adjust their business models. This has led to an uncertain mindset for journalism professionals when it comes to securing employment, regardless of how long they have been in the industry.
“A lot has changed, and yet, nothing has changed,” said Marilyn Geewax, who’s worked as a business news reporter and editor for decades. “Everything you’re doing today is going to be out the window in a couple of years, but the importance of storytelling is not going to change.”
Geewax, who recently retired as the senior business editor at NPR, served as the Cox Institute’s Industry Fellow during the spring semester, delivering six lectures throughout the semester. She was joined by nine other news professionals – guests of the Cox Institute Presents lecture series – who discussed a wide array of issues related to business journalism and the news industry at large.
The guest lecturers were:
Tom Contiliano, Bloomberg
Amanda Dixon, Bankrate.com
Grace Donnelly, Fortune
Matt Kempner, The Atlanta Journal Constitution
Polina Marinova, Fortune
Mark Meltzer, The Atlanta Business Chronicle
Will Robinson, The Jacksonville Business Journal
Bob Sullivan, independent consumer journalist
Mandi Woodruff, Magnify Money
Marinova, who graduated from Grady in 2013, said her goal was to become a “hardcore print political journalist.” However, five years later, she works as a business reporter for Fortune and writes the daily “Term Sheet” newsletter, detailing venture deals and other deal-related market news.
It is something Marinova said she never thought would be her job, but she has been recognized as an emerging star in business journalism. The Grady College this spring presented her with the John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award.
“I started doing social media for Fortune…and when this position came up…I just said ‘yes,’” Marinova said of how she landed her current role. “These big corporations look at how busy you were [in college] and to them it means that when you go to a new place you’re just going to do it.”
Dixon also said she had to be flexible in the field of journalism, switching from style magazine journalism to business news.
Dixon also graduated from Grady in 2013 and interned with Essence Magazine, but now she covers financial products for Bankrate.com. Dixon said it is easy for early-career journalists to pile on the work for the sake of impressing editors and striving for employment security, but Dixon stressed the need to maintain balance.
“While doing the internship, I knew that navigating the journalism industry would be tricky,” she said. “The biggest thing I learned from this is not being afraid to say ‘yes,’ but not saying ‘yes’ too often.”
Donnelly, a 2016 graduate from Grady who also works for Fortune as a data reporter, told the students there are some things college can’t prepare a journalist for, especially how to navigate the business model turmoil within the industry.
“The job market is not great,” Donnelly said, explaining that ownership changes have clouded the picture. In her own situation, Donnelly noted that since she’s been at Fortune, the magazine’s parent company, Time Inc., was spun out of another company, but did not remain independent long before it was sold to Meredith Corp. Recently, Meredith announced that Fortune would be among the titles it plans to sell.
She said such changes underscore an important lesson students entering the field should understand.
“Talent does not guarantee job security in journalism,” she said, adding that she recognizes the news industry is trying to understand how to best optimize itself for the digital market and that means job insecurity.
“You kind of always have to be on the lookout,” she said.
Charlotte Norsworthy, a Cox Institute Innovation Fellow, contributed to this story.