The Daily Gamecock

Students learn business journalism strategies

Webinar shares valuable resources for writers


Students learned why private companies matter in reporting in a webinar at the Carolina Coliseum Monday.

Rob Wells, a Reynolds Visiting Professor at USC, hosted the session sponsored by the Baldwin Business Journalism Initiative at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. The webinar was led by Chris Roush, a professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and founding director of the Carolina Business News Initiative.

“Investigating private companies makes it easier to cover businesses,” Roush said. “Small companies are the backbone of local economies.”

While there are approximately 15,000 public companies in the U.S., there are 6 million privately held firms. Private business accounts for about half of the country’s workforce and more than half of the country’s output, which makes for important news.

“When I first started out, I was working in small towns where private businesses were everywhere,” Wells said. “Not every city is New York City, and private businesses account for a lot of news stories.”

Roush listed a few resources that reporters of all kinds can use to gain information about private companies, ranging from licensing boards and trading associations to the secretary of state’s office and bankruptcy court.

“Whether you’re a business reporter, sports writer or political journalist, knowing how to investigate private businesses makes you a better journalist,” Wells said.

Roush also referenced private companies like the Better Business Bureau as hubs of valuable information. Of those mentioned, Roush felt that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are particularly useful resources.

“Make a name for yourself writing business stories, and your career will take off,” Roush said.

Wells is teaching two courses this semester to teach business journalism skills — Making Sense of the Economy, a survey of companies and economics, and Business Journalism, Corporations and You: Real-Time Financial Literacy.  Both are listed as journalism classes.

“These classes will teach students the basic skills of reading financial documents, the stock market and how to ask the pertinent questions when working with these private companies,” Wells said.

To gain experience with business journalism and investigating small companies, Wells suggests that students frequently check out databases and news coverage, as well as trade newsletters, to gain insight on how companies fit in.

“Comfort with financials makes for more opportunities as a journalist,” Wells said.