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Business Journalism Professors 2014: Resources and Keeping Students Interested by Chris Roush


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Chris Roush presents "Resources and Keeping Students Interested" during the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism's annual Business Journalism Week, Jan. 2, 2014. Roush is the Walter E. Hussman Sr. Distinguished Scholar in business journalism and the founding director of the Carolina Business News Initiative at the University of North Carolina.

The annual event features two concurrent seminars, Business Journalism Professors and Strictly Financials for journalists.

For more information about business journalism training, please visit

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Business Journalism Professors 2014: Resources and Keeping Students Interested by Chris Roush

  1. 1. Resources and keeping students interested Chris Roush Jan 2, 2014 Business Journalism Professors Seminar
  2. 2. Boring!!! One of the biggest issues in teaching “Business Reporting” is the belief by students that the topics is boring. n  Few read the business section – before taking our classes. n 
  3. 3. Math is for smart people Many journalism school students are enrolled in our programs for one reason: They’re not good in math. n  They eschew business and math classes in college as a result. n 
  4. 4. Fun and interesting So, the goal for us as professors is to show them how being a business reporter can be fun and interesting. n  By the end of the semester, you will have turned these students into wannabe business reporters. n 
  5. 5. Having fun teaching business reporting
  6. 6. About those SEC filings n  I strongly believe that you need to expose students to SEC filings, but it can be done in an entertaining way. n  Give them 10-Qs, 10-Ks and proxy statements for companies that they know.
  7. 7. About those SEC filings Find SEC filings where it’s easy for the students to find something interesting. n  Example: The Coke 10-Q that details how much it’s spending to call the Houston Astros’ stadium “Minute Maid Park.” n 
  8. 8. About those SEC filings When it comes to proxy statements, show them what you can find out about people. n  My brother-in-law is the CFO of Theragenics, a public drug company. n 
  9. 9. Private company information The same concept applies when teaching students how to find information about private companies. n  Show students is how to look up the value of CEO homes in the area. n 
  10. 10. Private company information n  n  n  Students also like to see documents that they may have never seen before. These can be divorces, or affidavits. Ask them to go to and find a document that has a business connection.
  11. 11. Private company information One that every journalism student will enjoy is http:// n  From this web site, they can look up the value of their professor’s house. n 
  12. 12. Story assignments Can you come up with unusual or offbeat story assignments for them? n  At W&L, had students write stories about truffle maker in town that had been featured in WSJ. n  In Economics Reporting, have students cover post-Thanksgiving retail sales. n 
  13. 13. Class exercise strategies
  14. 14. Guess the economic data n  n  n  n  There can be nothing more deadly dull to students than economic data. Find out what dates something like inflation or unemployment is going to be released. The class before, asks students to estimate what they think the number will be. Winner(s) gets bonus points on next writing assignment.
  15. 15. Guess the earnings The same type of exercise can be done with corporate earnings. n  Have students estimate EPS earnings for the quarter. n  My favorite is Progressive, since it offers no earnings guidance. n 
  16. 16. Use examples that they know n  On the first day of class, show them a copy of Fortune magazine with pop singer Sheryl Crow on the cover and ask them if this story is their preconceived notion of business writing.
  17. 17. Use examples that they know n  What does this do? n  Emphasizes that the line between business reporting and traditional news reporting is blurring and that every news story has some sort of financial angle. n  Also opens students’ eyes to the possibilities in business reporting.
  18. 18. Use examples that make sense n  n  When the economics reporting class discusses the Consumer Price Index, I use tangible examples. I explain to them that when the CPI goes up, the cost of beer and chicken wings go up and the students don’t have as much money to spend on those items.
  19. 19. Use examples that make sense When the business reporting class reviews an income statement for a company and then writes a story about it, students are taught to look at the revenues and profits for a company such as Coca-Cola in this way: n  Revenue is the money that consumers around the globe pay to buy six packs and 12 packs of Coke beverages. n  Profit, or net income, is the money that Coke has left over after it pays its salaries and bills. n 
  20. 20. Ask for examples n  n  Discovered one semester that I had a student from Houston whose father had worked for Enron. Ask students what companies their parents or relatives work for, and what they think about the coverage of those businesses.
  21. 21. Other tactics
  22. 22. Classroom demeanor n  n  n  Not afraid to mention funny or humorous events to make a point. Compare CEO compensation when discussing proxy statements to how much I am making as a professor. Discuss construction problems on campus paid for by state bond issue when discussing bonds.
  23. 23. Ethics n  n  n  Don’t be afraid to take students down memory lane. Ask them how they would handle ethical situations such as being offered tickets to a sporting event. Provide examples of business journalism ethics codes.
  24. 24. Mistakes n  Don’t be afraid to talk about the worst mistakes you’ve ever made as a journalist. n  Shows the students that you’re a human being. n  Also explain to them how you worked to prevent mistakes from happening again.
  25. 25. Stump the professor n  n  n  Ask students to bring in questions each class period. If you can’t answer the question, then you cut the class period short by 5 minutes. If you get the answer correct, then class stays for entire class period.
  26. 26. Professor vs. the class Can you have another professor come up with a business news current events quiz and administer it at beginning of class? n  If you get more answers right than the class, then writing assignment at end of class. n  If they get more answers, then no writing assignment. n  Eventually, they’ll still do all writing assignments. n 
  27. 27. Field trips n  n  n  Kansas business reporting class visits the Fed in Kansas City. Columbia students go to the stock exchange and trading floors. Can you take your students to a brokerage office and hold class there on a day that you talk about the stock market?
  28. 28. Field trips n  What about holding class in the boardroom of a local company on the day you discuss management and boards? n  Or, even better, can you arrange your students to attend a company’s press conference if it’s in the area?
  29. 29. The end n  n  n  n  Never thought that business journalism was boring. Like other beats, there was always something new each day. Your class should be the same way. If they look forward to coming to class, then they want to learn.