The field of business journalism has grown dramatically in the past 20 years. Yet the preparation of journalists to write about economic and financial topics has not kept up with that growth. Daily newspapers, specialized magazines, Internet-news sites and television stations are all eager for employees who can both understand business concepts and communicate those concepts in terms that readers and viewers will easily understand.
The business journalism program at Washington and Lee University addresses this need. Begun in 2002, the program bridges two historic strengths of the university: its journalism department and its undergraduate School of Commerce, Economics and Politics. The program also taps the resources at the Washington and Lee School of Law.
The program was launched with a $1.5 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which created an endowed chair for business journalism in the journalism department. In 2004 and again in 2007, the Reynolds Foundation augmented its original grant with three-year $450,000 awards In 2010, the foundation gave the journalism department a five-year $1.5 million grant.
The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. It is one of the 50 largest foundations in the United States.
Students following the business journalism sequence will take most of the required courses for the journalism major plus two specialized courses: Reporting on Business and Reporting on the Economy. They also will take at least seven classes in the Williams School, including Economics 101 and 102 and Introduction to Accounting. Four additional upper level classes must be taken in Accounting, Business Administration or Economics, including at least one with an international focus. They must also complete an internship of at least 300 hours.
The Reynolds program regularly brings business journalists to campus to talk to students about the profession. Speakers have included Michael Hudson, Center for Public Integrity; Micheline Maynard, The New York Times; Gretchen Morgenson, The New York Times; Greg Ip, The Economist; Dagen McDowell, Fox Business Network; Michelle Leder, footnoted.org; John Pomfret, The Washington Post; Allan Sloan, Newsweek; Diana Henriques, The New York Times; Bethany McLean, Fortune magazine; and Trudy Lieberman, Consumer Reports.
Because of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, paid summer business journalism internships are available for all business-journalism majors. Recent locations include The Dow-Jones Newswire, Reuters, Forbes.com, The Charlotte Observer and The Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Questions and comments: Pamela Luecke