Business reporting is a subject many young reporters approach with dread. But Angie Lau, the award-winning reporter for Bloomberg television, says it’s a specialty that should be approached – and mastered – like any other in journalism. “You engage and commit to it at a certain level and think of it as just another beat, like science,” she said.
Lau, who graduated from commodities reporting to general business reporter and anchor at Bloomberg, spoke to students and faculty at the Journalism and Media Studies Center on November 15.
She said journalists need to master their topic no matter what they are reporting on, and be able to communicate it effectively. “In business, you need to understand micro and macro views and connect the dots. And you hope you can explain to a non-expert audience why it’s an important story, in the same way that you might be talking to your mom,” she said.
She described the live television interviews that Bloomberg is known for as a kind of dance, with a certain pace and flow. “Having a conversation that’s playing out on live TV requires a certain skill set,” Lau said. “But the common theme of a good reporter is being a good listener and engaging, and so the question is just as important as the answer.” She said reporters should challenge their interviewees, but be respectful. And be prepared. “You’re only a good dancer if you’ve done your homework,” she said.
Successful television reporters need strong writing, a sense of pacing, and the ability to strike the right balance when portraying a sense of their personality, said Lau. “It’s a science, but at the same time there’s some magic that can’t be quantified. It can’t be engineered, and you have to be brave enough to be natural.”
She said that one of her best award-winning stories was done in only two hours. “It was a non-standard, innovative story on a boring subject, school taxes. But I used a different way to tell it, avoiding clichés and elevating it to a concrete level,” she said. But she also said: “Every story should get your best effort.”
She referred to the changes in journalism, where many of the old routes to a career don’t exist anymore. “Now, journalists define their own path,” she said. “The successful ones are more entrepreneurial, using blogs and freelancing, and can create their own opportunities.” Her list of what she looks for in good journalists, however, was not so different from what characterized good journalists in the pre-digital age: “Passion, talent, and tenacity.”