Business journalists in demand

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 February, 2010, 12:00am

Journalism may be a struggling profession, but business and financial journalism is one of its few areas of growth.

With the world still recovering from the financial tsunami, Hong Kong's journalism schools are busy developing their programmes in an effort to train a new generation of reporters to be sharp-eyed financial watchdogs.

Since it was launched in 2008, Baptist University's master of journalism programme in business and financial journalism has received a steadily increasing number of applicants. It accepts only 20 students each year, but more than 100 people applied last year, up from 50 in 2008. 'Financial journalism requires special knowledge - news gathering, reporting and that sort of thing - along with the financial knowledge held by investors and other people involved in financial sectors,' says Huang Yu, associate director of Baptist University's graduate school.

'By studying journalism, someone working in a financial sector can change their outlook and acquire different knowledge and skills. It's a chance to start a new career. It's even more exciting than money.'

The course focuses on accounting, economics, marketing and larger issues such as globalisation. Each year, students are taken on a field trip to one of the world's financial capitals to see major business media at work. In 2008, they went to New York and visited The New York Times, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. This year, they will go to London.

The University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Centre also offers several courses in business and financial journalism. Veteran financial reporter Rusty Todd directs the centre's business journalism programme. He describes the role of financial journalists as 'watchdogs of the watchdogs' who keep a keen eye both on markets and regulators.

'This latest crash, for many of us, didn't change much. What really changed our view was Enron,' Todd says. 'Since that happened, we have really tried to look under the hood rather than just read earnings reports.'

A good business journalist, he says, is good with numbers, able to write quickly and accurately in a clear, active voice and be able to see what is really going on behind a shiny corporate facade. And, unlike investigative political reporting, hard-nosed business journalism is still in demand. 'You have readers who are wealthy or want to be that way, and they are willing to pay for it,' Todd says.