Qwestion and Answer with Kathleen Graham, SABEW Executive Director

Lou Carlozo July 20, 2020

Qwoted is committed to exploring the current state of the media by speaking to industry leaders and educating future generations of media professionals. What has social media and technological innovation brought to the table? What can we expect for the future of journalism?

SABEW Executive Director Kathleen Graham in front of a blue backdrop.

Kathleen Graham is the executive director of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW), the leading association for business journalists. Kathleen is responsible for overseeing the strategy of the association’s long-term and day-to-day operations, including its financial health, programs, membership, training, events and governance. Her career has spanned more than two decades in association leadership, fundraising, program management, journalism ethics, and First Amendment advocacy. Previously, Kathleen was the executive director of the Radio Television Digital News Foundation (RTDNF) before becoming the executive director of the Alfred Friendly Press Partners.

To Kathleen, the most rewarding element of her job is bringing business journalists together while cultivating the next generation of newsroom leaders and supporting First Amendment freedoms.

Q: What do you think about the role of technology in journalism? Is it helpful? harmful? Something in between?

KG: Technology is shaping journalism in many positive ways, making it more accessible, engaging, and interactive. AI saves time by analyzing large databases or transcribing interviews. It is much easier for journalists to mine and analyze data before disseminating it. While technology is critically important, it does not replace journalists doing the essential work of fact-checking, analyzing, contextualizing, and gathering information.

Q: Social media has upended the traditional media landscape. One of the great challenges it creates is authenticity and malevolent actors. How do think journalists and reporters should deal with the rising tide of misinformation?

KG: Fact-checking, verifying, filtering and critical thinking are skills that are now even more important for journalists to maintain their credibility and fight misinformation, especially during a pandemic and an economic crisis. Journalists and news organizations can combat misinformation by assisting with media and financial literacy efforts and supporting nonprofit programs that encourage people to become smarter consumers of news by thinking critically, evaluating media, and considering why certain information is included or left out.

Q: What do you see as some of journalism’s biggest potential pitfalls? What gives you hope for the future of journalism?

KG: Newsrooms need to reflect the diversity of the communities and people they cover. As an industry, we need to strengthen the pipeline of diverse business journalists and news managers entering the profession and support them throughout their careers. I am hopeful about the profession’s desire to improve diversity in hiring practices, encourage career advancement and close wage gaps for journalists of color in business journalism.

Q: The profession of journalism feels more attacked today than in a long time, but also highly necessary. Do you feel that’s true, and if so, why?

KG: I think accurate reporting is highly valued and appreciated in this current climate. The pandemic underscores the important role business journalists play during an economic crisis. I’ve seen great reporting on the pandemic’s impacts in several areas, including unemployment, small business/retail, the stock market, personal finance and investments, and the role of racial and income inequality in health disparities.

COVID-19 highlights the unique role business journalists play in covering this as a public health crisis. SABEW members are reporting on the widespread impact of shutting down the economy, antibody testing, and how economics and epidemiology can work in harmony or be at odds. They’re also tackling health care insecurity and gaps in our health system that placed the entire population and our economy at risk.

Q: Where do you get your news from?

KG: I am a Washingtonian, so for my local fix, I read The Washington Post and Washington Business Journal. I listen to WTOP (in the car) and NPR (while I work). The New York Times is a daily must. For business journalism, I follow the great reporting done of many SABEW members. I also read industry publications like CJR and The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Q: What are you hearing from your students or members about their ambitions and hopes for the profession?

KG: SABEW members hope to be of service to their audience and communities during the worst economic downturn in over a century. Financial journalists want to make sure that all people are informed and included in their coverage, not just big business and the investing class. Both students and working journalists remain hopeful about the future and committed to excellence and their craft.

Q: What are some of the best practices from journalism’s past that you feel need to be utilized now?

KG: Vetting financial experts and sources during this economic downturn is critical. Accuracy in reporting and helping the reader/viewer become more sophisticated and better informed about the economy has never been more important. SABEW encourages journalists to use best practices and ethical decision-making in their reporting by ensuring that what they report is viable, accurate, and offers context.

Q: What learnings have made a tremendous difference in your career?

KG: These things have made a difference in my career: identifying and cultivating professional mentors, investing in my future, volunteering, joining an association (American Society of Association Executives), serving on a non-profit board, having a robust life outside of work, and approaching my career with a sense of purpose and passion.