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BUSINESS REPORTER : Deborah Ball

Photo of Deborah Ball
How would you describe what your job is?
I am a reporter with the WALL STREET JOURNAL in London. I cover the big food-and-beverage companies that are headquartered in Europe. Some of the brands that I cover are Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Dove soap, and Ralston Purina pet foods. I write about how these companies are trying to grow their brands, with, for instance, new television ads or new products.

Describe how you got to where you are today. What was your smartest career move? What would you do differently if you had the chance?
I wouldn't do anything differently. My best move was when I left a job as a reporter for Dow Jones Newswires and took an opportunity to write for the WALL STREET JOURNAL. It was mostly a freelancing job, so it was a risk to leave the newswires. In the end, the paper hired me as a staff reporter, so it was worth the risk.

What advice do you have for young people considering a career in finance? What did you wish you knew?
You should take as many economics and finance courses as you can. There aren't many journalists who are comfortable with numbers and can understand a company's financial reports. If you can combine good writing with an understanding of numbers, you have a valuable skill.

What personal characteristics are required for someone to be successful in your job?
A great deal of curiosity, persistence, and attention to small details -- as well as good writing skills.

What other job could you do with the skills you have gained in this field?
I could go into public relations for a big company, head-hunting, or investor relations (helping companies deal with their investors).

What are the biggest challenges in your job?
The biggest challenge is going behind the scenes of the big companies I cover and digging up information that they don't want to become public. It takes a lot of persistence and creativity to find the right people inside these companies and convince them to talk with you. Another big challenge is working very quickly on a tight deadline. With so much information on television and the Internet now, we have to work harder to get news out quickly.

Are there many opportunities in your field? What should people do to get started?
The newspaper business is unfortunately shrinking and there are fewer jobs that there were even 10 years ago. However, if someone really wants to be a journalist, there is always a demand for good reporters. You should start by writing any way you can -- for your high school or local newspaper -- and try to come up with original, interesting stories that will catch the eye of an editor at a bigger newspaper.

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