President, Business journalism centre "BizMedia"
When young colleagues or students ask how to tell about economic life in a professional way, I usually say: "Just remember that you are a part of this life from childhood!"
Really, when a baby comes to a shop-assistant to buy an ice-cream or a toy without assistance, but still under parents' control or when he/she puts a coin into a money-box he/she becomes a participant of economics and starts to learn ABC of market arithmetic. And by the time of becoming an adult many young people today have quite strong knowledge concerning economic life and can give odds to older generations. That's why I sometimes have to remember to youth that even without special education they have minimum level of knowledge about market economy and they talk about it in easy words just without paying enough attention.
But, certainly to become the professional business-journalist, it is necessary to get not only essential knowledge in systematized form, but also professional skills for this work. We shall begin with knowledge. It is obvious that for writing material about economy as a whole, business and finance it is necessary to know the main definitions not only from economic theory (macro- and micro-economy), which are today studied even at school, but also many applied disciplines, including technical.
For example, to write about car industry, one has to be in course of last novelties in metallurgy, chemical and electronic industries. If start writing about banking, that most certainly takes the knowledge about modern IT-technology, details of paper-making or engraving business. One, who writes about mining industry, can not avoid acquaintance with manuals, in which difference between two sorts of oil "brent" and "urals" is explained, and also difference between gas condensate and liquefied gas. Well, and so on.
Not to avoid acquaintance with statistics since exactly its methods form the basis of analytical approaches in studying the economic phenomena, particularly if the question is about analysis of time-series data, grouping, calculation of the average values and determination of indexes. Plus induction and deduction (remember Sherlok Holmes!), comparisons, analogies and other methods of the analytical studies.
Now, about skills. Since it is difficult to define journalism as science, because in fact it is a craft (not easy one!), so firstly for working as a business-journalist it is necessary to have skills of this craft. The main here - remember that even though one writes the article about macroeconomic trends or about complex technology of atomic industry, a journalist acts not so much as expert on this questions, but as intermediary between the sources of the information and readers (spectators, listeners).
And this intermediary has to carry out a difficult task - bring information, got from specialists in their complex language, to his/her readers and spectators in understandable and interesting form. To learn this business, it is necessary, certainly, not only to understand details of economics, business and finance, but also have a journalistic technique in collection, processing and presenting information. Plus it is necessary to know how to generate the ideas for journalistic materials and, certainly, to write competently, clearly and in an interesting way. By the way, the last skill is the most important - after all readers and spectators are expecting from journalists not in-depth knowledge in sphere of economics, but interesting and comprehensible materials about economic events!
I'd love to give an advice to those who only prepare himself/herself to enter the world of business journalism - after reading of this short introduction try yourself with simple written tests, which I use during lessons with my students. First assignment: tell simply and in an understandable way about in what state is the economy of the country today. Second assignment: take some statistical report (it is possible to download from the Agency on statistics web-site www.stat.kz), choose from it one interesting indicator, understand it and write an essay (for example, about increase of prices or changes of income). Third assignment: prepare the material about that business, with which one faces daily, simply because you are in it (for instance, your work as a part-timer in a newspaper or in trading), or use its services by buying bread in a shop or entering the Internet. Devote the final exercise to your financial partners - it might be a cashier in a bank, an accountant responsible for salaries or stipends, or at last parents, investing in their kid, in hope that when they get older, their investments turned into not only love and care, but also material support.
There is no need to write much. One page of text will be enough for every assignment. Having finished, read all written by you, correct the mistakes and edit the texts. Then comes the most important moment - offer to your first readers, for example, parents, friends from university, colleagues from editorial office or your teacher at university to read your works. Listen to their remarks. Then complete your initial works on business topic, create title and lead/intro (here it will be useful to look through design of articles in top business editions), write name and surname of the author and...send it to us, to the public foundation "Center for Business Journalism "BizMedia"! After all, on our web-site there is a special section "Debut"!