How the Bagehot program changed Thompson’s life

Terri Thompson

Dean Rotbart of the 2020 Business News Visionary Awards interviewed Terri Thompson, who served as the director of Columbia University’s Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism from 1993 to 2018.

Thompson was  Knight-Bagehot Fellow in 1980-81. “It changed my life in every single way possible,” said Thompson. “It was intimidating. It was extremely tough.”

Lew Young, the editor at BusinessWeek, hired her after she completed the degree, to cover corporate finance. She also covered real estate and energy. At U.S. News & World Report, she covered personal finance and banking.

When she was hired to run the Knight-Bagehot program, it was financially struggling. She was able to raise the money to make it a permanently endowed program.

As of May 2020, Columbia University graduated 45 Bagehot classes and 412 journalists completed the program, and 239 of those participated under Thompson’s directorship.

Of the Bagehots under Thompson’s rein, 20 are at Bloomberg. 16 are at The Wall Street Journal, 11 are at Reuters, and eight are at the New York Times.

“it’s become a more complicated world in so many ways,” said Thompson. “You can’t be dumb and be a business journalist…You have to be a lot smarter these days.”

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