Earlier this year, rbb was pleased to present the first Larry Birger Young Business Journalist prize at The Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) annual conference in Phoenix. The winner was Mina Kimes, an enterprise investigative reporter for Bloomberg News.
The Larry Birger Award recognizes the nation’s top young business journalist, up to the age of 30. Kimes was selected because of her stellar work over her seven-year career, including her investigative pieces at both Bloomberg News and Fortune on abuse in the medical industry and the exploitation of subordinates for profit in large American corporations.
I had the privilege to turn the tides on our inaugural award winner and ask her a few questions about her career and journalism in America.
Christine Barney: We talk about transparency and authentic communications a lot in corporate America. As an investigative journalist, do you feel companies walk the walk?
Mina Kimes: Ultimately, a communications person’s job is to convey information in a way that benefits his or her employer. And an investigative reporter’s job is to seek out information from a wide variety of sources (documents, data, internal and external interviews, etc.) in order to evaluate those claims. The relationship can be collaborative, of course, but I’ve found that access isn’t the same thing as transparency.
Christine Barney: Given the tough, and getting tougher, job environment, what do you do say to young people who tell you they want to go into journalism? Do you encourage or discourage them?
Mina Kimes: I actually think there’s an abundance of opportunities for young people in journalism. Established news outlets are growing their online operations and striving to generate heaps of content; media startups are launching every week. It’s increasingly easy for driven young journalists to find a platform, but it’s hard to find one that provides time and support. As far as career advice goes…I’ve never met an editor who wasn’t impressed by aggressive reporting. Pick up the phone!
Christine Barney: What made you decide on a career in journalism, and were you ever discouraged?
Mina Kimes: After my junior year, I interned at Fortune Small Business, a small sister magazine to Fortune that focused on entrepreneurs. I took the internship because I wanted to spend a summer in New York City; I didn’t expect to enjoy it, as I had no interest in business or economics at the time. (I spent college avoiding any class that required the use of a calculator.) After a few weeks, though, I was hooked. I realized that most business stories were simply stories about people, with unique and complicated stakes. I started seeing financial stories everywhere. I still do.
Christine Barney: News travels faster than ever and seems to have ever shorter shelf life. How has our short attention span and need for speed affected your daily routine?
Mina Kimes: My routine has changed a lot. Every morning, I wake up and check Twitter to see what I’ve missed. Then I scan my RSS reader for stories from about a dozen newspapers, magazines and websites. I check both services periodically throughout the day, but I don’t leave either window open on my computer screen; it’s too distracting.
Kimes continues growing her journalism credentials and recently joined ESPN The Magazine. She is an inspiration to those seeking a career in journalism and I know Larry Birger would have been thrilled to meet her.