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Meet the media: Jonathan Shapiro

It’s the job of a journalist to bring light to stories and people, but it’s not often they are in the spotlight.

In our 'meet the media' series we put the spotlight on Australian financial journalists and dig a little deeper to find out where they’ve come from and what drives a good story.

See it from their perspective and read the interview with our next guest, Walkely Award winning journalist, Jonathan Shapiro.

Why did you decide to go into journalism?

For as long as I can remember I’ve always loved writing and the idea of being a journalist finding stuff out. Since my grandfather, father and uncles were stockbrokers I’ve grown up around markets with all their booms and busts. On my mother’s side my grandparents were anti-Apartheid activists in South Africa. So the combination of the love of markets and a social justice bent makes me feel I was preordained to become a finance journalist.  

What about the finance industry interests you the most?

I am most interested in the intellectual battle of markets and investing, and the causes and effects of the underlying mechanisations. Markets are very pure but the finance industry is not very pure at all – with inefficiencies of information, good and bad sales and marketing.  It’s this frontier that I find particularly interesting.

The interconnectedness of markets is also fascinating. How market moves translate into actual physical world outcomes and the ripple effects they cause. For instance, if bond markets blow up financing costs go up for companies but pension funds can also better meet their obligations.  This is why I could never get too excited about crypto – as the link to real world was tenuous – other than lots of people getting rich very quickly.

What are you looking forward to seeing happen in the financial landscape in the next 5 years?

The good thing about finance is that unlike other industries knowledge is cyclical not cumulative (I don’t know where that quote is from, but it’s not mine!). That means we will see booms and busts, and mistakes repeated which will make for good copy. The positive about being a finance journalist is that when bad things happen you have more interesting stuff to write about so even if I may be losing money on my savings and super from falling markets, there tends to be a wealth of interesting stuff going on for us to write about.

If I had one prediction it would be that more problems may emerge in private asset classes and it will be a challenge for journalists to discover and report on them.

What makes a good story?

Often share price, currency or commodity moves are abstract so if we can inject a human element it helps brings markets to life and reminds the readers of the real world elements.   A good corporate story to me is one that breaks genuinely new ground in understanding how a business works – in particular listed companies that have a lot of eyes and money following them. Solving a mystery always makes for a good story.

What advice would you give to executives when they are talking to the media?

If I had one piece of advice it would be to strive for authenticity. We interview executives all the time and can often tell when the executive is singing from a song sheet. Most reporters will respect someone who is authentic even if they might naturally disagree with the view and will welcome original and honest perspectives.

The other advice is to think like a reader of the publication and ask yourself if you would genuinely be interested in what you’re telling the journalist rather than genuinely wanting the journalist to give you a plug or get your story across. A good journalist should prioritise the interests of the reader over and above being amicable to the executive and their message.

Check out the Photos from the event!

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