A Day on the Age Beat with a Wall Street Journal Reporter

By Kleyman, Paul | Aging Today, March/April 2006 | Go to article overview

A Day on the Age Beat with a Wall Street Journal Reporter


Kleyman, Paul, Aging Today


Don't tell The Wall Street Journal's (WSJ) full-time age-beat reporter Kelly Greene she's too young, at age 36, to be taken seriously as a writer on retirement planning. A newspaper reporter since 1991, she was assigned to write about retirement issues five years ago. Spending 15 years on the job makes the Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wake Forest University a midcareer veteran in the media world. Like any vet, she has some war stories. For instance, an editor at her first newspaper, the Winston-Salem Journal, told her she was "too pretty to be taken seriously as a reporter." She left for greener pastures; he was later laid off.

Greene, winner of the American Society on Aging 2005 Media Award for national reporting, among other honors, said she grabbed the opportunity to cover aging and retirement issues in 2001. Based at WSJ's Atlanta bureau, Greene writes for the main newspaper as well as for the paper's quarterly Encore section, subtitled "A Guide to Retirement Planning and Living," which is distributed to Journal subscribers 55 or older.

EXPERIENCE ACROSS AGES

The mother of two-year-old Joseph, Greene has personal experience across the age range. Also the sibling of three boomers, ages 48,51 and 53, her parents are in their 705. She learned about the family demands of aging observing her mother-in-law, who is in her late 505, devote five years to caring for her mother. The older woman, now in her 905, has advanced Parkinson's disease, including dementia. Her daughter cared for her at home while also working full time. When it was no longer possible to provide her mother with enough care on her own, Greene's mother-in-law "fought for a coveted spot for her in a wonderful nursing home."

In an interview with Aging Today, Greene described what she finds special about covering issues in retirement and aging. She explained, "The beat is the first I have had at six newspapers that remains interesting, challenging and loaded with ideas. I can't imagine running out of story ideas on this beat... Most reporters have to slog away covering an industry for years before getting to do something so creative. It was scary, at first, because I didn't have automatic bylines to fall back on-there are no earnings stories, management shake-ups or big mergers to explain on the age beat. Plus, there are plenty of reporters here who cover chunks of aging and retirement as part of their jobs. Two reporters in Washington, D.C., cover Medicare and Social security. A news editor in New York has won a Loeb Award writing about pensions. A reporter for the 'Money and Investing' [section] is charged with writing about retirement (along with funds), and a reporter for 'Personal Journal' writes about health and aging."

Greene recounted her typical day on the age beat: "Many business people, including those in public relations and marketing, have no idea how many different beasts even traditional newspaper reporters are trying to feed simultaneously. For example, when I'm writing a spot story for the next day's paper, I owe a version to our Asia edition by 11 a.m. Eastern time, which also often appears on WSJ.com. I owe another version to our Europe edition by 3 p.m., and the final deadline for the earliest U.S. edition (the two-star, as we call it) is 5 p.m.

"So, when I say I need an interview or document ASAP, I really mean ASAP. If it's breaking news, I might have to go on CNBC to talk about it from the studio in our newsroom. Or, the story might wind up on NBC Nightly News, as part of another WSJ partnership. Also, I might have to stop to do an interview for Wall Street Journal Radio. In addition to spot stories, I write a column twice a month for our syndicated section, The Wall Street Journal Sunday, which runs in more than 40 metropolitan newspapers and has a circulation upwards of 10 million. I also write at least one story (often the cover) for each issue of Encore, which will be published six times this year, and longer features for the other section fronts, including the front page, 'Marketplace,' 'Personal Journal' and 'Money and Investing. …

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