We recently caught up with The Wall Street Journal’s Lillian Rizzo to discuss what she looks for in a source and the perks and pitfalls of dealing with public relations professionals. Lillian recently joined the Dow Jones private equity team where she covers deals and the retail market for Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst, LBO Wire and The Wall Street Journal’s Private Equity Beat.
Bliss: What initially sparked your interest in journalism?
LR: Ever since I was young, I have enjoyed writing. The notion that I could actually be paid to write definitely made an impact on my decision to become a reporter. I felt that choosing journalism as my writing outlet would give me the opportunity to have an influence or impact on some part of the world.
Bliss: Why business journalism?
LR: My father working on Wall Street and with the bond market made an impression on me. The financial world was always familiar. I was a college student during the financial crisis in 2008 and that further sparked my interest. Plus, I found the subject matter fascinating. I covered the situation as it unraveled for Baruch College’s annual magazine, Dollars and Sense and my business journalism class. About six months later I interned for the New York Daily News’ Your Money section and covered the immediate effects on the city. It was really exciting. It became clear it was a growing area of journalism. So many opportunities exist for business journalists.
Bliss: Years later, as a reporter at Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal – what types of stories do you find compelling?
LR: I want the details in private equity acquisitions. If not as a scoop, then with additional details from a public announcement. Sometimes a press release just has to be covered, but one of my pet peeves is when the release is overtly generic. For instance, when a company announces its expansion, I want information that gets into the specifics. Is it going to be organic? How will it impact operations? A generic announcement does not get my attention.
I am also drawn to colorful anecdotes and perspectives. Getting a person’s take that counters what the rest of the market is saying is always great to hear.
Bliss: What else do you look for when meeting sources? What makes a great source?
LR: The same thing that sources look for in me. First and foremost, I want them to be trustworthy. Just as a source wants me to do a story justice while not implicating them at the same time, I want the same thing. Primarily if I get an exclusive I hope my source isn’t announcing the news themselves before I can, or giving other reporters the same tip.
Second, I want the person to be responsive. If I call, a good source will always get back to me and quickly, even if they have no comment, or simply don’t know what’s going on in the situation I am writing about.
Third, a good source will not close the door on the conversation. If they can’t discuss a specific issue, they will provide insight into the broader market, or try to point me in the right direction. Good sources understand the quid pro quo nature of journalism. They understand that if they help me, I will help them in return.
Bliss: What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make from your experience?
The biggest mistake is when PR professionals act like a wall. You go to them for help, and they decline right off the bat. Good publicists keep the doors of conversation open. If they can’t help you on a specific inquiry, they let you know why – or they tell you what they can discuss for the future. When publicists are helpful, I try to help them out too. I will go out of my way to give them a heads up on a story I am writing, whether they can or can’t discuss details, as far in advance as I possibly can.
Connect with Melissa:
LinkedIn: Melissa Kvitko