From Law School to The Wall Street Journal
I'm a veteran journalist who has written and edited articles on a wide range of business topics, ranging from regulation and litigation to corporate racial relations to interaction between companies and consumers. I'm interested in illustrating how the realities of the business world frequently clash with the theories and principles that business people find appealing.
Question: How did you get your start in journalism
Barrett: As a child and young person I ended up editing pretty much every publication I ran into in . . . you know from junior high school on through high school and on into college. I took a strange digression into law school I would say in large part because in addition to learning how to be a young journalist, I also was quite good at filling out applications. So as college was sort of nearing an end, all kinds of applications were floating around. I actually didn’t win any fancy fellowships, but for whatever reason Harvard Law School eventually did accept me. And so it was very close by to Harvard College, so it was a very short distance to carry my boxes to the next place and I went over to the law school. Law school was okay, but I couldn’t really figure out a place for myself in the world of legal practice. And when that finally dawned on me, I just fell back on that family business that I really had always trained myself in and went straight back to journalism. And I’ve been there ever since. I was very, very fortunate coming out of law school to know some people at the Wall Street Journal, which right at that time in the 1980s was turning its attention to coverage of legal issues as a regular beat – something which before then really wasn’t seen as a beat other than the coverage of, say, the local courts or the United States Supreme Court. And so I was able to step into a role at the Wall Street Journal as a legal affairs reporter that I pursued for the following dozen years. And then gradually I kind of evolved into a more general purpose feature writer, and then kind of a player-coach type role where I was continuing to do my own work, but also frequently working with other people on their stories – helping them shape the stories, write, re-write the stories and so forth. For a number of years I played that role at the Journal, and then more recently have gone on to basically continue that same kind of hybrid act over at Business Week magazine.
Recorded on: 12/4/07
After earning a J.D. from Harvard Law, Barrett returned to his childhood dream.
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