Allan Sloan spoke to students at Stony Brook University on Monday, April 24, about failures in his early career, column writing and Trump’s presidency. He was quick to joke with the packed auditorium at the Charles B. Wang Center as part of the My Life As… series.
“I’m glad that you’ve all come out here tonight when you could be doing something fun like drinking or running around or gloating about your stock portfolios,” Sloan said.
When Sloan started his career in business journalism in 1969, he didn’t expect to be in the same field almost 50 years later. At times, he was the only business journalist confident enough to challenge the President of the United States and Warren Buffet.
After Sloan’s undergraduate career as an english major, he went to Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, where his first job was a tryout at Newsday. He didn’t get the job, but he did meet his wife, Nancy.
Shortly after graduating, Sloan ended up in North Carolina at The Charlotte Observer as a sports reporter. “There were only two problems,” Sloan said. “One is I didn’t like it and wasn’t any good at it. Two was that they didn’t like me. But other than that it was the perfect job.”
At this time, his wife Nancy was a French teacher, so she had a traditional Monday through Friday work schedule. Sloan’s schedule as a sports reporter was anything but traditional. So, he went to his boss and asked to be a feature writer, but they made him a real estate writer instead.
This was the first instance in which Sloan learned as he reported.
“One day, I ended up realizing that there were a whole bunch of transactions involving something called the New Power Company, which was the big company there,” Sloan said. “Here is Yutzo here from Brooklyn with bad clothes and an accent, messing with the New Power Company. I went out, decoded what was going on, and it turned out the power company had been engaged in real estate speculation in a way that all the profits went to their shareholders.”
Then he and Nancy decided to migrate north to Detroit, where Sloan worked for the Detroit Free Press.
“It never occurred to me that the big advantage i would have was not having studied business,” Sloan said. “Though, I have to say, I was a straight A economics student.”
He only took one economics course. Sloan’s lack of business knowledge turned out to be extremely useful because he was able to learn along with his reader. He could explain complicated ideas by using metaphors or easy to understand examples. Business reporting is often filled with complex terms and ideologies, but Sloan translates them effortlessly.
“His story makes me believe that anyone can do this,” Kayla Lupoli, a junior journalism major, said. “If you’re a good journalist, you can cover a story in any field, even without having any background knowledge.”
In his latest column for The Washington Post, Sloan wrote, “Trump has talked and tweeted a great game, but substance is largely lacking.” It doesn’t look like this business reporter will be letting up on the president any time soon.
Reported by Korinne Utting