Cronkite students cover business of entertainment

Students in a business journalism reporting course at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication spent their spring break in Los Angeles tracking the money side of entertainment.

The 18 ASU students met with executives at Warner Records, the Los Angeles Times and Warner Brothers Studios and watched a taping of NBC Universal’s "Tonight Show," then spread throughout the city to do stories about the financial aspects of entertainment and the people who aspire to be part of it.

Cronkite student Daisy Prado said she gained “a new level of respect for serious journalists who work relentlessly to cover the financial realities of entertainment even when hard numbers are not readily available. I also learned more about the big gambles entertainment companies must take on a regular basis without knowing whether they will win in the end.”

Students also interviewed young dancers working toward careers in music videos, aspiring comedy writers, frustrated cartoonists and marketers sending out headshots of beginning actors. Their stories will be published on a multimedia website the students will produce before the end of the spring semester.

On Hollywood Boulevard, Cronkite graduate student Pei Li encountered a former child star who was a regular in two different TV series. Now 34, he is selling his own self-funded DVD on the street for “donations.”

“He told me how he went from making $12,000 a week on a television series to a part-time job as a cashier at Denny’s,” said Li, who interviewed the actor in a nearby McDonald’s restaurant. “This represented the other side of early success.”

The business reporting course is taught by Andrew Leckey, the Reynolds Chair in Business Journalism and president of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at the Cronkite School.

 “The best way to cover any industry is to become totally immersed in it,” Leckey said. “Deploying 18 energetic, financially-confident young business journalists is definitely jumping off the deep end of the pool.”

Leckey said he plans similar business reporting trips each spring break that will take students to different U.S. cities to study various industries.

The reporting project was funded by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, it has committed over $115 million nationwide through its Journalism Program.