Paul Albergo is bureau chief for Bloomberg BNA, a subsidiary of Bloomberg L.P., which provides professionals with a unique of news and authoritative analysis, comprehensive research solutions, and proprietary business data and analytics. He is also an adjunct professor of journalism at American University School of Communication (AU SOC), and he recently was honored for outstanding teaching in an adjunct appointment by the Provost.
For many years now, Albergo has served as an advisor to the AU chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, the national co-ed service fraternity. “Its profile on campus is low, but its impact is big. These are an incredible group of young women and men who fan out across the D.C. area trying to make this city a better place. I’m not doing anything special with them. I just like to recognize these incredible students whenever,” he said.
SOC sat down with him recently to ask a few questions about his work at Bloomberg and teaching at AU.
What valuable and difficult lessons would you say you have learned as a journalist?
Early in my career, I fell into that common trap of viewing the world in black and white, in a bipolar way. You are right or wrong, red or blue, left or right, this side or that side. Of course, the world is much messier than that. My company’s audience won’t tolerate that sort of naïve view of the world, especially of Washington. My editors pushed me to embrace the complex, messy reality of the areas I covered (pushed is a nice way of describing it). It’s much harder to capture that messiness in an 800-to-1,000-word story, but you do offer a more honest look at whatever issue you are covering.
Would you say teaching was a natural progression in your career?
I originally imagined myself teaching. Journalism was supposed to be a short-term thing, a way for me to save up money so I could finish my Ph.D. in history. I didn’t count on falling in love with the work. Once I caught the news bug, I pretty much forgot about that Ph.D. Being on the front lines as history unfolded became much more interesting to me than studying it. I am grateful that Rose Ann Robertson took a chance on me in 2000. She gave me the opportunity to marry my career in news with my original interest in teaching. I will say that journalism and teaching share much in common. You need to know your audience so you can give it the information it needs. You need to break down that information in a way in a logical, coherent way. And, to be successful, you need to wrap that information in a compelling story.
How did you manage your longevity with Bloomberg BNA?
This month I celebrate my 31st anniversary with BNA. If I didn’t imagine remaining in journalism long, I assure you I never planned to stay at any organization for over three decades.
As I said before, I’ve had a front-row seat to history. Among other issues, I’ve covered the incredible transformation of the Medicare program; the evolution of retirement plans from traditional pensions to 401(k)s; the long birth of the Family and Medical Leave Act; the various attempts at health care reform, from before the Clinton proposal right through Obamacare and now the American Health Care Act; the enactment of the Patriot Act; the financial collapse of 2008 and the response, including Dodd-Frank. It’s been incredible.
But, I could have covered any of those at many other news outlets. I stayed at BNA for one reason: it’s a great place to work. It’s full of smart people, and it treats those people well. And, its approach to news is as smart as its people: we cover Washington seriously, focusing deeply on policy while avoiding the spectacle of personalities and scandal. Our acquisition by Bloomberg in 2011 hasn’t changed that. I may not be an AU alumnus, but the wonk moniker fits me. You might even call me a geek. Bloomberg BNA has been a perfect fit for me.
Is there any particular advice you would give to someone interested in pursuing a similar career path?
You need to know the craft of journalism to launch your career. To grow and sustain that career, you need an insatiable curiosity. The best journalists are those that read broadly, understand history, expose themselves to a diversity of voices and viewpoints—even unpleasant ones, and engage in the world through volunteerism and exploration.
Follow Paul Albergo on twitter @palbergo