RealJobs: David Benoit

David Benoit’s work day on Wednesday, February 10, 2010.

Well, I managed to make it to work fine. It was actually a pretty great commute, quiet, peaceful, trains on time and no one on them.

It was kind of a weird day though, mainly because anyone who relied on above-ground travel failed to come. The editors wanted us talking about the snow storm if we could, which is a bit odd, because our stories rarely leave the scope of Wall Street. I mentioned it in one story about a trucking company, but that was it.

I also wrote about a pharmaceutical company’s cholesterol drug study and some concerns about side effects. The company put out a really positive sounding press release about the study’s success and in the seventh paragraph made a casual comment about liver side effects being just like previous trials.

An editor called and asked that I take a look at why the stock was down 17% on what appeared like a really good release. Except it turned out that seventh paragraph was terrible and investors were freaking out.

However, in a somewhat frustrating twist, just as I was finishing up, I watched another story cross the wire that said the exact same thing. It turned out the reporter who covers pharmaceuticals was writing it, but some lack of communication led to both of us writing the same story at the same time.

So there’s a lesson on communication for you. Look at company press releases with a skeptical eye, and make sure you always know what your coworkers are doing.

Later in the day I wrote about a major trucking company’s stock hitting its lowest price of all time. The company’s been having some debt problems and I’ve written about a lot lately.

And I like writing about significant events like all-time lows, because it says something extra. Last year I spent a lot of time writing about automakers and the automotive market, one of the areas I often cover. We had to get the University of Chicago to give us spreadsheets full of research they had done on all-time stock prices because Ford and General Motors were trading at levels not seen since the Great Depression. It’s pretty wild to think about that.

Lastly I spent my late afternoon talking to the CEO of Taleo Corp., which makes software that companies use for hiring and other personnel analysis. The company had reported its quarterly earnings and I had to talk to the CEO about what he thought of the quarter and about the future.

Sometimes talking to CEO’s can be fun, especially if they have some personality and feel free to really talk honestly. Other times it can be hard because they have so much responsibility not to say anything out of the ordinary, that all they do it repeat the facts. Thankfully, this interview went alright and I had plenty of usable quotes, which isn’t always the case.

Now I need to go catch up on a lot of reading. Reading is the key to my job really, and understanding things. All that reading really starts with The Journal, and spreads out to other news agencies and blogs. My advice on reading, start a Google reader and fill it with whatever you will read. And then go read it. Stay on top of the news and it will save you every time you need to write a story, or make small talk with your significant other’s dad.

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