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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Upfront: Going to Bhat

Uma Bhat

I first encountered Uma Bhat, our fall intern who profiled one of our Small Business of the Year winners in this issue, on Twitter back in the summer, when she responded to a tweet saying she was interested in talking to people about careers in business journalism.

I replied, and told Bhat that I was back in North Carolina and could meet with her and talk. We met on a Friday afternoon at an ice cream shop in Cary, where she grew up and graduated from Green Hope High School.

By that time, Bhat had already interned for WUNC and was working as an intern for the Triangle Business Journal. And she had attended the Bloomberg 2023 Journalism Diversity Program in New York in May.

What quickly became apparent when we met at the ice cream shop was that she had done her homework as well. She knew all about me and my career in business journalism. She knew the names of my former UNC Chapel Hill students now working in business journalism. She knew the names of my two sons and that one of them worked in business journalism. She had asked people in the industry about me – they told her I was “passionate” and “intense” about business journalism.

It reminded me, frankly, of myself, and what I would have done before meeting someone in the industry. Doing research before you ask questions is often more important than the questions you ask. And I’ve always prided myself on knowing someone before I meet them. Bhat had turned the tables, and I was unprepared for that.

We kept in touch during the summer, and she would occasionally ask for advice on a story she was working on for the Business Journal. When her internship ended, she asked to meet. She wanted to talk about whether she was cut out to be a business reporter.

My response was an emphatic yes. If you’ve followed her byline for us this semester, you’ve seen her write a variety of stories for our website, from retail expansion to a private company raising funds. In the November Issue, she profiled 321 Coffee, which focuses on hiring workers with disabilities.

I’ve typically found the stories she’s written to be “clean,” which means they don’t need much editing. She learned journalism well working for her high school newspaper, and in her classes at UNC Chapel Hill and during her internships. And she asks tons of questions. She’s one of those people who is somewhat annoying by the volume of the questions she asks. But I quickly saw it’s because she wants to learn and she wants to make sure that she gets her stories as complete and accurate as possible. It’s not annoying to me because I understand that she just wants to learn.

A business editor for a large metropolitan newspaper emailed me recently, looking for summer 2024 interns. I’ve sent him students interested in business journalism for internships and jobs in the past. I immediately connected him with Bhat, who’s a junior. 

And here’s, to me, what makes her different: She responded immediately, even though it was around 8 p.m. on a weeknight. She followed up with another email after she applied. She also responds immediately to texts and emails I send her. She understands that journalism is all about communicating with people and developing those relationships.

If Uma Bhat personifies the future of journalism, then we are all in great shape. She’s thorough, fair, a strong writer and a great communicator. 

Chris Roush
Chris Roush
Chris Roush is executive editor of Business North Carolina. He can be reached at croush@businessnc.com.

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