Wall Street Journal reporter Nicole Friedman shares advice to future journalists

Photo courtesy of Nicole Friedman.

Juli Oberlander

Nicole Friedman knew she was interested in a potential journalism career when she wrote for her high school newspaper in Piedmont, California.

During this time, Friedman says she developed a passion for reporting.

“I just loved it,” Friedman says. “I’m a very curious person and I like to know everything that’s going on. Journalism satisfied this side of me that just loves to ask questions.”

Today, Friedman is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal whose beat covers Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway and insurance. Friedman visited Omaha for the 2018 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting. She also spoke at the May 3 Value Investor Conference on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus.

After graduating high school, Friedman attended Brown University, an Ivy League school in Providence, Rhode Island, where she wrote for the Brown Daily Herald. During her first two summers of college, Friedman completed internships in areas such as public relations and politics. However, she didn’t enjoy the career fields as much as journalism.

“I just didn’t like any of them as much as I liked being on the college paper,” Friedman says. “That was always the most fun and exciting part of what I did in college. Everyone always said journalism was a hard field to get into, but I thought I might as well give it a shot.”

Determined to pursue a career in journalism, Friedman applied for internships across the country after graduation. In 2012, Friedman received an internship with the Dow Jones Newswires, a company affiliated with the Wall Street Journal.

As part of her internship, Friedman worked on the commodities team. Though she did not know much about the topic, Friedman says she enjoyed learning about financial journalism.

Friedman says she realized economic stories drew her attention.

“I really liked the challenge of detangling complex topics and making them simple,” Friedman says.

After a stint at the Oregonian newspaper covering local stories, Friedman knew she wanted to pursue financial journalism. In 2013, Friedman moved from Portland, Oregon back to New York to join the commodities team at the Wall Street Journal.

For three years, Friedman covered energy markets for the Journal, including the oil price collapse that occurred from 2014 to 2016.

Friedman says she gained knowledge about the topic as she wrote her stories.

“The job is just to ask questions,” Friedman says. “You learn everything by calling everyone and asking a million questions about a topic. I’m always trying to talk to people and learn more about what is going on.”

During this time, Friedman says she decided she wanted to write about trend stories focused on an industry rather than a market. This desire led to her current job as a Journal reporter on Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway and the insurance industry.

Friedman covers about 60 companies under Berkshire Hathaway, in addition to property and casualty insurance. Like with other news beats, she had to learn about insurance on the job.

“I knew nothing about insurance,” Friedman says. “I have learned a lot in the last year and a half. It’s been a really fascinating topic to explore.”

Friedman travels to Omaha every year to report on the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. Friedman spoke for the second year at the Value Investor Conference, a symposium held annually at Mammel Hall. The conference is part of the events sponsored by Robert P. Miles, a Buffett author and expert, who teaches “The Genius of Warren Buffett” course for the UNO E-MBA program.

At the conference, Friedman interacts with Buffett followers and business professionals interested in money management.

“It’s a really engaged group of attendees who ask really smart questions,” Friedman says. “It’s fun and a good way to meet people.”

In addition to networking, Friedman says the most rewarding part of her job is the story approval process.

“It’s amazing because I get so much feedback,” Friedman says. “So many people I admire help make all my stories better.”

Friedman says she appreciates her editors, many of whom ask tough questions and encourage her to do extensive reporting. She is also grateful for the ethics team and lawyers at the Journal.

“There’s something scary about realizing a story is going under my name to the world,” Friedman says. “It’s good knowing I have that support system behind me.”

Friedman says she also enjoys her ability to choose her stories. Her favorite story is an article she wrote for the Journal’s “A-hed,” the publication’s traditionally off-beat front page news story. Friedman chose to write about her high school’s bird calling contest, and the Journal sent her to California to cover the event.

While her work writing and researching keeps her mostly on the East Coast, she enjoys every opportunity to return home to California. In her free time, Friedman sings in a choir, likes to visit botanical gardens and is a member of two book clubs.

Friedman says reporting has taught her perseverance and patience. Her advice for aspiring journalists is to never give up on writing.

“Stick with it and don’t be discouraged,” Friedman says. “Look for mentors who can give you advice and help you grow. You’re always learning, and I think that’s the most important thing for young journalists to remember.”