Posted August 6, 2018
by Rebekah Friedman, communications manager
Michelle LaRoche, a journalist with more than two decades of experience at Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, will join the USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications in August as its first Baldwin Business and Financial Chair in Journalism, the dean of the USC College of Information and Communications announced this week.
“Michelle comes to us with more than 20 years of experience at Dow Jones & Company, where she served in a multitude of roles,” said CIC Dean Tom Reichert. “In addition to her business journalism acumen, she has a solid record of mentoring editors and reporters, something that will translate well into higher education. We’re excited to see where she takes the SJMC and its students.”
LaRoche was selected for the position following a nationwide search. Prior to completing her master’s degree in higher education from Harvard University in May 2018, she served as development editor for The Wall Street Journal. There, her responsibilities included the creation and management of the paper’s internship program, campus recruitment, the development of a business reporting syllabus, and oversight of employee training programs.
Her stint at the The Journal was the culmination of a 21-year career with Dow Jones & Company. She served in a variety of leadership roles at Dow Jones Newswires, including time as director of corporate information services, recruiting and training editor and managing editor of Real-Time News.
Much of her previous experience has involved working with young journalists, making her transition into higher education a natural choice.
“The students sold me,” LaRoche says. “They were phenomenal. I spent part of my campus visit in the newsroom with them and had the chance to talk with them about their stories and their senior semester work. They were the ones who really pushed me over the edge.”
And after a lengthy career in news, she’s excited for a change of scenery.
“You can’t help but fall in love when you walk onto a campus like this,” she says, recounting her first time seeing the historic Horseshoe. “I love the energy of a college campus, and I’m a sucker for it every time. You can feel the energy the students bring and you want to be part of that. I definitely felt that here.”
The chair is the first of its kind in the SJMC and is made possible through a generous gift from alumnus Kenneth W. Baldwin Jr. (B.A., 1949). As part of the larger Baldwin Business and Financial Journalism Initiative, the endowed chair will help ensure that SJMC students gain expertise in business journalism and the business of journalism and mass communications. It’s an area of interest not just for the school but also for the college, which wants students in each of its programs to become comfortable working with data and information.
LaRoche’s hire is another step toward establishing the SJMC as the premier educational institution where students learn the importance of business in the mass communications industry, whether covering a business angle of a story or working for a business as a public relations practitioner. But more importantly, she envisions an initiative that reverberates into each of the school’s programs, teaching all students to approach news coverage with an eye for the bigger picture.
“I think it’s imperative for young journalists to understand the business side of anything that they’re covering,” LaRoche says. “Point blank. Period. If you’re going to cover entertainment, if you’re going to cover sports, politics, it’s the money behind those things that really influences people’s decision making. And if you don’t understand that, you’re only telling a part of the story.”
About Ken Baldwin
Kenneth W. Baldwin Jr. (B.A., 1949) is retired from the Norfolk, Va.-based Landmark Communications. His experience as a business editor and executive with Landmark — as well as his commitment to his alma mate — inspired him to give more than $2 million to fund the Baldwin Initiative beginning in 2009. The gift has allowed the school to bring in guest lecturers, as well as support faculty research and educational opportunities for students.