As a reporter covering the banking sector for the Washington Post, 34-year-old Danielle Douglas not only has her finger on the pulse of a highly influential industry, she responsible for covering news that reaches a huge readership (the Post received an estimated 42 million total digital unique visitors in September alone).
Born to Grenadian parents, she was raised in Maryland and New York City. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Donald Reynolds Journalism Institute and the prestigious Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
In addition to her busy schedule, Danielle also finds time to give back through her work with Press Pass Mentors, a non-profit organisation that pairs professional journalists with low-income high school students to help them develop the communication skills necessary to succeed in college and beyond.
Danielle Douglas Q&A
How did you end up covering the banking sector?
My first full-time job in journalism was editing a commercial real estate magazine, which gave me a foundation in business reporting. That helped me land a position at a spin-off publication of the Washington Post called Capital Business, where I covered local banking and retail business. After two years at Capital Business, I was promoted to national banking reporter at the Post. And for the last two years, I’ve been writing about how banking policy, whether it relates to credit cards or student loans, affect everyday people.
Aside from the beat that you cover as a reporter, what are the issues that you are passionate about?
I’m generally interested in social justice movements, though being a reporter limits how involved I can be in any of them. We’re generally not allowed to fund or participate in any activities that can make us appear biased. Still, I choose to write about how financial services can lift people out or drive people into poverty as a way of educating the public. I figure it’s the least I can do to aid others in their quests for self-determination.
What did you hope to achieve by becoming a journalist?
I wanted to give voice to people who are often neglected and expose corruption. Now I don’t always get to do either of those things through my writing, but on the occasions when I do, it is gratifying.
What are the most valuable skills that you’ve gained as result of your training as a journalist?
I’d like to think that I’m a better listener, more compassionate.
Why did you decide to get involved in mentoring with Press Pass Mentors?
Young people need adults in their lives who take an interest in their success. I’d like to be that person or someone, so I signed up.
Given your ringside seat on the banking industry, what do you wish the ‘average person’ understood about the industry?
The industry is made up of people who are at times well-meaning, at times greedy and at times myopic. They are people trying to run a successful business who need regulation and public agitation to ensure that their success doesn’t come at the expense of others who are less fortunate.
Despite the dramatic headlines in 2008 declaring the end of capitalism, at a surface level it seems as if we’re back to business as usual. From your perspective was has been learnt or what has changed as a result of the financial crisis?
There has been a ton of new regulations borne out of the financial crisis, but there is no real way of knowing whether any of it will work until the next big set of problems. In some respects, banking has become a bit vanilla, as some megabanks have exited out of lines of business that their regulators deemed risky or were no longer profitable. There is no telling how long any of that will last since Wall Street bankers tend to have a short memory.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve been given?
Play it safe.