Starting as an intern in 1985 and making his way to the top position in 2006, Andy Serwer has spent his entire career with Fortune magazine.
The current managing editor Andy Serwer spoke at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication Wednesday about his magazine along with the progress and future of journalism.
Serwer’s seminar on business journalism and public policy was also sponsored by the UNC Department of Public Policy.
The talk was an interview session with three School of Journalism and Mass Communication students interviewing Serwer.
While sophomore Brianna Cooper was not one of the three students who interviewed Serwer, she was still appreciative the school was able to get him to speak.
"Being able to meet an executive from a prominent publication here at our School of Journalism is really exciting," said Cooper, a journalism major.
On June 1, Fortune magazine launched its new website to break away from CNN Money. The magazine was involved in a partnership with CNN, combining the two websites.
“To be frank, the joint venture hindered us,” Serwer said. “It was one of these deals where we got a lot of traffic and revenue, but our brand was totally subsumed; you couldn’t really find it.”
“Finally, now whenever you type ‘Fortune’ on Google, or wherever on the web, you will get right to Fortune,” he said.
With the creation of its own website, there comes the need to re-establish the online traffic.
“Change is not constant; it accelerates and decelerates,” said Serwer. “Social media has accelerated over the past three years.”
“So many people are getting stories through social media, so it’s important to make our website socially friendly. It becomes click-bait on social media."
Women in business
When asked how Fortune helps women break the glass ceiling and establish a greater presence in business journalism, Serwer said his magazine is front and center in those efforts.
Every year for 15 years, the magazine has held Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Conference, bringing together the predominant women in the business.
This month, Fortune is creating a newsletter which will cover all things about women in business.
“There are a lot of women who work at Fortune,” said Serwer. “We needed to fill a new position last week, so I asked my assistant to bring me ten resumes from our best people; nine of them were women’s.”
Serwer emphasized the importance of keeping his writers assertive and honest while remaining unbiased.
“I tell my writers that they can take a strong stand, but not a partisan one,” Serwer said. “There are writers who are partisan. They’re called columnists.”
He also discussed the importance of transparency and truth.
“Its hard when you develop relationships with people and then you have to write tough things about them,” Serwer said.
Senior Thomas Nolan was comforted an impressive magazine like Fortune values honesty so much.
"It's reassuring that one of the leading business publications has a focus on remaining non-partisan and true to its journalistic roots," Nolan, an economics major, said.
The future of journalism
When asked how he envisions journalism progressing, Serwer emphasized embracing change.
“Old companies are having to change and new companies are popping up,” Serwer said. “It’s not clear which old companies will survive the transition and which new companies will survive the growing pains.”
Despite these changes, Serwer is confident journalism will be essential moving forward.
“A lot of people say that journalism is in a bad place and that it doesn’t have a future,” Serwer said. “I think it's the opposite.”
“It’s the Golden Age of journalism.”
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