| Home | Interview with Nikhil Deogun, Wall Street Journal -- January 2005
September 20, 2014

Nikhil Deogun, 36, is deputy Washington bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, a post he has held since March 2004. From November 2001 to March 2004, Deogun was media and marketing editor for The Wall Street Journal in New York. He joined the Journal in 1994, starting in the Journal's Atlanta bureau. Deogun has worked or interned at the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, among other publications. Born in Assam, India, Deogun grew up in Calcutta and studied at the Doon School. His first newspaper job was an internship at The Statesman in Calcutta. Nikhil received a bachelor's degree from Muskingum College in Ohio and a master's in journalism from the University of Missouri.
Jody Brannon What made you choose journalism when you were a student in Calcutta? What specific events or issues made you veer into business journalism, in particular?

Nikhil Deogun: I got really hooked on journalism after doing a couple of internships at The Statesman in Calcutta. At 18, there was nothing more thrilling than working the night shift in the smoky room and tearing news reports off the clacking wire machines. I was always interested in the rush of a hot new story – knowing something before others – the art of storytelling, and giving some voice to other people’s stories. In college, I almost by accident got involved in being editor of the college paper in my sophomore year. While I was there, we did some pretty hard-hitting stories on one of the fraternities that resulted in it being shut down but also resulted in not-so-veiled threats against the paper. That made me decide that this was what I wanted to do. Entering business journalism was more by accident. I needed a job in Atlanta after grad school as my wife was starting her doctorate and I landed an internship in the Journal’s Atlanta bureau. You've worked your way up in one of the country's pre-eminent business publications -- what do you think The Wall Street Journal needs to do to improve?

Nikhil Deogun: I think we're in a constant phase of improvement. We have broadened the Journal’s coverage significantly in the last few years, with the additions of Weekend Journal and Personal Journal. Both sections have been very well-received. Like any organization, I think we need to constantly improve. Barney Calame, who recently retired as deputy managing editor and was considered the conscience of the paper, said that we should always be "mindful of ordinary people" in society. After the tsunami, what kind of discussions did you and other Journal editors have on how to cover the economic angles without trespassing on the human tragedy? How well, or not well, do you think business reporters have handled that story?

Nikhil Deogun: I don't think we ever saw it as an "either-or" situation, so we have strived to cover both the human and economic angles of the story. I think like in any big story, some stories are searing in their detail, making them memorable, and some are forgettable. You help oversee coverage of an administration difficult to penetrate, especially when it comes to its money. How do you battle that? Do you think the media is missing any financial stories as a result?

Nikhil Deogun: I'm sure we are missing lots of financial stories. It is an administration that is difficult to penetrate but I think we should also always look for ways to get information beyond official channels and press officials. It seems like we're entering another merger boom now across industries -- Molson/Coors, Sprint/Nextel, PeopleSoft/Oracle, Wachovia/SouthTrust. What have you learned from covering mergers in the 1990s that you would impart to business reporters today?

Nikhil Deogun: You're right, we're seeing a torrent of deals like we saw in the late 1990s. I guess what I’ve learned from covering mergers is despite the excitement surrounding these deals, many of them fail with devastating consequences for shareholders and employees, so we should always keep that in mind when covering mergers. Deals are often done out of weakness, rather than strength, and the motivations of deals often stem from what in merger parlance is referred to as “social” issues, such as the lack of a successor. What do you say to criticism of leading newspapers like The Journal accepting "orchestrated scoops/leaks" by either companies or politicians looking to use the media to spread their news?

Nikhil Deogun: The number of orchestrated leaks are far, far fewer than most people realize. It’s always ironic that one reporter’s scoop is often referred to as a leak by a rival but not the other way around. All journalists are happy to accept leaks, but we’re naturally aware of the motives of people leaking information and we try to make sure our stories always reflect an appropriately skeptical tone. Do you miss reporting full-time?

Nikhil Deogun: Yes and no. I miss going out and developing sources and the adrenalin rush of a hot story. On the other hand, I don’t miss getting harassing phone calls in the middle of the night to chase stories.

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