Mitra Kalita, senior deputy editor at The Wall Street Journal, has worked for The Associated Press, Newsday, and the Washington Post. She also launched India business newspaper Mint before moving to The Wall Street Journal. She speaks to Alexandra Bruell about how her experience has impacted her work at the Journal, the Greater New York section's most popular coverage, and how she covers local news for a global city like New York.
Tell me about your background and how you came to be deputy editor of the New York section of the Wall Street Journal.
Kalita: My background is a straddling between business news and metro news. I worked at Newsday for several years covering the New York economy. Then I covered 9/11 which forced all of us on staff to basically get to know New York City in every way, from political to economic to Ground Zero. In late 2008, I moved to the Wall Street Journal to be the deputy editor and work on the economics bureau. It was a really great time to come over because the economics bureau was in the throws of coverage of the recession. I did that for about a year and shifted over late last year to help launch this new section.
You spoke with us in 2008 about your experience in India. How are you leveraging your knowledge and familiarity with that global market today in your position at the Journal?
Kalita: It came into play the pretty much the minute I stepped foot into the Journal because the recession really proved the links of the global economy, and more than with any previous recession I think we realized that what happens in Tokyo and Mumbai and certainly what happens in Greece and the UK matter to the New York Stock Exchange and certainly to investors in the US. And let's not forget that New York is a global city. With a story that forces us to react using the global force that is the Wall Street Journal – let's say the Times Square attempted bombing just a few weeks ago, we're very lucky we're able to get somebody on the ground in Pakistan and dispatch them right away. It helps to have a perspective that isn't surprised that 35% of New York City is foreign born, and we can get into the countless stories that exist in those communities.
Which New York section has the largest following right now? Arts and culture, politics, business…?
Kalita: I think it's all of the above. Every day, there are stories in each of those areas reporters are finding as they're setting about in their beats. The Times Square bombing has certainly forced us to look at security in New York and whether or not this will affect tourism. We've done some stories on that. We've also had very strong property coverage. It's an area that's distinguished us quite a bit. We're taking a different approach to arts coverage in some ways where we also cover the institutions and the boards. There's a tussle going on between the actors and the dancers unions. So our coverage of the arts is not just what an audience might see, but we're getting backstage and behind the scenes.
There's been a lot of back on forth between the New York Times and Wall Street Journal New York section. What's unique about the Journal's New York section and readers?
Kalita: The Wall Street Journal is named after a street in New York. We have always been a New York-based newspaper. It's not necessarily a new interest in this region; it's just a much more localized effort. This is an opportunity for us to offer readers a much fuller product and allow The Wall Street Journal to be their first read of the day and in some ways their only read so they can turn to us. One area I've neglected to mention is sports coverage. A lot of people are surprised that the Journal has added to its sports coverage at a time when other papers are scaling back on that. So not only is there a page every day in the national newspaper, there are two pages in the New York section. Then there's the other area, the arts and real estate on a daily basis as opposed to weekly which is what a lot of other papers are doing.
What's the best way for PR professionals to pitch the section?
Kalita: There is a feature I'd love to give a plug for, called “Donor of the Day.” It's our philanthropy column which has been a really great success and it's an area we actually do field pitches on. We did a lovely story the other day about a woman who never had a television in her house; she only earned about $35,000 as a librarian and then saved up a lot of money and made a donation to a world music institute. So we're also writing about average New Yorkers in that space.