Covering Coronavirus: Tips, best practices and programs

Introducing the Class of 2020: Michael Tobin

The National Press Club Journalism Institute is spotlighting the next generation of journalists, students graduating from college or Master’s programs this spring into a challenging job market, in hopes they’ll meet future bosses and colleagues here, who will reach out and support them in building journalism’s future together. 

Name: Michael Tobin

School: University of Oregon

Location: Eugene, Oregon

Editor-in-Chief: The Daily Emerald

Internship: The Wall Street Journal

What have you learned from your involvement with student media on your campus?

Tobin: Student media has taught me so much. I learned how to collaborate with others in a team and how to make mistakes while learning from them. Classes can only teach you so much, and student media is the best way to exercise the knowledge you gain in the classroom.

What have you learned from your internship experience(s)?

Tobin: As a spot news intern at the Wall Street Journal, I had to learn finance and corporate earnings on the fly. I was mainly writing for the Dow Jones Newswires, and I had to get stories up within 10 minutes once a company released its earnings. Once I learned about terms like GAAP, EBITDA and EPS, I was able to use my public records skills to dig up filings from the SEC website to add additional information to stories and bolster my business reporting knowledge.

What’s been your best moment in journalism?

Tobin: As an intern at the Wall Street Journal, I got a byline on an investigative story about student loan relief programs that were scams. One of the companies we were investigating had been contacted by regulators who were concerned about the company’s business practices. The company filed for bankruptcy, which, as we reported in our story, was because of “investigations from different state attorney generals” and because “the possibility of getting into a big lawsuit with, you know, federal regulators made it basically not worth it to continue at that point.”

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A few months later, attorneys general from several states took action against the company. I kept up with the court filings and found out the company tried to correct their actions after we published our story. 

This is what the court filing said: “The business changes implemented after the Wall Street Journal article could fairly be interpreted as a mad scramble to correct illegal practices to stave off potential regulatory, civil, and possible criminal liability. Or, the changes might be a sincere effort to embrace compliance. But as Receiver, I need not reach a definitive conclusion on such internal motivations, which do not impact my determination, as detailed below, that the Receivership Defendants operated unlawfully even after the August pivot and the business cannot operate profitably and lawfully using the assets of the Receivership Estate going forward.” 

At this moment, I knew our story had an impact.

What’s the wackiest story you’ve worked on? 

Tobin: I interviewed Michael Avenatti in May 2019 after he made an allegation that Nike made payments to a college basketball player to attend the University of Oregon.

What do you want to accomplish in your journalism career?

Tobin: I would like to report on corporate fraud and financial investigations. I’m fascinated by the way that some companies are able to bend the rules and evade regulatory scrutiny.

If you could meet any journalist and ask for her/his advice, who would it be and why?

Tobin: Emily Flitter at The New York Times. I’d like to know how she became a financial journalist and how she sources her stories.

What do you want potential employers to know about you?

Tobin: I’m eager to learn new things. Whether it’s something about accounting, public records or how the legal system works, I am willing to take on a new subject that I am unfamiliar with and ask the questions I need to gain an understanding of the topic.

When you aren’t practicing journalism, how do you spend your time?

Tobin: Like most people in quarantine, I’m baking sourdough bread.

If you’re a senior studying journalism, or know one, we’re accepting information here for students to feature in the future. If you’re a supporter, you can contribute here to scholarships for journalism students.