Even after eight years, David Benoit still feels a rush when he sees his name on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.
He has always been a fan of newspapers. His mother says he learned to read from The Boston Globe sports page. Even in the digital age, Benoit says there is something about the physical paper that can’t be replicated online.
“When I pick up The Journal or The Times, I have a trust in these editors to tell me the most important stories are these five stories on the front page,” he says. “That’s what I love about the paper.”
He acknowledges journalism is evolving and digital means everything is happening faster.
“We don’t hold things for the newspaper anymore, when we have news, we put it out,” he says. “Journalism is evolving, there’s space for a lot of people to tell news. I don’t know if there is ever going to be “All the President’s Men” with Watergate. That will never be dominated by two people again. I think that’s okay. There are still great stories being told.”
Benoit is The Wall Street Journal’s activism reporter. He was recently honored as one of News Media Alliance’s Top 30 Under 30 award recipients; though he says he wouldn’t be where he is without his department.
“There is a team of people around me at the journal. My editors are excellent and they make the copy sing. You see a much more polished version of what I do than you would see if I was just blogging because of them,” he says. “I’m very honored to be listed.”
The 29-year-old is not usually forthcoming about his age.
“I don’t normally tell people my age,” he says. “It sometimes helps, people are willing to help you when you’re a young reporter as long as you show you’re willing to work for it. But when you’re talking to CEOs and bankers, they think twice about you and whether you’re actually going to listen to them. That can be detrimental. You let the work stand for itself.”
His day-to-day is spent covering where hedge funds are investing and talking to sources. On days when there is no story, he reads corporate filings.
When he took over the activism beat, he said it was under-covered and not well understood.
“I’m agnostic to the beat, I want something interesting but that matters,” he says. “The best part of the beat is that it has proven to be huge stories constantly—just this flood of news…It’s been really fun to grow in this assignment and this industry.”
Benoit does not have a background in finance. He majored in history and English in college. He jokingly says that the first time he read The Journal was after an interview there.
“I get a lot of very smart people to explain things to me,” he says. “I say, ‘Dumb that down a little bit, explain that to me.’”
He started at The Journal right before the 2008 recession. Afterwards, it became evident that the work he was doing was shaping a presidential election and held importance.
Last year, his favorite pieces were high level work on activism, digging into the data and showing how it affects companies, beyond stock metrics.
“It helped show people who don’t follow the world of activism what these people really do,” he said. “Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s terrible. That was really important.”
News Media Alliance announced the winners of its first “Top 30 Under 30” Awards program at mediaXchange 2016 in April, which honors young leaders working in every aspect of the news media who are contributing to the future success of the industry. Over the next several weeks we will feature profiles on the winners, highlighting their work and ideas, and how they’re helping the industry grow and evolve.