Bloomberg’s Bremner tells Tsinghua journalism students to be passionate, detail-oriented



Journalists should not be intimidated when covering well-known business figures, Brian Bremner, executive editor for Bloomberg News, told Global Business Journalism students at Tsinghua University program that brings media professionals together with leading students.

“Sometimes, when we’re writing about business people, there’s a tendency to put them on a pedestal and that they’re these super-human, X-Men kind of characters,” said the Tokyo-based journalist, who manages enterprise and feature stories in Asia for Bloomberg.  “You should never be intimidated by those people. You’ve got the same intellectual capabilities they do.”

Bremner’s talk on the topic of constructing long-form articles was part of the Bloomberg Lecture Series. During the 90-minute discussion on Oct. 22, students joined Bremner in dissecting the Bloomberg Businessweek story "Uber Slayer: How China’s Didi Beat the Ride-Hailing Superpower." 

Linda Lew, a first-year GBJ student from New Zealand, said Bremner’s common-sense advice for interviewing CEOs helped make her more confident in her ability to write long profiles.

“What I found really useful and insightful was the sentence he picked out … about the CEO as ‘cherubic and bespectacled’ and as someone you would find in a video game parlor," Lew said. "When I first read it, I thought ‘Wow, that’s quite odd because that might not be the way you would usually describe the CEO.’" She said Bremner's lessons made her less afraid of using "unconventional ways of describing someone as long as I have a good sense of the character I’m profiling.”

This was the second appearance at Tsinghua by Bremner, author of the 2003 book “Hello Kitty: The Remarkable Story of Sanrio and the Billion Dollar Feline Phenomenon.”  He came at the invitation of Professor Lee Miller, who is not only on the Tsinghua-GBJ faculty, but also a Bloomberg editor-at-large.  The two colleagues actually grew up just five kilometers from each other near Detroit, Michigan, but never met until they worked together in 1993 on an award-winning series about Thailand that started with a feature about a fire at a factory that made Cabbage Patch Kids dolls.

“He was a great editor then, and he’s a great editor now,” Miller said of Bremner, who received his undergraduate degree in journalism from Marquette University and master’s in political science from Miami University of Ohio. Aside from Japan, Bremner has also had stints in Hong Kong and, for seven years, in New York, as Businessweek's Assistant Managing Editor.

This academic year is the 10th Anniversary of Tsinghua's GBJ program, with its more than 200 alumni working at an array of Chinese and international companies, government agencies and media -- including People's Daily, Xinhua News Agency, China Securities Journal and Bloomberg. This year's class includes students from 10 countries as well as China, and undergraduate degrees in such disciplines as sociology, economics and international relations.

“Have your dreams, but be flexible,” Bremner said. “You don’t always know how your life is going to turn out.” He encouraged students to pursue journalism jobs after graduation.

"It’s a great way to make a living because it’s continuous learning," he said. "It’s intellectual work. It will open up new doors to you as a person, and if you’re successful and can report from other countries.” (by Sarah Talaat)