Women Behind the News: Bloomberg News German Bureau Chief Angela Cullen talks with reporter and editor Tal Barak Harif about running coverage in the heart of Europe.
To Angela Cullen, timing is everything. Born in Ireland, she traveled to Germany in 1992 in search of her mother's roots. She arrived just months after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty -- the agreement that paved the way for monetary union in Europe -- and found it was a great time to get into business journalism.
Cullen joined the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's English-language service and began writing about local business as Frankfurt grew as an international financial marketplace. Six years later, she moved to Dow Jones Newswires, where she covered just about every DAX stock, she says, as well as mergers and acquisitions as the corporate landscape shifted dramatically.
As she joined Bloomberg News in 2005, big deals including the breakup of Hoechst AG had changed the German drug industry, shifting its reputation as "apothecary of the world'' to a second-tier player. Cullen spent months detailing the battle for Schering AG, the maker of the female contraceptive pill.
In 2010, she took over Bloomberg's management of about fifty reporters and editors in the country's four bureaus, including Berlin, the seat of government. Bloomberg has since opened another bureau in Hamburg. The Euro crisis and Chancellor Angela Merkel's role in trying to save the single currency and protect her political standing at home have dominated day-to-day discussion.
Cullen spoke to Tal Barak Harif, acting team leader for Bloomberg's emerging markets desk in New York. Barak Harif leads daily coverage of markets in China, Russia and Israel. Before moving to New York in 2009, Barak Harif worked for Bloomberg in Tel Aviv for three years. She has a BA in journalism and psychology from the University of Maryland.
BARAK HARIF: What's the biggest story that you have covered in your tenure at Bloomberg in Germany?
CULLEN: My proudest moment was helping break the story of how one of Germany's richest men, Adolf Merckle, lost an empire spanning the cement and generic-drugs industry after becoming entwined in the biggest short squeeze in German stock market history. I was also part of a team that uncovered the story of Koch Industries' activities in Iran, a Bloomberg Markets magazine cover piece that won several awards, including the 2012 SABEW Best-in-Business contest and an honorable mention from the Overseas Press Club.
BARAK HARIF: How did your background help you land the role you have today?
CULLEN: While good journalism embodies many skills -- razor-sharp instincts, a dedication to detail, perseverance and an unwavering pursuit of the truth -- much boils down to being in the right place at the right time, or putting yourself in the right place at the right time.
I came to Germany in historic times, both for this country and for Europe. Two decades later, we're in the midst of a crisis that puts to the test a monumental effort, in many ways experimental, to forge a peaceful integration of a continent that has seen too much bloodshed.
My journey from the fringe to the core gives me a perspective and an understanding of the difficulties and complexities that this brings. It equips me well for the role.
BARAK HARIF: How do you balance covering local German financial news with the European debt crisis?
CULLEN: The debt crisis is driving our coverage of German news from Merkel's balancing act between being a 'good European' to convincing ordinary Germans that the euro is worth saving no matter what the cost. This also includes the European Central Bank's effort to stem the crisis, even if it means appearing to bend some of the rules, to bank bailouts, stress tests and how the German export machine keeps powering ahead in spite of it all.
BARAK HARIF: How does the fact that a woman is running Germany impact your coverage?
CULLEN: Germany has been led by a woman since 2005, the first time this country has seen female leadership. A large portion of her Cabinet is female.
Still, while women play a strong role in politics, this country still has a long way to go when it comes to women in the corporate world. Coming from a country like Ireland, where gender equality and women in careers go without saying, the situation in Germany is much more difficult. A school system with irregular hours also makes it hard to balance a career and parenthood.
BARAK HARIF: What is one of your biggest challenges right now?
CULLEN: My biggest challenge is building the right team of people in Germany to take our coverage to new heights as we embark on an expansion strategy here. This country, as Europe's paymaster and its largest economy, will continue to dominate our news coverage for many years to come.
BARAK HARIF: What advice would you give to other journalists?
CULLEN: Trust your instincts, be bold, and don't give up! In a changing media world and a rapidly changing information society, the need for good journalism has never been greater. Go get it!
Photos by: Lori Hoffman, Bloomberg
Monday, September 17, 2012