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Faculty Insights

WSB Hosts Washington Post’s Jonathan O’Connell as Business Writer in Residence

By Clare Becker

April 17, 2019

WaPo reporter Jonathan O'Connell gestures with his hands as he speaks
Visiting Business Writer in Residence Jonathan O’Connell facilitates discussion during a faculty panel at the Wisconsin School of Business. Photo by Paul L. Newby II

Jonathan O’Connell (BA ’01), a reporter with The Washington Post and a University of Wisconsin–Madison alumnus, visited the Wisconsin School of Business recently as this year’s Business Writer in Residence.

Started in 1989, the Business Writer in Residence Program is designed to bring national business journalists to campus, connecting them with faculty and the WSB community. The residency offers visiting journalists the opportunity to learn from faculty in their areas of research and expertise, explore common areas of interest, and learn more about WSB and UW–Madison.

O’Connell received a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism and worked for several trade publications and the Washington, D.C. bureau of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel before joining The Washington Post in 2010. He covers economic development, corporate accountability, and commercial real estate, including ongoing stories on The Trump Organization and Amazon.

While in residence at WSB, O’Connell shared that he was “honored and happy to be here, especially as a graduate of UW.” He moderated several panel discussions with WSB faculty on current business topics, including corporate responsibility, the retail landscape, and corporations’ search for new headquarter locations. He also met individually with faculty to dive more deeply into their specific research areas.

Going into these discussions, O’Connell expressed his excitement to “learn from these distinguished experts” and came away with a renewed interest in many of the topics presented.

O’Connell also spoke with Wisconsin MBA students at a breakfast forum sponsored by the Graduate Business Association and visited other schools and centers on campus, including the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

When asked if he had any advice for WSB students as someone who reports on the business world on a daily basis, O’Connell said to remember that career fulfillment goes beyond a salary.

“Many of the business people that I interview are C-level executives, and it’s interesting to hear from a lot of them who don’t feel fulfilled in some way. I learned really early covering business—and it’s been reinforced for me a number of times—that money doesn’t buy happiness all the time. The happiest people I know who are in business have found some way to attach a mission to their work and also make money.”

Past WSB business writers in residence have included journalists from Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio (NPR), and Marketplace Morning Report.