Jacob Bogage is a business reporter at The Washington Post, where he has worked since 2015, when he began as an intern on the business desk. Bogage, now 27, said he had only written one business-related story in his life, and even had to retake an economics class at the University of Missouri. However, the Chevy Chase resident said he was able to use his inexperience to his advantage.
What was it like to be thrust into a position where you did not have a lot of experience?
I think as a young journalist, you’re trained to just say yes to every assignment and figure it out later. I had somebody take me out to coffee my first week at The Washington Post. And I kind of confided in them that I knew very little about economics. I knew even less about business. And they said, “You wouldn’t be here if folks didn’t think you could do it.” That’s what I carried with me. And I still carry it with me. I’m never afraid to ask for help or to tell people that I don’t know things.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to break into journalism?
Do the work. I talk to a lot of young journalists who kind of want to position themselves in the field and in the industry. And that’s great. You should think strategically about where you want to be. And I certainly did. I think the biggest key to setting myself up for success was just doing the work. Do a lot of writing. Do a lot of reporting. Get on the phone and talk to people. Because as a journalist, we’re only as good as what we know.
Why did you want to get into journalism in the first place?
I got into journalism because I thought it would look good on a college application. I was a freshman at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, and there was a journalism class that you could take. I liked writing — or I disliked writing less than other things. And I had the greatest teacher of my life, Peter Huck. He pulled me aside about two-thirds of the way through the year and said, “I think you could be really good at this. And I hope you’ll come back and write for the school newspaper next year.”
And so I did. The Sherwood football team had just won the state championship. And I had come from Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. They had a very meager athletic program. And I was blown away by [Sherwood’s athletic program]. You go to a game on Friday night, and everybody is there. I was a big sports fan. So I thought if I go and write about these games, I can be in the press box, on the sideline, and I can have that access.
How does your Judaism fit into your personal and professional lives?
In my personal life, I think it establishes a moral and ethical compass. It’s the kind of person, son, brother and partner I want to be. As for my professional life, I think there’s a really interesting interplay between journalistic ethics from the Society of Professional Journalists or other guidelines of journalistic ethics that are out there. I think all of that gets back to trying to understand the best way you can be of service to others in a line of work and in a world where accountability is important. When writing an article or preparing a news report, I ask: What does this add to the conversation? What does this add to our understanding of the world? And how do we be fair and judicious?
What are you most proud of from your career so far?
I think that’s something for other people to answer. I look at the body of my work as a service to others. I think if you asked my parents, they would tell you one thing. If you ask my editors, they would tell you something else. I think if you ask the readers, they would ask, “Who’s Jacob Bogage?” And that’s OK.