Bloomberg’s Women Behind the News: Tasneem Brogger
December 19, 2012 —
Bloomberg Managing Editor Tasneem Brogger talks with corporate finance reporter Mary Childs about Bloomberg News’ new emphasis on the Nordic region.
Tasneem Brogger left Australia when she was 18 to study music in Europe. After graduating as a flautist from the conservatory in Cologne and playing in symphonies as a freelancer, she gave it up. “One comes out of that life realizing ‘I’ve been living in this bubble,'” she says.
Brogger and her husband moved to his home base in Copenhagen, where she learned Danish and earned a degree in business economics and finance at the Copenhagen Business School. During her studies, she worked as a reporter for Reuters, doing general assignment work and covering the information technology and services industry. She wrote a paper for a grad school assignment comparing her employer and Bloomberg News, she says, which her boss told her “really socked it to us.”
In 2005, Brogger joined Bloomberg, first as a GA reporter and then covering the economy. She moved for two years to London. Now, back in Copenhagen as managing editor of the Nordic Region, she oversees 23 people in five countries. Among the biggest stories she’s led was the financial collapse of Iceland, an early casualty of the global financial meltdown of 2008.
Brogger spoke with Mary Childs, who covers corporate finance for Bloomberg News in New York. Childs joined Bloomberg in 2009 and writes about credit-default swaps and corporate bonds. She holds a degree in business journalism from Washington and Lee University.
Childs: Why did you change from music to financial journalism?
Brogger: I had an impulse to learn as much as possible, and it seemed the most empowering form of knowledge was economic knowledge. Basically, if you could follow the money, you could work things out.
At school, I’d always enjoyed literature, English, and writing subjects, and I didn’t want to just be a number cruncher. I was never going to be a really hardcore economist, it was always going to be just a vehicle to allow me to understand the things around me. Journalism seemed the ideal combination.
Childs: Are you happy with that choice?
Brogger: I am happy. Bloomberg is a great company and the people working here are incredibly talented and committed, and that motivates and inspires me. You also have access to newsmakers, and I love that. Every day you learn something. It’s a real privilege.
Childs: How is it as a working mother in Scandinavia? Does it live up to its reputation?
Brogger: In Scandinavia, the cities are smaller, people can get around more easily, and the offices are closer to their kids’ schools and their homes. So that sheer logistic challenge isn’t the same as in big cities, like New York and London.
I had three months paid maternity leave when I had my daughter, and I ended up taking four months off. It’s very generous compared with what’s available elsewhere, although Denmark actually lags behind the other countries in the Nordic region. I suppose you can say that it creates more balance and helps society not give in to the extremes of very male-dominated behavior.
Childs: What was your experience in helping lead coverage of Iceland’s fiscal crisis?
Brogger: That was my first real test of covering a crisis. The rules were changing as we went, and we weren’t sure whether we could trust policymakers or people we were speaking to.
It was tragic to see this little island buckle under the weight of its banks’ debt burden, but there was a learning curve like I would not have had anywhere else.
Childs: What did you learn from the experience?
Brogger: It emboldened me. A few months before the banks all collapsed, they were reporting capital ratios close to 20 percent, and everybody was saying, ‘Back off, there’s no story here.’ It took some perseverance to continue calling these people and reporting what the numbers — the facts — suggested was actually the case. It taught me not to be intimated by the establishment
Childs: You started as managing editor of the Nordic region a year ago. What are your main goals? Where do you hope to go from here?
Brogger: It’s one hell of an opportunity because Bloomberg is ahead in the US and London, but much less so in peripheral areas like Scandinavia. It really is a challenge to push this brand and promote it and make sure that newsmakers, for example, consider it completely second nature that if they have something to say, that they’ll call us first.
And we want other news organizations to get used to the fact that we’ll be the first organization to carry a headline or a scoop. That’s what I’ve got my sights set on at the moment. There are so many ways to do that, and one is given a lot of autonomy and freedom and resources to pursue that goal.”
Childs: What are the biggest challenges for you in your current job?
Brogger: Until last year, I had only been manager of very small groups, and now suddenly I’ve got 23 people. It’s a little bit different and there is a whole communication aspect to that. One looks, on occasion, at other people who are incredibly charismatic in talking about what they do. You need to be able to capture an audience and persuade them that what you’re talking about is really worth listening to. You also have to have something compelling to say, which I hope I do.
Childs: Do you have any advice for young whippersnappers – how best to navigate or things to focus on?
Brogger: Keep one’s composure in intimidating situations. Often, women tend to take a step back and think `OK, well, he’s probably right.’ I’m not saying be aggressive or pigheaded about something if it’s not appropriate. But if you’re right, you’re right, and you should always give yourself the time and the composure to think it through and come to that conclusion.
Photos by: Lori Hoffman, Bloomberg