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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

How This Crypto Editor Navigates Journalism In the Era of Misinformation

Stacy-Marie Ishmael, the managing editor of crypto at Bloomberg
Stacy-Marie Ishmael, the managing editor of crypto at Bloomberg.
| Courtesy of Stacy-Marie Ishmael

For Stacy-Marie Ishmael, innate curiosity was the driving factor behind her pursuit of a career in journalism. Well, curiosity and being able to move quickly from one task to another.

“I’m a person who likes knowing things and I also have a very short attention span,” says Ishmael, who today is a managing editor at Bloomberg overseeing the cryptocurrency beat. “These are the essential qualities for journalism.”

About halfway through her time in college, Ishmael got involved with on-campus media, running the university radio station and contributing to the TV station, newspaper, and magazine. These experiences ignited her passion—and led to her first job in the industry.

“The magazine is actually what set me on the path to journalism—I often interviewed interesting people in high positions,” she says. “One of the people I spoke with was the head of talent at a publishing company. They suggested I apply for a graduate training program, which started my decades-long career in media.”

Here, Ishmael talks about journalism in this era of misinformation, the challenges of being a woman in a newsroom, and why sponsorship is just as important as mentorship.

What led to your role at Bloomberg, and how did you know the company would be a good fit?

If you work in financial media, you undoubtedly know and work with Bloomberg in some capacity. I moved from London to New York to cover the financial crisis in 2008 and one of my colleagues from that time wrote to me years later. He now works at Bloomberg and suggested I interview for a position on the cryptocurrency reporting team. I applied for the position, and here I am!

At Bloomberg, I’m surrounded by such interesting people, and I learn from them every day. In any Bloomberg newsroom you can pick a topic and find one of foremost experts just a desk or two away.

The caliber of the work we do is very good, but I also value the work done by the company’s philanthropic arm. You see how this giving back shows up in the world, and it feels good to know that, by doing my small part, I’m contributing to that work.

What are you responsible for as the managing editor of crypto? What do you like most about the role?

I drive our global coverage of all things crypto. On a normal day, that could be anything from reporting on Bitcoin’s performance to what’s happening with Coinbase. On an abnormal day, that could mean one of the biggest exchanges in the world files for bankruptcy or North Korean hackers steal billions of dollars in crypto. These are the most outsized personalities I’ve ever covered while working as a journalist.

It’s a very exciting beat and we get to do lots of different kinds of stories. We also get to work with different teams within Bloomberg, like colleagues who cover legal issues. I really like the fact that no two days are similar and it’s often quite surprising.

What have you learned about crypto since taking on the role?

It’s an interesting combination of traditional financial services topics like yields, risk, and speculation with all things technology. It’s also a very polarizing asset class, which can be challenging because it has so many opinions attached to it.

Why is now a particularly exciting time to work at Bloomberg?

The markets are all over the place right now. I wake up every morning wondering what’s going to happen next. Markets respond to what’s happening in the world, and there’s a lot of upheaval in many different ways. Because Bloomberg is a global organization, and the newsroom reflects that, we really get to tell a holistic story. For example, we can help our audiences understand how what’s happening in Ukraine is leading to the higher gas prices they’re encountering. Connecting the dots across all these areas is something I feel we’re uniquely well positioned to do.

Tell us about your experience as a board member of Catchlight and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Foundation. How has your involvement enriched your career?

Catchlight is an organization dedicated to the craft of visual journalism and expanding photo- and video-based storytelling. As someone who gravitates towards words and written stories, it took me a long time to fully appreciate the power of this form of journalism. But the cliche is true—sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s important for us to stretch our perception of what journalism is. Catchlight focuses on providing fellowships for people who want to do this challenging work, but may not have the funding or resources of a newsroom. It opens up possibilities for lots of different voices, which I think benefits the whole media ecosystem.

I never went to journalism school, but I’ve been associated with the Newmark School for a long time. I stay connected because of the kinds of students it attracts: recent immigrants, first-generation college students, multilingual students, and those from lower-income areas. If you look around your average newsroom, those are people who are often missing. For me, it’s really important to support an institution that equips students with the skills they need to be hired at a place like Bloomberg. Too often, the people who are able to work in media are those who see themselves very well-represented.

Over the course of your career, you’ve co-founded two companies and worked as a product manager. What lessons from these experiences do you still use today as a managing editor?

Knowing how to see a problem and having, in some cases, the audacity to try to solve it has served me very well. As a managing editor, essentially all you’re doing is solving problems: what should we be covering, what should the headline be? That kind of mindset—that everything out there is just an interesting problem to be solved—has taught me a lot.

What has been the biggest challenge of being a woman—particularly a woman of color—in a male-dominated industry? How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge is the tyranny of low expectations. I don’t know that I’ve overcome it, but I’ve gotten very good at navigating it. There will be spaces where people are regularly surprised to see me. When I was younger, I was often the only person who looked like me covering a story or an event. I would sometimes use it to my advantage: If someone didn’t think I was qualified and simplified concepts for me, I could use that to write a better story. Often, as a reporter, it’s not your job to be the expert, but rather to ask expert questions and find the answers. It was helpful to cultivate humility around those experiences, but it also really motivated me to change the expectations of who should get to be in those rooms.

What is a common misconception people have about working in journalism, and how would you respond to it?

In this era of misinformation, that’s a tricky question. People often think that we decide what the story is and then publish what we think. But good journalism starts with questions, not answers, and it takes time. One of the reasons for that is the fact that we hold ourselves to a high standard of accuracy and fairness. And whenever there’s silence while we’re taking the time to responsibly report a story, people fill it with rumor and speculation.

What advice do you have for other women who are striving to achieve leadership roles?

You need to have a really good group text. You will not survive without a trusted group of people who will tell you the truth and support you, but also hold you accountable. One of the mistakes people often make is they’re over-mentored yet under-sponsored, meaning there are lots of people who will give them advice, but not enough who will use their position to make something happen for them. I was very fortunate to have people in my life who took those steps on my behalf. Those people are incredibly valuable.

What are you currently reading, watching, and/or listening to?

I’m currently reading Babel by R.F. Kuang, watching Star Trek: Lower Decks, and listening to Three Black Halflings.