Visiting Professor Rob Cox Gives the Skinny

Rob Cox co-founded in 2000 in London, later selling the company to Thomson Reuters in 2009. Here he is sitting across from President Donald P. Christian in the Honors Center during his Q&A. Photo by Jeannette LaPointe.
Spring 2017 Ottawa Professor Rob Cox has spent decades in the field of financial journalism. He reports abroad one week per month for   Breakingviews. But sometimes, he teaches college kids.

Each year, SUNY New Paltz invites one person to teach the James H. Ottaway Seminar, an upper-division journalism course. This endowed professorship, the only one at SUNY New Paltz, has seen 15 professors, four of whom are Pulitzer Prize winning journalists.

Rob Cox, global editor and cofounder of Reuters Breakingviews, was invited to teach as the Ottaway Visiting Professor for the spring ‘17 semester. On Monday, Feb. 6, Donald P. Christian, president of SUNY New Paltz, held a public Q&A with Cox to introduce the program’s newest professor to the community. 

“We’ve had professors with experience in photojournalism to investigative reporting,” said Lisa Phillips, a professor and member of the committee that runs the Ottaway Program. “What we really liked about Rob was that he was in the thick of what he was doing.” 

Cox’s class, Financial Journalism and the Business of Media, engages students in the very thing upon which Cox founded his career. Living in Japan from 1989 to 1990 — a period of economic growth for the nation — Cox took an interest in finance and economic markets.

“Trade, I realized, was this fascinating way to engage with economic behavior,” Cox said.

Through assigned beats, various readings and guest speakers, Cox intends to teach students how to use the knowledge of finance to enhance their careers in journalism and view their careers through the lens of the business of media.

“It’s just like any other journalism,” he said. “The key to it is to be intellectually curious. To analyze everything. To think critically. With finance and business you just have a different set of raw material and data to work with.”

Cox emphasized the turbulence of financial journalism in today’s world, as radical politics deeply affect the economy. 

When asked by Christian how he thought today’s political climate would affect a free flowing global economy, Cox responded by saying it would be a defining topic for all journalists.

“We have to see what happened in our election here, what happened in the U.K., what’s happening around the world, as a response to a global semi-depression in which we have a pronounced gap between the ‘have-somethings’ and the ‘have-everythings,’” Cox said.

Opening the floor to questions, Christian allowed Cox to showcase his knowledge outside of finance.

“I liked how the topics spanned from gun control to economic regulation,” said Jesse Russel, a second-year journalism major and attendee of the Q&A. “It was a wide variety and you could see he’s very knowledgeable about all different topics.”

Cox’s interest with gun control ties directly to his role as a founder of the Sandy Hook Promise, an organization created to increase gun control and awareness for the dangers of mass shootings.

“People just wanted to help,” Cox said. “They wanted a centrist voice for sensible change and legislation on the gun front.”

The Q&A allowed for the campus and local communities to get to know Cox and understand why he was chosen for the professorship.

“We are very pleased that he was able to do the professorship,” said Mary Ottaway, wife of James Ottaway Jr., for which the endowship is named. “It was great to be able to hear him speak, especially in a place where students, faculty and community members could hear him.”

Cox has two more scheduled events in his time at New Paltz including a panel on March 7 and a speech on April 4.