By Jenna Grunfeld—
Over the past few years, online journalism has jumped from phenomenon to mainstream, and few know more about it than Aaron Task, J/MS 1990, who has been working in online journalism for over 15 years.
In fact, one might say Task is a “pioneer” in online financial journalism. He spent a decade at TheStreet.com, and today is the host of the Yahoo Finance program “The Daily Ticker,” the most-watched financial news program online. The program covers economic and financial news and politics as it relates to the economy, and draws audience numbers matching the highest-rated programs on CNBC.
“It’s really a sign of how powerful the Internet is,” said Task of the program’s success. “This is how people are consuming their news more and more.”
In 2008, Task was recruited by Yahoo to help develop and host “Tech Ticker,” which was renamed “The Daily Ticker.”
Task recalled, “Yahoo was dipping a toe into the water and saying ‘We’re going to create our own programming.’” Task said it was an experiment for Yahoo as well.
It’s an experiment that has paid off, it would seem. In addition to its high audience numbers, “The Daily Ticker” has also been a platform for covering major economic events before the major networks.
Occupy Wall Street was one of these events.
“We were on top of that from the get-go,” reported Task.
According to Task, being online, rather than at a major news network, gives him autonomy and freedom to cover stories the way he wants to. He uses this to reach out to his viewership.
“I try to reflect what real people are saying,” he said.
Audience feedback is one of the things Task values most about being an online journalist, but it’s not all fun and games.
“We don’t have the production resources that traditional networks have,” Task explained, citing this past year’s Arab Spring as an example of a problem — his show did not have reporters on the ground in the Middle East.
Limited resources encourage Task to have a hand in every part of the production process.
“You have to be able to do everything; you have to shoot, you have to do sound, you have to edit, ” he said.
His career as an on-air reporter at “The Daily Ticker” has also given him the opportunity to interview world leaders such as President Bill Clinton and the president of South Korea. Still, one of his favorite parts of the job is getting “to go places and meet people and have a platform to talk to those people.”
His career as an online journalist is still evolving. A new Yahoo program called “Driven” is currently in the works.
The complicated, rush-by world of finance seems a long way from the sports Task covered at Rutgers for The Daily Targum.
“I always thought I would be a sports journalist,” said Task, but his internship with the New Jersey Nets started to change his mind. He was exposed to the life of a sports journalist and “was really turned off by it.”
He embarked on a job as an editor with Standard and Poor’s CreditWire, a job arranged by Marsha Bergman, undergraduate student advisor for the School of Communication and Information. This was Task’s introduction to the world of financial journalism that led to his next job at The Bond Buyer, a daily newspaper covering topics of municipal finance.
“I was definitely learning on the job, especially when I became a reporter a couple of years later,” said Task, who had little background in finance.
However, he was not discouraged.
“Every day I was learning something new. It’s important stuff. It’s meaningful stuff,” he added.
After three years at The Bond Buyer, Task moved on to Dow Jones, followed by MSN/MSNBC, finding his way to TheStreet.com in 1998, where he would stay for a decade. Task fulfilled various roles, including editor-at-large, a position which allowed him to host an award-winning podcast called “The Real Story.” He also received a Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) award for feature writing.
At TheStreet.com he met Barry Ritholtz, who became his co-author on a book called Bailout Nation, released in 2009.
“During the summer of 2008, there was a lot happening in the financial world,” noted Task. “[Barry] called me in to help get the book done — I was his Sherpa,” as Task described the experience. “It was definitely a collaboration.”
It also helped ease some of the anxiety that comes with the idea of writing a book.
“Working on Bailout Nation, I realized that it’s manageable,” Task says. He has since pitched books to different publishers.
J/MS is still very much in his thoughts, and Task credits the program with some of his success.
“We weren’t coddled,” he said firmly. “Rutgers taught me to be motivated.”