For Francesca Fontana, a typical day begins about 7:30 a.m., when she enters The Wall Street Journal offices in New York City, two hours before the stock market opens.
Her first task is writing “Stocks to Watch,” a column that discusses eight to twelve stocks expected to move throughout the day. When the market opens at 9:30, Fontana spends the rest of the day filing “Market Talks,” stories analyzing why and how prices and futures change. She covers U.S. equities and stocks, some Canadian stocks, and the livestock and grain markets.
“I’ve learned a lot about bushels of things,” said Fontana, now fluent in trade tariffs and soybean futures.
Fontana graduated from Clark Honors College in June 2017 and the next week began a writing internship with The Journal’s management and careers team. The F. James Pensiero Reporting Internship gives preference to students from state schools, and Fontana qualified.
“It felt crazy,” she said of getting the internship. “It was my dream internship, my dream job.”
She worked on feature stories and was under pressure to get them distributed on the newswires. As her internship ended, she stayed on to finish work on what she considers her most exciting project at The Journal.
The project was part of WSJ’s annual “Women in the Workplace” package. Fontana tackled the issue of “vocal fry,” a verbal tic typically associated with women and deemed “unprofessional,” like upspeak. She described vocal fry as the scratchy quality a person’s voice can acquire—a “closing a door really slowly kind of sound.”
“We should listen to what women have to say and not how they’re saying it,” Fontana said.
Tasked with creating a video for WSJ’s Snapchat account, she talked to a linguist and an actress who visits a vocal coach to eliminate her vocal fry. Fontana learned that men often also speak with vocal fry, but it’s usually only an issue for women. Her biggest thrill came when her editor told her to narrate the video.
After the project concluded, Fontana freelanced in New York and briefly wrote for financial news website TheStreet. She maintained relationships at WSJ and eventually landed a full-time job there.
As a first-generation, multiethnic student, Fontana at times felt isolated at the University of Oregon. However, she cherishes the opportunities Clark Honors College provided for her pursuit of her thesis.
While an undergraduate, she received a CHC thesis-research grant to travel to Chicago to report a story from her own past. Her research culminated in a book proposal and several chapters of an investigative memoir about a criminal trial involving her father that unfolded during her childhood. The proposal and beginnings of the memoir became her CHC thesis project. She took thesis credits for classes, allowing her to spend time interviewing and exploring records in Chicago while school was in session.
“It was challenging for me as a journalist, student, and person,” she recalled. “The project really shaped me and gave me my independence.”
In the process, Fontana learned “nothing can substitute for the work.” By that, she means work hard, but do work that is meaningful. As a School of Journalism and Communication student, she had felt pressure to jump from Flux Magazine to The Daily Emerald to a handful of other opportunities. But, ultimately, she learned to do the work she enjoyed doing, not the work other people expected her to do.
She has other thoughts on work.
“Make the time to not be working,” she advised. “It’s cool to get eight hours of sleep!”