Story posted September 01, 2010
Author: Doug Boxer-Cook
Photography: Karsten Moran ’05
Beth Kowitt ’07, the newest member of what some at Fortune have jokingly dubbed The Bowdoin Mafia, has covered a lot of ground since becoming a full-time staffer in April 2009. She has written about educational software-maker Blackboard; the world’s most followed Twitter tweeter, actor Ashton Kutcher; and the apparently recession-proof “hipster” beer Pabst Blue Ribbon. “Everything has a business angle,” says Kowitt, “but I never thought I’d be writing about beer.”
Kowitt, a former Bowdoin Orient editor and reporter, once thought the career she had brewing was one in daily newspaper journalism, but two summers interning for an oil industry trade publication helped her strike into the rich and varied world of business reporting. “I really got into it and enjoyed it,” Kowitt says. “It’s sort of its own language in a way. Business—it’s international, it’s politics. I really liked it.”
And she has acquired a taste for the ever-changing game of “today I am an expert in…” that is the life of a general assignment reporter. “I like the variety,” says Kowitt. “I do a lot of very different things. I talk to a lot of different people.” One story brought Kowitt back to Maine and the town of Lisbon Falls, where an entire family joined the army as a solution to unemployment. She covered the Burbank, Calif.-based Walt Disney Studios Fire Department, whose firefighters are charged with protecting the cast and crew of productions such as Pirates of the Caribbean and General Hospital during explosion scenes. “I’m working on a story about blue fin tuna at the same time I’m writing a technology piece, so there’s a lot of jumping around, but that’s also part of the reason that I love the job,” she says.
Having gone straight from Bowdoin to Columbia Journalism School to a Fortune internship that evolved into her current staff position, Kowitt’s is not only one of the newest faces, but also one of the youngest—a challenge at times, she says, when dealing with captains of industry. “I’ll talk to CEOs and you have to make them take you seriously and show that you know what you’re talking about,” says Kowitt. She was asked to contribute reporting for Serwer’s book, Starting Over: Why the Last Decade Was So Damn Rotten and Why The Next One Will Surely Be Better, for which she is thanked in the acknowledgements. When she has needed help it has been close at hand. Katie Benner ’99 occupies the office next door; Kowitt says the bond they share has invited an openness she greatly appreciates. On the editorial floor, Kowitt completes the trifecta of Bowdoin graduates from the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s. “I love talking about our shared experiences,” says Kowitt. Noting some of the College’s changes, including the absence of fraternities (Serwer be-longed to Psi U) during her tenure at the College, she adds, “It’s always fun to hear stories of what Bowdoin used to be like.”
"I'm working on a story about blue fin tuna at the same time I'm writing a technology piece, so there's a lot of jumping around, but that's also part of the reason that I love the job."