Steven Norton earned his B.A. in Comparative Literature in 2012. He is now a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he covers business and technology. His comparative literature training taught him to gather and synthesize a wealth of information from disparate sources, and provided a strong foundation in writing and critical thinking that he employs daily in his work. As a comparative literature student, Steven was exposed to new languages and cultures, which broadened his mind and now help him bring greater perspective to his articles.
Outside the comparative literature department, he recalls his four years working at The Daily Tar Heel, where he served as editor-in-chief his senior year. He also spent a summer with the Students of the World program, traveling to Tanzania with other UNC students to create multimedia for Children’s Safe Drinking Water, a nonprofit organization started by Procter & Gamble. The videos they created were shown at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. Steven says he’s thankful for the time he was able to spend abroad, and would have traveled for a full semester if he’d had the time.
Steven chose UNC because of its reputation as a top-tier public university and its strong programs in journalism and science. He fondly recalls the mentorship he received from Penny Abernathy and Chris Roush in the School of Media and Journalism, as well as Inger Brodey and Rebecka Fisher in the comparative literature department.
In 2016, Steven spent two months in Berlin as an Arthur F. Burns Fellow, working for the Journal as well as the German-language newspaper Handelsblatt. His comparative literature background served him surprising ways in Germany. While there, he discovered that an American publishing house intended to issue an English translation of Arno Schmidt’s experimental novel Bottom's Dream in a 13-pound, 14-inch-tall hardcover edition, a format typically reserved for art books found in museum gift shops. He pitched the story to his editors, and it eventually ran on the Journal's front page.
For current students interested journalism, Steven recommends working for The Daily Tar Heel and getting to know UNC alumni working in the field. He encourages students not only to write, but also to seek feedback on their work and get accustomed to having their work edited. His final piece of advice to students, regardless of their career path, is to read widely, be curious about the world, and be unafraid to ask tough questions.
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