Emilia David carves her own space as a business journalist

‘When I think about society, my first thought is… what would this mean for the everyday person’s wallet?’

If you ask a young Emilia David what she would be doing by the time she was 30, she would have probably said a ballet dancer. But that didn’t end up her path. Instead, she followed in the footsteps of great women in her family: She became a journalist.

Emilia, 34, is a reporter who writes for New York-based trade magazine WatersTechnology on the technology used by banks, exchanges, and asset managers. She’s been writing about business and the economy for about a decade now.

Emilia is the latest in a long line of journalists in her family. It began with her grandfather, Ernesto Jimenez, who, even as a lawyer and an educator, wrote articles for local newspapers in the Philippines.

But her biggest journalism role models are the women in her family.

Her mother is Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David and her aunt was PDI’s late editor-in-chief Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc. Other family members also entered the “family business” with other cousins writing for the newspaper at various times.

“I can’t say I had it easy, in fact, I had to work harder to prove I’m my own person,” she said. “I had to be a strong, aggressive reporter because it doesn’t help that the public figures I interviewed knew my family. They all know that I was born during the EDSA People Power revolution because my mother wrote about it in the newspaper and the entire country read it. I really had to carve a niche for myself so people approach me as me and not as someone else’s daughter.”

Emilia with mom, Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David. The late editor-in-chief Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc is her aunt.

The niche she chose was business reporting. Emilia began as a reporter for BusinessWorld in Manila where she stayed for five years covering everything from trade disputes at the World Trade Organization to renewable energy tariffs. During this time, she was reporting on the layoffs of workers in Philippine Economic Zones that were blamed on the 2008 Financial Crisis. She said this was the moment she saw how important business reporting is and why this is the field she must focus on.

Knowing she needed to expand her horizons, Emilia set her sights on New York, the epicenter of global business. She was accepted to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, now the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, and there honed her skills not just in reporting but also learned to edit videos, audio shows and mastering data-driven journalism.

It also allowed Emilia the chance to explore other topics to report on. She was able to write about housing lotteries and the affordable housing crisis in New York and figure out how small businesses survive in an ever-changing city.

After graduating from CUNY,  Emilia pursued specialized beats within the business sector. A more niche niche if you will. She went into commodities reporting where she covered the steel market and also wrote about titanium.

She shares an apartment with two other Filipina journalists Anne Lagamayo and Jasmine Ting.

Today, she covers financial technology specifically for banks and asset managers where she gets to learn and write about emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and big data. Things she says everyone loves to talk about but don’t understand.

“What I love about my job is I get to meld really cool things like artificial intelligence and machine learning with something nerdy like finance,” she said. “It’s honestly fun to talk about it in parties because people don’t really know that their bank is using machine learning to better invest their money. It also gets a little scary when you realize in the middle of writing a story on consumer data that you’ve given up a lot of your personal information to companies, but at least it keeps me careful!”

Despite being away from her support group of friends and family, Emilia has managed to build a community in New York, one that includes fellow journalists. For someone who grew up in the presence of other journalists, this is a great comfort. She lives with two other Filipina journalists and the in-built sounding board has been a help.

“Sometimes I get this feeling that I should be writing more about politics or culture but when I talk with my roommates, I realize how important my work really is,” she said. “They want to understand why their taxes are higher or what the current rout in the stock market means for the money they saved.”

She may not have envisioned her path as a journalist when she was younger but Emilia believes this is the journey that she should stay on. Something that her role models, her family, helps remind her of.

“I’m interested in so many things but when I think about society, my first thought tends to be, what would this mean for the everyday person’s wallet? That’s what’s most important to me. I see my parents grow older, and my mom cut back on her daily columns, and I think to myself, what is happening in the world right now that can hurt their retirement and how can I explain that to people? That’s really what I’m passionate about,” she said.

© The FilAm 2020

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