Alumnus puts business into context for Canadians

Caroline Lesley // Special to Western News

BNN Bloomberg journalist Jon Erlichman, BA’99 (Huron University College), is one of the top Biz Twitter follows in the country thanks to a unique style of highlighting winners and losers, near-misses and might-have-beens – all in 280 characters or fewer.

Business insights. Historic context. All in 280 characters or fewer.

It’s all part of a unique style of highlighting business winners and losers, near-misses and might-have-beens that has made BNN Bloomberg journalist Jon Erlichman, BA’99 (Huron University College), one of the top Biz Twitter follows in the country.

“The business world feels more at the centre of the news of the day – whether it’s trade uncertainty or the rise of populism,” he said. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there and numbers are an increasingly important area of focus for everything.”

Erlichman’s Twitter profile is an offshoot of his journalism as an anchor for The Open on BNN Bloomberg, CTV National News correspondent and fill-in anchor and host of Sidelines, an entrepreneur program offering insights into celebrity side businesses.

Despite Erlichman’s current success, his career path that started at Huron University College was a bit unexpectedly.

He graduated summa cum laude from the Western affiliate college and was gold medalist for his outstanding academic performance. He expected a career in film production was in his future, until he saw a job ad for a start-up television channel devoted to Canadian business.

“They were looking for people with industry background. I remember reaching out to say I may not have all that experience just yet but if there are any opportunities in the organization, I’d love to be considered.”

Initially hired as an editorial assistant with BNN, he soon transitioned to RoBTV – Report on Business Television – when the network got a licence to launch in 1996. “The timing was good,” he said.

“As we launched, there was a similar excitement around technology and technology stocks. We were in the middle of the dot.com boom. We were not just watching the continued rise of Amazon, but it was influencing a lot of Canadian tech as well.”

Today, Erlichman also uses as many technology platforms as possible to multiply the reach of business news. Social media play an important role, but so do conventional media such as television, he stressed.

Tweets that compared data over time became a quick and digestible way he could convey large amounts of information, all in context.

“As a business journalist, you cover the financials of these companies – things like quarterly earnings reports. Every time a company would report these numbers – for Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple – they were growing at an astounding rate. It got to a point where it felt like the numbers should be shared in that way.

“At the end of the day, we’re telling stories, whether it’s on television or on radio or in print. Twitter is a place where you’re also telling a story. I found myself thinking about how to effectively tell a story in a tweet.

“It’s quite complementary to everything we’re doing already. It’s a way to incorporate some of the video from what we’re talking about on television or in some of the other stories that we’re doing.”

The posts are often timed to specific news events or anniversaries and rarely include any editorial comment by Erlichman.

One tweet highlights how, in 1999, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin tried to sell the company for $750,000 but were rebuffed. Today, their combined stake in the company is worth $125 billion.

Another tweet shows former late-night TV host David Letterman grilling Microsoft founder Bill Gates about why anyone would want or need to use an Internet.

But they’re not all rags-to-riches stories, not all growth and bull markets: One recent Erlichman tweet noted Blockbuster Video opened its first store in 1985 and had grown to 7,400 stores by 2009. Today, its present looks like its founding with just one store remaining (in Bend, Ore.).

Erlichman’s journey has taken him to New York, California and back to Toronto where he is covering some of the most interesting stories on air.

One included an interview with Jon Erlichman, the Canadian who the Tampa Bay Rays hired as the first analytics coach in Major League Baseball. “I don’t know that I’ll ever interview another Jonathan Erlichman. That was a unique story. That also speaks to our relationship with CTV National News. He has a math background and an analytical mind and now he suits up with the team.”

Erlichman credits his time at Western for providing a foundation for both the broad and the specific.

“It was a tremendous experience for me. I can’t imagine I would have ended up on the path that I’ve gone on to if not for that experience. The rich history of exploring media and the focus on journalism and also that specialty in the area of business – these were all the things I was exposed to just with being on campus.”