Alumni Spotlight

Wall Street's Watchdog

BUFFALO, NY -  Elizabeth M. MacDonald ’84 isn’t a typical journalist. The stocks editor for “FOX Business” and “FOX News” built her career by taking the backwater beats no one else wanted to cover.

“I, in my nerdiness, was interested in the IRS, taxes and corporate accounting,” she says.

To unearth even the slightest nugget of news, MacDonald buried herself in the Congressional Record, sat in countless congressional committee hearings and scoured and devoured public documents – especially the footnotes.

“All sorts of action gets submarined in the footnotes of corporate and government documents,” she says.

MacDonald’s relentless search for truth led to one blockbuster story after another. She was among the first journalists in the 1990s to sound the alarm about the coming wave of accounting scandals. Her investigative series on IRS abuses resulted in improved taxpayer rights and reforms and led to her testifying before Congress. MacDonald exposed behind-the-scenes bailout controversies at the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve and unmasked the Democratic congressmen who influenced the IRS’ targeting of Tea Party conservatives.

Each story MacDonald breaks is well-written, well-narrated and packaged with an absolute sense of responsibility to her audience.

“Journalists have a duty to get it right and to make the news understandable to the ‘little guy,’” says MacDonald, who maintains an acute awareness of what taxpayers are up against. “Covering the IRS for about 20 years really informed my consciousness about the government we’re paying for.”

A Long Island native, MacDonald knew she wanted to be a writer and reporter by the age of 10. She graduated from Canisius as an All-College Honors student, earning dual degrees in English and communication studies, and returned to New York to launch her career.

MacDonald has since covered stock market earnings and accounting abuses for Money magazine and The Wall Street Journal. While senior editor at Forbes, she developed the magazine’s annual list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.”

“One thing stood out,” she says, “these women didn’t let anyone else define who they are. They defined themselves.”

As does MacDonald.

It’s that same quality that attracted the journalist to her latest story. Skirting Heresy: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe is MacDonald’s newly released book. It chronicles the heroics of Kempe, the first autobiographer in the English language and a non-conformist from 15th century England who dared to follow her calling from Jesus Christ at a time when women were not allowed to preach the Gospel or travel without men.

“Margery told of her pilgrimages to holy sites and the Holy Land, and her conversations with God,” MacDonald says. “Her lecturing on the Gospels led to repeated arrests and even the threat of death by a burning at the stake.”

In many ways, MacDonald is the modern-version of the historic figure about whom she writes. She is a pull-no-punches truth teller, eager to dispel myths and expose wrongdoing and yet perfectly content to live life among the footnotes.