College of Communication > Faculty & Staff > Faculty A-Z > Ken Wills
Ken has been a reporter, editor and newsroom manager for more than 30 years — a career that evolved in tandem with technological advances in journalism. From a start as a “copy boy” at the New York Daily News, he landed across town as a “news assistant” on the Business Desk at The New York Times. He contributed stories and eventually moved to the Foreign Desk before being appointed Assistant Editor of the Op-Ed Page. While engaged in the public policy debates of the day, he became fascinated with the culture and history of China and left the paper after six years to enroll in an academic fellowship in Asia Studies, starting down a path that led to reporting and editing assignments across Asia for 15 years.
Ken gained a solid grounding in local reporting with the Associated Press in Kansas City, and after two years advanced to the news agency’s World Desk in New York as an editor.
He had his first taste of international journalism in Tokyo, taking a job as Asia Copy Chief for Knight Ridder Financial News, which was later bought out and rebranded as Bridge News. After nearly five years, that company formed a joint venture, called WebFN, in Chicago and joined the burgeoning online news experiments. As General Manager and News Director at the startup, a streaming financial video news service, Ken and his team delivered 10 hours of live broadcasts each day from the main studio and from financial market trading floors in New York, Chicago, London and Singapore. They built a cache of Video-On-Demand clips from each day’s streaming content that could be replayed at will — an offering that was ground-breaking for consumers in 2000 and which we now take for granted as technology has caught up with our imaginations.
WebFN attracted a rising global online audience, but the dot-com crash in the early 2000s choked off advertising revenue. The startup dissolved in 2003, and Ken returned to Asia, as a Chief Sub-Editor at the Reuters Asia headquarters in Singapore. He transferred to the financial news agency’s Beijing bureau in 2006 and began a six-year stint, ending as Deputy Bureau Chief. Following a brief return to Singapore, this time as Deputy Editor of the Reuters Asia Desk, he was appointed US West Coast Editor-in-Charge for Reuters, based in Hawaii.
The lure of China beckoned once again, however, and Ken transferred back to Beijing in 2016, this time as Bureau Chief at Bloomberg. Besides coordinating coverage of major news events including the five-yearly Chinese Communist Party Congress and the government’s annual legislative sessions, Ken frequently contributed text stories, live reports for Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Radio as well as blog posts for breaking news stories. He returned to the Chicago area in mid-2018.
Ken’s educational background includes a BA in urban studies from Columbia University in New York, and an MPA from the School of International and Public Affairs, also at Columbia University. He was the editor of the annual anthology of award-winning journalism, “The Pulitzer Prizes,” published by Simon & Schuster from 1987 through 1990.