Monthly Archives: September 2005
Bob Jensen, a professor at Trinity University in Texas, has prepared an Enron Quiz. I think all business journalists should be required to take this quiz.
Here is the link to the quiz: Enron Quiz
If you have any suggestions, corrections, or additions that would help this quiz, please send them to Bob at email@example.com .
For business journalists can be found at Ira Chinoy of the University of Maryland’s site here.
I thought I was an Internet junkie, but Ira beats me hands down.
And here is a report about my workshop at the South Carolina Press Association:
Those in attendance did not know:
1. What a Uniform Commercial Code filing was and how it can be used;
2. Only one person had ever heard of a WARN Act filing;
3. One person was vaguely familiar with the term “hedge fund,” but didn’t know how they operated;
4. None knew what short selling was and why investors did it.
Like I said, there’s a different world of business reporting out there that SABEW and other groups aren’t reaching. I had a lot of the deer in the headlights look today as I explained stuff.
I’m leaving this morning to go to Columbia, S.C., where I’ll be meeting all day with a group of a dozen business reporters from across the state in a day-long seminar sponsored by the South Carolina Press Association.
I think I’m about to see a quality and a brand of business journalism that reporters at larger metro papers can’t fathom. I’ll be meeting with reporters from papers such as Walterboro Press and Standard, the Anderson Independent Mail, the Summerville Journal-Scene, the Sumter Item, the Hartsville Messenger and the Columbia Star. Some of these papers are weeklies, and I’ve never seen them, so I don’t even know if they have a separate business page or what kind of coverage they provide.
I kind of get a gut feeling that I’m going to be mentioning stuff to these reporters later today such as SEC filings and incorporation records, and I’m going to find that a lot of the reporters have never heard of these documents or have never used them in their reporting. That’s not to denigrate the reporting at these papers; it’s just that when most in the field of business journalism think about reporting tactics and public records, that’s what they think about. However, there’s a different brand of business journalism practiced at the very small papers, and for their readers, I wonder if they’re providing just as good information as the bigger papers.
These papers are not SABEW members — they probably have never heard of SABEW. But it’s probably these papers who need SABEW’s help the most when it comes to education and training. What more could we do to get them involved in the organization?
Interesting move recently at the Palm Beach Post where long-time business journalist David Sedore was fired from the banking and insurance beat and replaced by Stephanie Horvath, a young reporter who has been covering the business of health care for the paper for about a year. Stephanie is a UNC grad who took my business reporting class in the Spring of 2004 before her internship on the Post’s business desk.
Stephanie is young, and she still has a lot to learn about business and insurance. She tells me that her editors want her to focus primarily on home insurance right now in the wake of Katrina and Rita and make banking a secondary part of her beat. They also want her to focus on other property & casualty lines, but not so much on health insurance.
In Stephanie’s own words, here is her challenge:
“In the meantime I need to learn the basics of banking and insurance fast, especially homeowner’s insurance which is in a death spiral in Florida. Are there any books or Web sites you can recommend that would give me a good overview of these industries — how they make and lose money, what market factors affect them, what things to look out for, etc.? Resources that would be good for a journalist?
“I get the feeling this will be a very different job from the health care beat. I’ve already been told I’ll be going to Tallahassee to cover the session and that I should be going to banking breakfasts and insurance lunches to make contacts. Should be fun.
“Otherwise I’m having a blast. I went out with a bang on the health care beat by traveling to Haiti at the beginning of September to do a story. That hasn’t run yet; the experience was very interesting. And I’m mentoring a local high school journalism class, which is fun.”
I think Stephanie is on the right track, and she has a natural nose for news, so I’m sure she will do well. I used to cover insurance and some banking in Florida, and that can be a competitive beat. Her main competition is Kathy Bushouse, who covers insurance for the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. I know Kathy as well. When she interned on the business desk of the Atlanta paper in the late ’90s, I was her mentor.
In the early ’90s, when I covered insurance in Florida, I was the only full time reporter assigned to the beat at any newspaper in the state. Now, virtually every paper has someone covering the beat.
Remember when I posted last week about the Baltimore Sun architecture critic who was investing in homes in neighborhoods he was writing about? The Sun is apparently making him divest of those properties before he writes again about those areas.
Here is the paper’s explanation.
It’s about time. Any business reporter caught writing stories about areas in which they also invested would have been fired immediately.
The Online News Association has named its finalists for its awards this year, and I want to point out one particularly entry from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that I liked.
Earlier this year, the AJC reporters Ann Hardie, Alan Judd and Carrie Teegardin analyzed how Georgia lending laws affect consumers, creditors and regulators. These articles are the first installment in an ongoing series. (Disclosure: I worked with Alan at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and with Carrie at the AJC.)
I thought they were well done, and they show how the business beat and the government beat often intersect. Too often, business coverage doesn’t look at these type of stories.
If you want to read some of the articles, go here.
This morning’s Wall Street Journal had an article about how the popular Web site Yahoo! planned to add some original content to its pages. The original content means that it’s going to hire some personal finance columnists and begin writing about business.
The article can be found here.
I have two reactions to this move. The first is: What took them so long? Many people are using the Yahoo! site for personal and professional reasons. My family, for examples, uses the Yahoo! calendar function to keep track of our schedule. Students in my economics reporting class use the site to track their stock picks for their final project. Adding this content will just keep people at the site longer.
The second reaction is a little bit more ominous. I have long been a believer in the Internet as the next communications revolution in this country. While many still read the newspapers that they grew up with, I can envision a day when Internet companies such as Yahoo! and Google are producing newspaper-like versions on their Web sites. It also would not surprise me if they actually tried to publish a newspaper or some other type of publication as well.
What does this mean for business journalism? I think good things. With more and more financial advice and business coverage available online, a new entrant into the market means more jobs and more competition.
William Powers, a columnist at the National Journal, wrote a scathing critique of the new Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal. His chief complaint was that the writing was lifeless and that the paper wasn’t like the Journal during the week.
You can read his critique here.
Again, I wondered earlier about the reaction of the reporting staff being asked to produce any extra day’s worth of copy. Maybe their apathy is reflected in the writing.
Another sad day for newspapers. Today Scripps announced the closing of the Birmingham Post-Herald (see corporate statement below). The newspaper’s last edition will be tomorrow. I know I speak for many journalists in expressing my condolences to our colleagues at the Post-Herald. I hope they choose to stay in journalism and can find brighter futures elsewhere. I worked at the Nashville Banner years ago but left before the newspaper folded. JOAs have always made me nervous, and this is just one more example of a one that didn’t work. Of course we all know as business writers what is important at publicly owned companies. Still it’s tough when things like this happen. Good luck to all of you in Birmingham. You’re on our minds today.
Here’s a link to the Post-Herald’s online business section. They were very aggressive in covering the HealthSouth scandal and the Scrushy trial.
The link to the Scripps Howard official announcement can be found here.
Topic: Miscellaneous items
Date/Time: 9/22/2005 10:48:05 AM
Title: Scripps CEO’s letter re Birmingham Post-Herald
Posted By: Jim Romenesko
September 22, 2005
I have difficult news to share today.
Scripps has announced that The Birmingham Post-Herald will publish its final edition on Friday, Sept. 23.
Paid circulation of the Post-Herald has declined to about 7,500 copies – a level at which it no longer makes economic sense to continue publishing. The time has come, I’m sorry to say, for The Post-Herald to join other great afternoon newspapers that have passed into history.
It’s never an easy decision to extinguish the light of an independent editorial voice, especially one as bright and rich with tradition as The Post-Herald. Sadly, though, newspaper readers in Birmingham have made it clear that they are no longer interested in supporting an afternoon newspaper.
The closing of The Post-Herald will end the joint operating agreement between Scripps and Advance Publications Inc., owner of The Birmingham News, which manages the printing, marketing and distribution of both Birmingham daily newspapers. Terms related to the joint operating agreement’s termination are not being disclosed at this time.
Scripps has developed a comprehensive severance plan for The Post-Herald’s editorial staff. We’re committed to helping our Birmingham employees through a smooth transition to new employment.
For all of us at The E. W. Scripps Company, and for me personally, today is a sad day. Our hope had always been for a different outcome.
Please keep our friends and colleagues in Birmingham in your thoughts and prayers as they begin this period of transition in their lives.
Kenneth W. Lowe
President and Chief Executive Officer
The E. W. Scripps Company