Monthly Archives: October 2005
I wrote last week about Michael Hiltzik, who writes a twice-weekly column for the business section of the Los Angeles Times, starting a blog.
In this morning’s column, he explains why he’s starting his blog and what he hopes to accomplish. I also like his breakdown in differentiating between different types of blogs.
I got an e-mail during the weekend from Qifang Tang, a women who teaches in the Department of Economic Journalism at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. That’s right, an entire department devoted to nothing but economic journalism education. She is interested in coming to this country as a visiting scholar to learn more about American television and new media. She is pursuing a PhD in media management from Fudan University.
From what I could find on the Internet about this school, I’m impressed. They’re teaching their future economics and business reporters the same stuff that they’re teaching their future business leaders. That’s not happening here in the states. It’s hard to get undergraduate students to take courses in accounting, finance and management.
WIll the Chinese eventually outdo us in business journalism? Something to consider.
Silicon Beat, the business news blog at the San Jose Mercury News, celebrated its one-year anniversary on Friday. As near as I can tell, it’s the oldest business news blog out there. The two writers, Matt Marshall and Mike Bazeley, had a nice commentary on the anniversary, asking for advice on how they can make the blog better. They also get a lot of responses from readers, judging by the responses they got from Friday’s post. I also like their advice by asking people to subscribe to the RSS feed.
In addition, their blog has gotten the attention of other media, most notably this Wall Street Journal article.
Becky Bisbee, the business editor at the Seattle Times, also mentioned business news blogs at the Boston and Portland papers in her post on Friday. Here is my assessment:
1. The Boston Globe blog is called the Business Filter, and it’s a compilation of stories from other online media that its digesting for people on the go who don’t have time to surf the Internet looking for cool stuff to read. This is more of your traditional Weblog that attempts to gives its readers a feel for what else is out there in the vast World Wide Web. It’s compiled by Maura Welch, a former Globe writer who is now a contributing author.
2. The Oregonian business blog is called At Work, and it focuses on workplace news. It is written by Brent Hunsberger, who covers the workplace and manufacturing for the paper. I like his blog better. It does cull items from the Internet, but he spices his entries with his opinions and some juicy tidbits about what he’s writing about. I feel like I know more about Brent from reading his blog than I do about the Boston blogger.
I’ve added links to all of these business news blogs in the blogroll located to the right on the home page of Talking Biz News.
I spent some time today at the Charlotte Observer, which was hosting the Knight-Ridder Writers’ Workshop. As part of a panel on writing for the Internet, I was a little surprised at where blogging is heading in the newsroom. It seems to be most common in the entertainment or features section, and less prevalent in other sections of the paper.
In addition, there seems to be an attempt to blog with responsibility within the newsroom. In other words, blog entries are being edited by editors before they are posted online. I like that.
Check out Becky Bisbee’s comment below on the LA Times’ item about other business sections that are blogging these days. They’re mostly on the West Coast. I’ll try to take a look at them this weekend and post something about them.
One more note on Becky: She will be the Business Writer in Residence at the University of Wisconsin the week of Nov. 6. Read all about her trip back to college life here. Don’t get too close to the keg, OK Becky?
According to this item from LA Observed, Michael Hiltzik, who writes a twice-weekly column for the Los Angeles Times’ business section, has started blogging about business. The blog is called “Golden State,” which is also the name of his column, and its slogan is “Business, economics and more with a California edge.”
I’ll be interested to see what Hiltzik blogs about that is different from his column, and how prominent the blog will be promoted on the Web site and in the pages of the paper. But this is the second business news blog I have run across in the past two weeks, with the first being the one at the Greensboro News & Record called Biz Buzz.
At a SABEW conference in Boston a few years ago, Bernie introduced a panel that he and I both sat on as possibly the only time two former people from the Tampa Tribune business desk had ever made it out of the paper alive and sane.
Thought I would check back in at the New Orleans Times-Picayune to see what types of stories they were writing related to the business aspects of Hurricane Katrina.
What I found was a lot of stories discussing the storm’s impact. This morning’s paper had a story about how a lot of local businesses would like to be involved in the cleanup of the aftermath, but they’re having trouble finding employees to work. Another focused on how the Louis Armstrong International Airport had canceled some of its construction projects because the number of flights in and out of the city had decreased dramatically since the hurricane, forcing it to lay off a number of workers and resulting in a drop in its revenues.
On Wednesday, business editor Charles Crumpley chipped in with a story on how leading business executives from New Orleans are lobbying Congress for post-storm financial help. You can find that story here.
And on Sunday, personal finance writer Mary Judice offered tips on where to find cash related to Hurricane Katrina for those who need money. Her column is here.
The rumors that business data information and news wire service company Bloomberg LP is for sale are circulating again. There was a story in the British newspaper The Independent today. In addition, the Wall Street Journal has also written a speculative story about the potential for the company to be sold. Both stories give a ballpark figure of $12 billion or more.
These rumors are nothing new. I worked at Bloomberg from 1997 to 1999, and there were persistent rumors as far back as then that Mike Bloomberg, who is now the New York mayor, wanted to sell his stake in the company and do something else. In recent years, I have often heard from my former colleagues still at the company of persistent rumors. One which has continued to gain traction is that the company would be sold to Microsoft, but at the SABEW convention earlier this year, Bill Gates seemed to downplay any interest in content.
What would happen to the thousand-plus journalists who work at Bloomberg would be interesting if a sale did go through. If Bloomberg was sold to Dow Jones or Reuters, then a lot of those reporters and editors would be duplicative to the reporters and editors already working at those competing wires.
In addition, it’s widely perceived within Bloomberg that the data service that comes in the Bloomberg machine has been funding the journalism operations for years, and that the company gets only a small amount of revenue from its editorial content. The Bloomberg stories, frankly, are used to get the company’s high-paying customers interested in what else the box on their desk can tell them.
I’m a big fan of the concept of Bloomberg and the detailed and well-reported stories that it puts out. I also like the fact that Bloomberg in recent years has been involved in training for business journalists through the Society of Professional Journalists and through putting its terminals into select journalism schools across the country, including Cal-Berkeley, Northwestern, Columbia, Ohio and UNC-Chapel Hill. By exposing journalism students to the Bloomberg terminal at these formative years, they’re creating some interest in business journalism, which is a good thing.
However, it’s an intense place to work, and there has been a lot of burnout among the staff. It’s an editor-driven culture, and that rubs some of the reporters the wrong way at times. There has been a movement by the New York Newspaper Guild to unionize the newsroom there, and you can read some of the comments from current and former workers here.
Still, Bloomberg does pay well, and there are lots of nice perks, like the free food and drinks and the office amenities. And I think it’s a good training ground for young reporters to learn a lot about business reporting in a short amount of time.
I spent some time on Monday talking to reporters and editors who follow the Federal Reserve about the new chairman Ben Bernanke and how he will differ in his dealings with the media compared to outgoing chairman Alan Greenspan, who was one of the most visable people covered in business journalism in the past 18 years.
Here is what some of them had to say:
Brendan Murray, who covers the Fed for Bloomberg in its DC bureau: “Basically, picking Bernanke will be the next chapter in the Fed’s shift to more transparency, which began under Greenspan. The question is will more openness — Bernanke the clear-speaking economic versus Greenspan’s famous obfuscation — help or hurt the fed in its effort to serve several masters: the public, Wall Street, Congress, the White House and so on?”
Peter Coy, who is the economics editor for BusinessWeek: “I think Bernanke will work hard to depersonalize the conduct of monetary policy. In fact, thatâ€™s what I was just told by Frederic Mishkin, a Columbia economist who has worked closely with him. Mishkin thinks the Bernanke appointment is bad for journalists in that weâ€™ll lose a colorful, oracular figure. Bernanke will promote transparency, which deprives journalists of the role of interpreter of the oracle.”
Jodi Schneider, economics editor for Congressional Quarterly: “I’m not sure that coverage of the Fed will change appreciably, at least not from my understanding of Bernanke or his background. I think the Fed apparatus remains largely in place despite who is sitting in the chair, and that while Greenspan gave off-the-record interviews, Bernanke probably will as well. He has written widely, and I’m sure folks will pore over those documents as they look into his record, background. As a respected academic, he does have a trail of work, some of it opinionated, and that I think will make it somewhat easier to cover him as there are opinions, etc., that are there. He does appear more to be the typical academic economist (i.e., not married to a famous, celebrity journalist like Greenspan) and may be lower key.”
Andrew Cassel, who writes a column on the economy for the Philadelphia Inquirer three days a week: “I’ve personally never had an off-the-record interview with Greenspan, although I have heard that he occasionally spoke to a very select number of key reporters for papers such as the WSJ, NYT and Washington Post. (I was in the audience once when he did speak off-the-record to a group of about 30 reporters.) I’ve spoken to Bernanke exactly once, and he frankly wasn’t that helpful or encouraging. If he cared much about what I was writing, he gave no sign of it.
“I can’t imagine that for most of us, covering the Fed will change in any material fashion under Bernanke, because Fed coverage is driven less by what the institution itself does than by the reactions of others, in the financial markets, Congress and academia. We’ll still echo the analysts’ parsing of every word in the FOMC’s policy statements, the wires will still dog every Fed member whenever they speak, and the public will continue to understand very little of what’s said or reported anyway. This will only change if economic conditions become either dramatically better (i.e., another ’90s, style stock-market boom) or dramatically worse. In which case the Fed will become a vital player, scapegoat and populist whipping boy, just like always.”
My interpretation: There is no consensus as to where Bernanke will head in his dealings with the media, which is like Greenspan’s obfuscatory talk and is probably making the outgoing chairman smile today.