Monthly Archives: November 2005
Charles Crumpley, who has been the business editor at the Times-Picayune in New Orleans during hurricanes Katrina and Rita, is leaving the paper at the end of the year to become the editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal, according to this post at LA Observed.
Crumpley is a SABEW board member, and he is truly one of the nice guys in the business journalism industry. He kept his staff together in New Orleans after the hurricanes despite damage to his own home, and I thought they did a great job in chronicling the business angle of the disaster. He also chronicled the week of a business editor for the Donald W. Reynolds National Center at www.businessjournalism.org.
Charlie came from Kansas City. He had been Money editor of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans since 2002. He had been business editor at The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City from 1999-2002, and before that he had been the senior financial writer at The Kansas City Star. Crumpley has won four national journalism awards and he was a Fulbright scholar in 1990-91.
If you’re looking to become business editor at a metropolitan newspaper, New Orleans now has an opening.
I woke up Monday morning to a breathless report on NBC-TV’s “Today” show about Cyber Monday being the biggest online shopping day of the year. Later in the day, I saw other online reports about this shopping event, which equates to Black Friday for the retailers.
Here are some of those stories:
1. Reuters story available here.
2. CNN/Money story available here.
3. Video of an MSNBC story can be found here. After going to this page, look on the right-hand side of the page where it says MSNBC TV Video and click launch.
4. Chicago Sun-Times story available here.
There are many others. Just set your Google or Yahoo! search to “Cyber Monday” and read all of the stories.
Only, Cyber Monday doesn’t exist in reality, according to some actual reporting done by a reporter at BusinessWeek, Robert Hof. His excellent debunking of this myth can be read here. He notes that Cyber Monday is only the 12th-best online shopping day. Wow. So where did these other stories come from?
How does a story like this gain legs? Is it the public relations spin from the Internet retailers, or their association? Or are reporters hearing about this supposed “phenomenon” once and then believing it as the gospel?
Maybe this myth is about to be busted. I see where Red Herring is also noting that this story is just PR spin. It’s story is available here.
I have added more business news blogs to the blogroll for Talking Biz News. Among the new blogs added are the ones for Fast Company Now, Daniel Gross’ Moneyblog and the Squawk Blog from CNBC. There is also now a link to Deal Flow, a BusinessWeek blog about the world of IPOs and venture capital.
A quick review: I like the blogs from BW and from Gross. They are up to date and have some interesting info. The CNBC blog’s most-recent entry is a press release. Ugh. The other posts are old. The Fast Company blog looks OK, but I’m not a techie so I wasn’t into it that much.
There are links to all of these on the blogroll.
Very rarely in business journalism do you see an instance of one prominent media outlet reporting on a business story and then another prominent media outlet reporting on the same story but essentially saying that the other media outlet got it wrong.
But that’s the case with the coverage of money manager Private Capital Management’s attempt to force newspaper chain Knight-Ridder to sell the company to another newspaper chain.
Here are the particulars:
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the operators of PCM stood to receive a bonus payment of $300 million if it was able to keep Knight-Ridder’s stock at a high level — either through a sale of the company or other means. The story can be read here. The implication in the story was that the money managers were forcing the sale to ensure their big payday.
But now, business journalism heavyweight Allan Sloan, whose piece in this morning’s Washington Post basically refutes everything that was said in the Journal story. Sloan notes that the $300 million payment to the PCM guys is not based on how well the portfolio performs, but how much revenue the money manager generates for its owner, Legg Mason.
Said Sloan: “[T]he timing of [PCM manager Bruce] Sherman’s campaign against Knight Ridder, which became public on Nov. 1, has nothing to do with performance targets. Rather, I think, it has to do with Knight Ridder’s bylaws, which had a late November deadline for nominating dissident candidates for the company’s board. On Nov. 13, the company changed its bylaws and made the deadlines much later, a victory for Sherman.”
I wonder if the Journal will run another story correcting its earlier story, or simply write a correction. The problem with running stories like this in many cases is that the principals involved don’t talk, which forces the journalists to often make a leap of faith in interpreting what they’re reading in the public documents. While the Journal story shed some light on PCM’s operations, it was Newsweek’s Sloan who got the story right.
I found this on the blog of a college student. I do not know the name of the college or the name of the student. But I thought this was an interesting definition of the business journalism course he/she is taking.
“To be honest, I know what business journalism is. I know itâ€™s going to teach us how to write for the business section of broadsheets. It also means that we should have good command of English and be well endowed with technical economic terms. To put it profoundly, it means that I canâ€™t score notable success in this fucking subject because Iâ€™m only familiar with the stupidest words in the language. Hell, I donâ€™t even remember reading one single business article from the first to the last letter regardless how short. If somebodyâ€™s going to ask me to write something about it I guess Iâ€™m better off selling crack. I could only imagine the tireless resourcefulness of people who are in this vocation. Besides that, they must be mad boring people. Not that Iâ€™m not boring butâ€¦”
The entire posting can be found here.
I think I’ll ask the students in my Business Reporting class to define it next month on the first day.
Let me pose this question: Is this typical of what people considering going into journalism think about writing about business? Based on my experience, I think that’s the case, but then they’re pleasantly surprised after a semester of writing about people and digging through SEC filings that it’s actually kind of interesting.
I agree with the “tireless resourcefulness.” But the boring mad? Hey, not some of the crazy business journalists I know. Like the guy in Tampa who sat next to his fellow reporter and threatened to cut his red tie off because he’d worn it for too many days in a row. Or the guy in Tampa who chanted a reporter’s name loudly as his co-worker tried to make it through a phone interview.
Mad, yes. Boring, definitely not.
The story was in the Wall Street Journal this morning. You can read it here.
This does not surprise me. Many newspapers have cut their stock listings in the past few years, and some papers only run the stocks that are widely held in their area. But the big metropolitan papers have always run a complete stock price listing. It’s been one of the backbones of the business sections in these cities.
I fear that cutting the stock listings means a smaller news hole for many business sections, which means fewer stories and fewer business reporters. And that can not be a good thing for us.
In the Dec. 15, 2005 issue of the New York Review of Books, which is now available online, there is a commentary by Michael Massing called The Press: The Enemy Within. The thesis of the commentary is that much of the media’s problems are due to their own problems.
When it comes to business journalism, Massing says this:
“At no time since before the New Deal, perhaps, has corporate America had so much power and so much influence in Washington. Between 1998 and 2004, the amount of money spent on lobbying the federal government doubled to nearly $3 billion a year, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a watchdog group. The US Chamber of Commerce alone spent $53 million in 2004. During the last six years, General Motors has spent $48 million and Ford $41 million. Before joining the Bush White House, chief of staff Andrew Card worked as a lobbyist for the big auto companies. To what extent have such payments and activities contributed to the virtual freeze on the fuel-efficiency standards that have long been in effect in the US and which have helped to produce the current oil crisis? More generally, how have corporations used their extraordinary wealth to win tax breaks, gain no-bid contracts, and bend administrative rules to their liking? On November 10, The Wall Street Journal ran a probing front-page piece about how the textile industry, through intensive lobbying, won quotas on Chinese importsâ€”an example of the type of analysis that far too rarely appears in our leading publications. “Wall Street’s influence in Washington has been one of the most undercovered areas in journalism for decades,” according to Charles Lewis, the former director of the Center for Public Integrity.
“Of course, corporations are extensively covered in the business sections of most newspapers. These began growing in size in the 1970s and 1980s, and today The New York Times has about sixty reporters assigned to business. The Times, along with The Wall Street Journal, runs many stories raising questions about corporate behavior. For the most part, though, the business sections are addressed to members of the business world and are mainly concerned to provide them with information they can use to invest their money, manage their companies, and understand Wall Street trends. Reflecting this narrow focus, the business press in the 1980s largely missed the savings and loan scandal. In the 1990s, it published enthusiastic reports on the high-tech boom, then watched in bafflement as it collapsed. Of the hundreds of American business reporters, only oneâ€”Fortune’s Bethany McLeanâ€”had the independence and courage to raise questions about the high valuation of Enron’s stock. The criminal activities in recent years of not only Exxon but also WorldCom, Tyco, Adelphia, and other corporate malefactors have largely been exposed not by the business press but by public prosecutors; and the fate of the companies involved, and of those who were damaged by their lies, has been only fitfully followed up.
“While business sections grow larger, the labor beat remains very solitary. In contrast to the many reporters covering business, the Times has only one, Steven Greenhouse, writing full-time about labor and workplace issues. (Several other Times reporters cover labor-related issues as part of their beats.) Greenhouse seems to be everywhere at once, reporting on union politics, low-wage workers, and corporate labor practices. More than any other big-city reporter, he has called attention to Wal-Mart’s Dickensian working conditions. Yet he could surely use some help. When, for instance, General Motors recently announced that it was scaling back health benefits for its workforce, the story appeared on the Times’s front page for a day, then settled back into the business section, where it was treated as another business story. As a result, the paper has largely overlooked the painful social effects that the retrenchments at GM, the auto-parts company Delphi, and other manufacturing concerns have had on the Midwest. More generally, the staffs of our top news organizations, who tend to be well-paid members of the upper middle class living mostly on the East and West Coasts, have limited contact with blue-collar America and so provide only sporadic coverage of its concerns.
“This summer, Nancy Cleeland, after more than six years as the lone labor reporter at the Los Angeles Times, left her beat. She made the move “out of frustration,” she told me. Her editors “really didn’t want to have labor stories. They were always looking at labor from a management and business perspectiveâ€”’how do we deal with these guys?’” In 2003, Cleeland was one of several reporters on a three-part series about Wal-Mart’s labor practices that won the Times a Pulitzer Prize. That, she had hoped, would convince her editors of the value of covering labor, but in the end it didn’t, she says. “They don’t consider themselves hostile to working-class concerns, but they’re all making too much money to relate to the problems that working-class people are facing,” observed Cleeland, who is now writing about high school dropouts. Despite her strong urging, the paper has yet to name anyone to replace her. (Russ Stanton, the Los Angeles Times’s business editor, says that the paper did value Cleeland’s reporting, as shown by her many front-page stories. However, with his section recently losing six of its forty-eight reporters and facing more cuts, he said, her position is unlikely to be filled anytime soon.)”
I have long been a critic of the lack of true labor reporting within our newspapers. By true labor reporting I don’t mean workplace issues. I mean writing about unions and actual problems that face the blue-collar worker, which most in the media seem to be out of touch with. Massing sums it up nicely here.
I have been harping on the blog for the past few weeks about how the business press hasn’t been aggressively covering the looming oil crisis — and I’m not talking about rising prices at the pump. I am talking about the fact that we’ve gotten close to using up half of the planet’s supply of oil, yet no one seems worried.
Finally, there was this story in USA Today this morning about some people in the industry beginning to take a serious look. Read it here.
And for more, pick up the book The Empty Tank.
The CJR Daily blog has an excellent analysis of how some business media didn’t just take what Microsoft was spoonfeeding them in covering the debut of the new Xbox 360 game console. You can read it here.
If I can add in my own unscientific 2 cents, it would be this: I have two boys, ages 13 and 9. They are serious gamers, and my house includes every game console known to man, including the Sega Dreamcast that came out before they were BORN! However, neither of my kids has expressed an interest in getting the new Xbox 360. From what they have seen, they don’t think that it’s much better than the Xbox they already have.
Right now, they’re sitting up in their hotel room playing their PlayStation 2. What they’re really waiting for is the PS3 due out in 2006.
Here is a compilation of day after Thanksgiving shopping stories that I found online this evening:
1. CNN.com’s headline focused on the bargains that retailers were already offering in its story here.
2. The CBS News story online also focused on the bargains as well as estimates from some of the largest retailers that crowds this year were bigger than last year’s official first day of shoppinin its story here.
3. Fox News currently is using the same story as CNN on its home page. See here.
4. The New York Times already has a staff-written story on its Web site. I like the focus about how worried retailers opened earlier than normal this year and that Kmart was actually open on Thanksgiving. Its story is here.
My wife was out this morning at 6 a.m. It’s a tradition for her. Since we are on a vacation, the boys and I got out later, and I was able to get one present bought for her without her noticing.
Anybody find any unique shopping stories in their local media? If so, let me know.
Remember my tips for covering retailing during Christmas in a unique way.