Monthly Archives: December 2006
Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz wrote a letter in Saturday’s paper about the upcoming changes to the business newspaper, which will begin Jan. 2.
Crovitz said, “Some of you wrote to be sure we won’t do anything to reduce the high standards of the Journal. We understand the concern at a time when so many once-authoritative news outlets have fallen to ‘journalism lite,’ with fads and entertainment as news. Rest assured — as others dumb down, we intend to increase the amount of exclusive, highly distinctive coverage in the Journal. We know you seek real substance. Besides, that’s the only kind of journalism we know.
“Others assumed we’d retain our seriousness of purpose, but hoped the Journal would retain its distinctive look. Early focus groups of readers saw prototypes testing significant changes just in case that’s what readers wanted. But as one of my news colleagues said, ‘You asked us to push the design envelope and the envelope pushed back.’ That is, readers and prospective subscribers told us what we hoped to hear: To embrace the iconic Journal and not make change for the sake of change. You won’t find large photos or graphics just to serve design. I hope you’ll agree the new design reinforces the distinctive look of the Journal.
“Some of you were concerned that our added emphasis on ‘what the news means,’ beyond just ‘what happened’ the day before, could result in opinion or speculative analysis replacing even-handed news reporting. Our approach remains rock-solid. We’ll have more exclusive, unique news coverage, but opinion remains the exclusive domain of our editorial pages. Indeed, our efforts to maintain fairness and accuracy have long made the Journal the most trusted publication in the country, according to independent opinion surveys.”
Crovitz finished by saying, “Expect our hallmark to remain unchanged: The seriousness of our journalistic purpose in informing the world’s most discriminating readers, delivering substance and knowledge in an age of often declining standards. For 2007 and beyond, we renew our resolve to deliver real depth and understanding, as the Journal stands apart and often alone.”
Crovitz also revealed some of the new features in the paper. “We’re proud next week to launch new features to help you get the most from the Journal. On the second page of the front section, coverage of the economy will include ‘Today’s Agenda.’ This gives advance notice of news yet to be reported, guiding you to the meaning behind headlines you hear during the day. The new ‘In Brief’ feature will summarize key news of the day on pages focused on particular industries and news topics. We’re adding a new ‘Corporate Focus’ page in the front section. The ‘Pepper…and Salt’ cartoon, a hallmark of the Journal for over 50 years, returns to the editorial page, every day.”
Read more here.
Marek Fuchs of TheStreet.com points out that the business media have begun writing about the housing market as if it’s about to turn around when that may not be the case.
Fuchs wrote, “The Business Press Maven is always highly critical of the business media for allowing a pattern of three to qualify as a trend. But apparently now two can do the deed. The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes blipped up 0.6% in November, following a 0.5% increase in October.
“How did those modest little facts play?
“In its lead, the Associated Press declared that ‘the worst of the downturn for the battered housing market may be over.’ Lower down, it hedges, mentioning those ever-present and always plural ‘analysts’ who say that ‘this year’s slide in housing is starting to bottom out.’ The Business Press Maven seconds that with his first-ever ironclad guarantee. After all, with today being the last business day of the year, the housing market doesn’t have too much longer to slide in 2006.
“Reuters also ushers in a new era of stability, at least on paper (or, more accurately, in pixels), with what passes as reason: Wall Street was wrong, so it is right. ‘The National Association of Realtors said the pace of existing home sales rose 0.6 percent in November to a 6.28 million-unit annual rate, defying Wall Street forecasts for sales to ease slightly and providing the latest suggestion that housing activity was stabilizing after a steep drop.’ The AP even adds vestiges of housing-market insanity, disguised as a qualifier: ‘However, [analysts] cautioned not to expect a sharp rebound.’
“Even the 800-pound gorilla of conventional thought, The Wall Street Journal, got in on the revival act right there in a headline: ‘Home Sales Bode Well for Big Picture: Second Consecutive Rise Points to Limited Fallout From Market Slump in 2007.’ By only the fifth paragraph, we are in the thick of an imaginary scenario: ‘If the housing slump is indeed bottoming out and starts to reverse itself in the months ahead, it would…’
Read more here.
The Staten Island Advance plans to drop its Saturday Money section and focus more on local coverage, according to a short story in the paper on Saturday.
What that means is that the paper is adding an additional business reporter.
The story stated, “Business Editor Stephannia Cleaton will direct the coverage, and Bart Horowitz will become senior business writer for the newspaper, in addition to writing his weekly column — Business UpClose — each Wednesday.
“In order to concentrate on local business news, the Advance will discontinue the Money section on Saturdays, including the weekly stock roundup. Feature material from that section will be included on the business pages throughout the week. Because of rapid technological advances, stock listings are available on a seven-day, 24-hour basis from a variety of sources and the Advance feels it more important to devote resources to daily business news reports you cannot get anywhere else.”
Read more here.
With the daily business newspapers deciding what it would do on Tuesday due to the closing of the stock markets to honor the death of former president Gerald Ford, CNBC says it will have seven hours of live programming taking a look at 2007.
The release stated, “Beginning at 9 AM ET, each hour of ’7 For ’07′ will focus on what the New Year will hold for investors across every imaginable sector and industry.
“Following the regular three-hour live edition of ‘Squawk Box’ (6-9 AM), each CNBC program–’Squawk on the Street’ (9-10 AM), ‘Morning Call’ (10 AM-Noon), ‘Power Lunch’ (Noon-2 PM), ‘Street Signs’ (2-3 PM) and a special one-hour edition of ‘Closing Bell’ (3-4 PM)–will originate from CNBC Global Headquarters. This will be followed by a special two-hour live edition of ‘Kudlow & Company’ (4-6 PM) with Larry Kudlow.
“‘Mad Money w/Jim Cramer’ (6-7 PM) and ‘On the Money’ (7-8 PM) will air as scheduled. ‘On the Money’ will feature a live recap of the day in business news, the funeral of President Gerald R. Ford, and a look ahead to 2007. (The financial markets in the U.S. are closed in observance of the National Day of Mourning for President Ford.) John Harwood, CNBC Chief Washington Correspondent, and Hampton Pearson will cover President Ford’s funeral.
“Tuesday’s coverage will feature CNBC correspondents reporting on critical sectors, including Diana Olick on real estate, Phil LeBeau on the automotive industry, Sharon Epperson on CNBC’s exclusive energy survey, Darren Rovell on the business of sports and Julia Boorstin on the media industries.”
Read more here.
The decision by the Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange to close trading on Jan. 2 in observance of the death of former president Gerald Ford has put business editors in a tough spot as to what they do with their section on Wednesday, Jan. 3.
Tim Steller, business editor of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, explains. He wrote, “One thing that I’m dealing with today, and that I assume a lot of other biz editors are confronting, is what to do with Wednesday’s section. The U.S. markets are going to be closed unexpectedly Tuesday for Gerald Ford’s services.
“So, for those of us who still have significant stock and market listings (we have almost 2 pages), do we convert to our usual post-holiday treatment (1 page inside Metro) or do we go with our usual Monday size (4-page section). We definitely won’t be going with the usual 6-page Wednesday section.”
Andre Jackson, the business editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said, “We’ve downsized newshole a bit to accommodate the closed markets, meaning our section will likely appear inside either metro or sports, as it does on other market holidays.”
Stephen Keating, the business editor at the Denver Post, said that because his paper cut its stock listings earlier this year and now provides that data on its web site, there will be no changes to the section. “Lacking market activity Tuesday will slow the national business news flow, but we’ll have a full reporting staff to chase stories for Wednesday’s business section,” he said. “Our individual stock and fund listings are on the web, not in the newspaper, so we don’t expect any changes to news hole.”
John Kroll, deputy business editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, said his paper will maintain its standalone-section status. “No nuance to the decision; I made it as soon as Nasdaq made the call,” he said. “I was the only editor in the department yesterday and today.We drop a little more than a page which would normally have been filled with market info. But we always maintain a section front and some space inside. We’ll have our full staff back on Tuesday, and I suspect we’ll have year-end wire copy left over to use no matter how quiet the news is.”
Tom Griscom, editor and publisher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, said his paper will handle the Wednesday business section like Tuesday. He said, “With the markets closed for the holiday, we will have a four-page business section in the Times Free Press on Tuesday. The same will apply to Wednesday. There will be additional business news in print and online on both days. With a scaled down staff on Monday, we made sure our page layout staff was aware of the additional four-page section.”
Mary Cornatzer, the business editor at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., said her paper hasn’t made a decision yet.
“We can’t do a four page section on the presses, and I don’t think I have the reporting resources or the wire news to fill a 6 page section without stocks,” she said. “We may be 2 or 3 pages behind Sports, which is what we often do when the market is closed. But I’m still awaiting a decision.”
What are others doing? One business editor told me off the record that he’s trying to maintain as many pages as possible so that the section doesn’t seem dispensable when the markets are closed.
Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger has had to address concerns among the journalists at the paper after the Journal ran a story earlier this month about jet ownership that mentioned a number of the paper’s advertisers, Women’s Wear Daily reported.
Irin Carmon wrote, “The Wall Street Journal is clearly still learning the potential pitfalls of lifestyle journalism. A story on fractional jet ownership in the Dec. 13 Personal Journal section caused several staffers, including senior editors, to cry foul and resulted in managing editor Paul Steiger having to defend that the piece didn’t breach the paper’s historically strict ethical standards between editorial and advertising.
“The article, ‘Crunch Time for Fractional Jet Owners,’ by Candace Jackson, started on the section’s front page, below the fold, and reported on how fractional jet ownership companies were ‘struggling to keep up with surging demand.’ Then the perceived hiccup occurred: Four fractional jet companies advertised on the page to which Jackson’s article jumped â€” and three of the advertisers were mentioned in the article, among others.
“While visiting the Washington bureau a few days after the story appeared, Steiger heard enough complaints to raise the issue at his regular 4 p.m. news meeting and conference call, which a source said lasted about twice the normal duration. There, the managing editor defended the practice, noting the piece had been reported, written and edited independently, without knowledge of which companies would advertise.”
Read more here.
Editor & Publisher is a long piece taking a look at the changes that will occur at The Wall Street Journal next week. Perhaps the most interesting part of the story for business journalists at the paper is near the end, when the discussion turns to staffing levels.
Jennifer Saba wrote, “If [publisher Gordon] Crovitz has his way, he plans to buck the trend of gutting the newsroom. He thinks the new Journal and reorganization of the company will allow Dow Jones to maintain staffing levels. Zannino has been saying the same thing: He told his paper when he was appointed chief officer that Dow Jones “can’t expense its way to profitability.” (Zannino declined to be interviewed for this story.)
“As for the intentions of keeping the newsroom fat and happy, some staffers are cynical. For unionized employees — which means practically everyone at Dow Jones, save management and security guards — it could come down to another nasty fight similar to the long negotiations and byline strike that occurred three years ago. The current contract expires in January 2007, and both sides have submitted outlines. The negotiations are still in the early stages, but already union members have stopped making appearances on CNBC (to which Dow Jones provides content) due to the shaky nature of the talks thus far.
“Management ‘made some very draconian proposals,’ says E.S. ‘Jim’ Browning, a 27-year staff reporter at the Journal who is chairman of the bargaining committee for the union. Browning was so incensed by the previous negotiations that he and other reporters decided to get more involved with the union.
“Management’s first stab at a contract includes the doubling of annual health care premiums, meager wage increases of 2% a year (which doesn’t even keep up with inflation, Browning notes), and the elimination of the seniority protection clause (first hired, last fired).
“Steve Yount, president of the Independent Association of Publisher’s Employees (IAPE) and a news anchor on Wall Street Journal radio, is cautioning management where to make cuts. ‘It’s one thing to tell people to share a printer,’ he says. ‘It’s quite another to ravage health care.’
“Yount hasn’t written anyone off yet. ‘I think Gordon Crovitz is a very good man, and is honest about preserving the quality of the Wall Street Journal and all the products at Dow Jones’ he says. ‘From everything Gordon has told me, I have no reason to believe he is not serious.’
“Some newsroom staffers, however, are afraid that the Journal 3.0 concept is less about transformation and more about dealing with cost-cutting measures. Several reporters who did not want to be named said they are doubtful they will get more time to write long-form journalism, especially since the paper is losing space. They fear that all Journal 3.0 will amount to is more work on more platforms.”
Read more here.
The president and CEO of Oreck Manufacturing is challenging a quote attributed to him in a story in the Tennessean, the daily newspaper in Nashville, that was later reprinted in the Sun Herald newspaper in Mississippi.
J.R. Welsh, a reporter for the Sun Herald, wrote, “The letter, originally sent to Sun Herald executives, was distributed to Oreck employees in Long Beach, Metairie, La., and Cookeville. In the correspondence, company president Tom Oreck criticized the Sun Herald’s reporting on his company, but did not elaborate on alleged inaccuracies.
“The newspaper has written extensively about the relocation and the fact that Oreck Corp. has been given numerous incentives worth millions of dollars by Harrison County government since 1997. The incentives were allowed under state law.
“Oreck also criticized the Sun Herald for reprinting a quote attributed to him by the Nashville Tennessean. That newspaper quoted him citing employee losses after Hurricane Katrina, and saying Oreck’s Long Beach employees no longer constituted ‘a productive work force.’
“Oreck said in the letter, ‘We notified the Tennessean that the statement… was a misquote and completely incorrect.’
“Randy McClain, acting business editor at The Tennessean, said Thursday his newspaper was never directly contacted by Oreck or the company.
“McClain said the reporter who had quoted Oreck was contacted by a Chicago public relations executive representing Oreck Manufacturing. She suggested a follow-up story on Oreck, but did not request a correction, McClain said. He added that a decision was made not to write a follow-up. McClain said The Tennessean stands by the quote and the story.”
Read more here.
Yes, I am once again succumbing to the easy temptation of a list, an odious form of journalism that I don’t like.
But the people, they seem to like these lists. So here are the top 10 events in business journalism for 2006:
10. The failure of business journalists to accurately report about the holiday shopping season. Maybe it’s because this is fresh on my mind, but this web site has been full of comment after comment about publications totally missing the boat. Sales were lackluster at best, but you wouldn’t know that from the fawning coverage that was typically given retailers. Are we that gullible?
9. The legal battle between Donald Trump and New York Times business journalist Timothy O’Brien. Trump has sued O’Brien, who wrote a book about Trump claiming that he wasn’t the billionaire he claimed to be. Round One went to Trump, who convinced a judge that O’Brien should disclose his sources of Trump’s net worth. Should that actually happen, then the ruling would have a chilling effect on business journalism sources.
8. A new managing editor at Fortune. While dozens of daily business sections changed editors in the past 12 months, no change is more important than the naming of Andy Serwer as the new ME at Fortune, replacing Eric Pooley, because of the publications stature as one of biz journalism’s flagship publications. Serwer’s task is to rebuild morale among some staffers who didn’t like Pooley’s style and keep Fortune’s writing and reporting among the best in business journalism at a time when it is seeing increased competition from new and old magazines.
7. Changes at Reuters, including a new editor in chief. The new editor, David Schlesinger, is an American, and he’s pushed the wire to be more involved in ‘participatory’ journalism. In addition, the wire has begun offering a service to subscribers that allows them to buy and sell stocks based on specific news stories. Reuters seems to be making changes to adapt to the new world in journalism.
6. The new publications. Despite the overall malaise in the print journalism world, business publications are proliferating. Two new biz magazines, American and Dealmaker, made their debuts in 2006. Crain Communications started Financial Week, while Conde Nast will unveil Portfolio, a new glossy monthly, in April 2007. In addition, Fox News is expected to roll out its business news cable channel later in 2007. Let’s face it, business journalism is a growth industry.
5. The overhaul at the Washington Post biz desk. Not only did a number of well-known bylines depart due to a buyout, but the AME/business, Jill Dutt, left for another job at the paper, meaning deputy Sandy Sugawara moved up to the top slot. In addition, a new business editor and tech editor were also named at the paper. The Post’s biz section is closely watched in the industry because of its coverage, particularly on regulatory issues.
4. The unveiling of the new CNBC.com web site. The business news cable channel has previously been an afterthought in providing business news and information on the Internet, with web sites such as TheStreet.com, Marketwatch and others garnering much of the traffic. But its new web site, unveiled in early December, ups the ante for all of those aiming for visits and page hits in the business journalism world.
3. The overhaul at Dow Jones. I’m not just talking about the new CEO of the company, Richard Zannino, or the new publisher at the flagship Wall Street Journal, Gordon Crovitz. But the entire company is changing how it gathers business news and information and how it’s presented to the public, beginning with an overhaul of the Journal on Jan. 2. In addition, current contract negotiations with union journalists could mean further changes.
2. The decision to cut stock listings from printed newspapers. While many papers continue to offer this data on their websites, the slashing of pages from the biz section means a loss in stature for the business desk in the newsroom. In addition, at some papers it means a smaller news hole for business stories.
1. The disclosure that Hewlett-Packard tried to discover what board member was leaking information to reporters who covered the company by spying on the business journalists. This news not only cost the H-P chairman her job but got her indicted.
More importantly, it showed business journalists that their stories and tactics are closely followed by those in the executive suite. It also shows the steps that others will take to prevent us from doing our jobs. Let the battle continue.
Have a happy new year, and let’s all hope 2007 brings a renewed interest among media companies in covering business news.
What’s interesting is that when I look back at the top 10 list for the first six months of the year, only two events — the cutting of stock listings and the changes at the Post — were repeats.
In other words, there’s been a lot of serious issues and changes facing business journalism, and those changes are happening at a fast pace.
Dominic Jones, writing on the IRWebReport.com web site, waxes about how the SEC fell into the same trap with business journalists that many companies it’s supposed to regulate have done — make a major announcement on a late Friday.
The SEC decided to announce on the Friday before Christmas that it was going to allow companies to report lower pay amounts for corporate executives in their upcoming shareholder reports.
Jones believes that the trick is so well known by reporters that they now look for late Friday announcements.
Jones wrote, “Unfortunately for the SEC, the fact that the announcement came late on the Friday before Christmas raises questions about why the change wasnâ€™t done more openly.
“So itâ€™s really not that surprising to see headlines like the one below from Dow Jones today:
“In it the SECâ€™s ‘last-minute decision to reverse course’ and ‘loosen’ the rules is heavily criticized by Rep. Barney Frank, incoming chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who labels the regulatory u-turn ‘regrettable’ and says it underscores the need for congress to act against the ‘problem of executive compensation.’
“The New York Times draws attention to the timing of the SEC announcement. In the storyâ€™s first paragraph, the paper describes it as ‘a move announced late on the last business day before Christmas’ as if that is a highly relevant fact.
“Of course, there was lots of space in todayâ€™s paper after the long weekend so the article itself provides a thorough review of the rule change and its implications. (Another reason not to issue bad news on Friday.) Both SEC chairman Christopher Cox and division of corporation finance director John White were interviewed for the Times article.”
Read more here.