Stories by Chris Roush Chris Roush

WSJ’s front-page business news down one-third since Murdoch’s purchase

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Front-page business news stories in The Wall Street Journal have declined by one-third since News Corp. acquired the business newspaper, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The study states, “That, to some degree, reflects the Journal’s move toward a more general interest publication. And some categories of news, such as coverage of government, foreign news involving the U.S. and   lifestyle subjects, have increased noticeably in recent years. Yet attention to other subject areas has fallen. Front-page coverage of health and medicine has been de-emphasized the past few years. Education issues have virtually disappeared from the front pages as has — ironically enough, given the current state of affairs—attention to the media industry.

“When Murdoch bought the Journal, he also made clear his desire to reshape the paper to more directly challenge the New York Times, even reportedly sending Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. a letter declaring: ‘Let the battle begin.’ And when it comes to the news agenda, some differences between the two publications have narrowed noticeably, as a result of what the Journal has both chosen to emphasize and de-emphasize under News Corp. But their front pages are still not the same in topic agenda.

“The clearest change in the Journal’s editorial direction in the past three and a-half years has been a reduction in front-page business coverage. In 2007, that accounted for 30% of the newshole (News Corp. officially took over the paper on December 13, 2007). That fell to 23% in 2008, to 18% in 2010 and 20% thus far in 2011. The one year when coverage spiked — to 32% in 2009 — was marked by the deep recession triggered by a near meltdown on Wall Street.

“At the same time, front-page coverage of the U.S. government has steadily increased, starting in 2009. Government accounted for 3% of the space that began on the front page under the old ownership in 2007, (and fell slightly to 2% in the 2008 election year). But it has more than doubled since, jumping to 7% in 2009 and 2010 and to 8% in 2011 to date.”

Read more here.

Forbes edition to launch in Czech Republic

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Forbes magazine announced that it has struck a partnership that will produce an edition of the business glossy in the Czech Republic.

The launch is being held in Prague, with the first issue being published at the beginning of November 2011.

The content of Forbes Czech Republic will consist of 60 percent Czech business news, commentary and features and 40 percent editorial from Forbes US. The Czech edition will be published monthly.

Petr Šimůnek, one of the most experienced economic journalists in the Czech Republic, has been appointed editor in chief of Forbes Czech Republic.

Forbes also publishes licensee editions in Africa, China, Croatia, Bulgaria, India, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Latvia, Middle East, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Read more here.

The Economist launches Android app

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The Economist launched an application for Android phones on Tuesday, and Cameron Summerson of AndroidPolice.com has a review.

Summerson writes, “This app differs a bit from other publication based apps, as the download is free, and offers free access to editor’s highlights — no subscription required. Naturally, if you are already a subscriber, you can access full cover-to-cover versions of the magazine, download them for offline viewing, switch between reading and listening, and access/download previous issues.

“The Economist app also utilizes in-app purchases for people who only want occasional access. If you see an edition of the mag that you’re interested in, simply grab your device and buy it — no need to buy a full subscription. If you later decide that you want a full subscription, you can buy directly from within the app, too.

“The Economist is available now in the Android Market.”

Read more here.

How the WSJ opinion page has defended its owner

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Max Abelson of Bloomberg News writes that there have been five opinion pieces published so far this week in The Wall Street Journal defending News Corp., its parent.

Abelson writes, “Byron Calame, who joined the Wall Street Journal in September 1965 and was deputy managing editor when he retired from the newspaper in 2004, said it ‘remains to be seen’ if the editorial’s voice resonates with the newspaper’s readers. While it was ‘well-crafted,’ he said, ‘the defensive tone alone was a disappointment.’

“As of 5 p.m. on July 18, the editorial was the second-most- read article on the Wall Street Journal’s website, behind a piece titled ‘Get Ready for a 70% Marginal Tax Rate.’ It was still No. 2 at 5 p.m. yesterday.

“News Corp. closed the News of the World tabloid this month after allegations that its journalists tapped the voicemails of murder victims and paid police officers for stories. Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information.

“The Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages were called ‘the primest real estate in all journalism’ in a column by editorial board member Robert Pollock. He wrote that Murdoch, the company’s 80-year-old chairman and chief executive officer, has imposed ‘no editorial direction.’

“Murdoch told the committee yesterday that while he checks in with editors of his papers on occasion, he doesn’t meddle.”

Read more here.

Biz section celebrates one-year anniversary

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Ted Natt Jr. writes Wednesday about the one-year anniversary of a standalone business section in the Southern Pines Pilot, a North Carolina newspaper.

Natt writes, “But don’t think for a minute that we’re resting on our laurels.

“‘In the future, I’d like to see a little more authoritative analysis of what drives our economy week in and week out,’ Woronoff said. ‘The health care industry is changing. The tourism industry seems to be rebounding, and the retail industry appears to be booming. We need to put that all into context and show our readers how it affects them.’

“While Bouser is also ‘thrilled’ with the new section, he would like to see more balance.

“‘To me, the ideal business page would have a mix of macro- and micro-economic issues,’ he said. ‘We always want readers to be responsive and tell us how we’re doing. But we also want to be proactive and help shape the future debate about the best way for Moore County to grow economically.’

“The last year has been a whirlwind. I attained full-time status with the newspaper last January, adding the health care and Southern Pines beats to my duties. But the Business section will always be closest to my heart.”

Read more here.

Ex-Californian biz editor dies at 88

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Joe Stevenson, a former business editor at the Bakersfield Californian, died Tuesday at the age of 88.

Dianne Hardisty writes, “In his goodbye column 42 years, six months later, Stevenson wrote that he enjoyed his Californian career that included stints as a reporter, assistant city editor, city editor, business editor and columnist.

“‘My favorite interviews have been those that introduce people who’ve had little publicity,’ he wrote, estimating that he interviewed 1,200 people for his ‘How’s Business’ column. He recalled his best column was one that he did not want to write. It was about a businesswoman who died unexpectedly at the age of 39. The donation of her organs saved or improved more than 10 lives.

“Stevenson’s column ‘was the template of its creator,’ said Press. ‘It was newsy and straightforward, and a popular feature of each Sunday’s Californian. Joe loved newspapers, the USC Trojans and the wildflowers on the hillsides along Kern’s highways.’

“Stevenson was known as a trustworthy person in the local business community.

“‘When he interviewed you, he would hardly take any notes. But when you read the story that he would write, it came out right,’ recalled Bakersfield business consultant Sheryl Barbich.”

Read more here.

Traditional journalism critical to understanding debt issue

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Although social media seem to dominate conversations about the future of journalism, the current debt-ceiling impasse underscores the value and importance of traditional journalism, according to Pamela Luecke, a journalism professor at Washington and Lee University.

“I don’t mean to dismiss the power and potential of new forms of journalism,” said Luecke, the Donald W. Reynolds Professor of Business Journalism at W&L. “But this isn’t an easy subject — the debt ceiling, the national debt, the deficit, budget issues. These are not topics that can be condensed to 140 characters on Twitter. This is where mature, seasoned journalists who understand economics, who understand the political process, really come into the spotlight.

“There has been a trend toward news websites and organizations aggregating information and thinking that is sufficient for the journalism we need to have a free and democratic society,” she continued. “This is a prime example of where you need people who understand complexity and can translate that to the general public.”

In Luecke’s view, the national print media, especially The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, have been doing an excellent and exhaustive job of covering the story for many months. The story is not as easy for much of television news, she added, because it does not lend itself to short sound bites, and television’s use of pundits and partisans simply adds to the polarization.

Read more here.

Why the WSJ discount when hiring biz journalists may no longer exist

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Daniel Gross writes Tuesday about the long-range ramifications for The Wall Street Journal as a result of the phone hacking scandal currently ensnaring its parent company, News Corp.

Gross writes, “The Wall Street Journal, long (and still) the elite business publication in the U.S., never paid top-of-the-market salaries in New York media circles. Newspapers generally had pay scales less than magazines. And like the New York Times, the Journal offered good benefits, long tenure, pleasant working conditions and, above all, prestige. (It’s a lot easier getting your phone call returned when you work for the Journal than when you work for Plastics News.)

“But other media organizations are stepping up by investing in content (Yahoo!, Huffington Post, CNBC, Bloomberg and Reuters). And in New York in 2011, prestige can’t pay rent or private school tuition. Add to it the fact that the Journal is becoming a little less prestigious, in part due to shenanigans elsewhere in the Murdoch empire, and suddenly that outside offer can be quite compelling. In the years since Murdoch took over, the Journal has lost many of its stars to Bloomberg, Reuters, the New York Times, ProPublica and Fortune. The Journal used to get a discount on labor. Now, increasingly, it has to meet the market. And it may have to exceed it.

“That’s already the case at Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. Whether you think it’s fair or not, much of the rest of the industry sees Fox News Channel as operating in a different sphere: more ideological, less serious, lower standards, more prone to clownish gaffes, and less respect among the people that matter to them. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in Fox’s coverage of the hacking affair. (Fox & Friends team recently suggested we move on because lots of companies are victims of hacking. The hosts seemed not to grasp that the News Corp. unit was the one doing the hacking). A gig on Fox is less prestigious than one at CNN or ABC. It’s common for people to go from CNN to Fox, but not the other way, Kieran Chetry notwithstanding. Fox News has to pay above-the-market salaries to attract and retain talent. The same holds for Fox Business Channel, though in its case it has to pay a premium largely because its audience is so much smaller than CNBC and other cable news outfits.”

Read more here.

WSJ staffers say NYT column unfair, but questions raised about Thomson

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Michael Calderone of The Huffington Post writes Tuesday about the reaction from staffers at The Wall Street Journal to New York Times columnist Joe Nocera‘s take down of the paper this weekend, while questions are being raised as to whether Journal managing editor Robert Thomson should be overseeing the paper’s coverage of the News Corp. phone hacking scandal given his friendship with CEO Rupert Murdoch.

Calderone writes, “Still, the idea that Thomson could be promoted as a result of the current scandal adds another potentional conflict of interest. (Four years ago, I questionedthen editor-at-large Paul Steiger’s role in overseeing coverage of Murdoch’s takeover, given the financial gains he’d reap if the deal closed.)

“Thomson hasn’t recused himself when it comes to Murdoch-related coverage, even as the phone hacking scandal’s ensnared executives he’s worked with for years. Thomson declined to comment for this article, and Journal staffers spoke on a not-for-attribution basis because they’re not authorized to speak on the paper’s behalf. But when asked about Thomson’s role in coverage, a spokesperson responded: ‘As with all major stories, coverage is overseen by the relevant teams — in this case out of London and New York — with involvement from multiple editors, including the managing editor, as appropriate.’

“So far, Thomson and deputy Gerard Bakerwho worked as a conservative columnist before becoming the paper’s second-in-command — have been hands on. The Daily Beast recently described a conference call between Baker and London bureau chief Bruce Orwall in which the deputy reportedly signaled support for Rebekah Brooks, the News International chief who resigned Friday and was then arrested in connection with the phone hacking scandal. From that, it might be assumed that Journal staffers are being hamstrung.

“But several Journal staffers say Thomson and Baker have actually been pushing for more coverage as the scandal’s grown bigger. On Friday, both Thomson and Baker discussed hitting the major story from a variety of angles, according to staffers with knowledge of the editorial conference call.”

Read more here.

Tech journalists and the Murdoch hearings

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Dan Mitchell of SFWeekly wonders why many tech and business journalists are spending so much time covering the News Corp. phone hacking hearings in England.

Mitchell writes, “I’ll give media reporters a pass, I suppose (and yet, even there, what’s the point?). But why are general business columnists and bloggers, technology journalists, and U.S. political writers spending their mornings hijacking my tech-news Twitter feed?

“Some of my favorite writers are doing this — Felix Salmon, who covers finance. Larry Magid, who covers geeky tech stuff, and even Jim Fallows, who writes about a wide variety of subjects including China, Microsoft, and the Obama Administration. The technology site AllThingsD (run by Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal) is live-blogging the hearings, as if they were on a par with John Dean revealing the crimes committed by the Nixon Administration.

“Blogger Kara Swisher is even calling the scandal (ugh) ‘PhoneGate.’

“To some degree, I suppose, people are simply doing this because they can. Twitter, for example, is still a new mode of dissemination, and much of this is simply people playing around with it to see how it should be used. I would guess that in five years, if Twitter or something like it still exists, there will be relatively little ‘live-tweeting’ of relatively mundane events.

“Still. All that’s happening here is that a couple of execs are lying and covering their asses. It’s news, but it’s not earth-shattering news. Certainly, having tech reporters whose usual beats are Cisco and Google cover it is more than a bit of a stretch. But clearly, ‘the Internet’ is ‘reacting’ to it, so.”

Read more here.