Tag Archives: Commentary

Bloomberg View

Bloomberg View hires El-Erian as daily columnist

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Bloomberg View announced Monday that Mohamed A. El-Erian is joining the opinion and analysis site as a daily columnist covering economic developments, policy and financial markets.

“Mohamed is one of the world’s most highly-regarded financial and economic observers — and he’s also a wonderful writer,” said David Shipley, the senior executive editor of Bloomberg View, in a statement. “We’re thrilled that he’s going to be sharing his insights with our readers on a daily basis.”

El-Erian’s first Bloomberg View column, The Dangers of Policy Drift, appears today and concludes that the annual spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were unsurprisingly a “wasted opportunity” considering that “the global economy desperately needs better steering.”

El-Erian is chief economic advisor at Allianz SE and the author of “When Markets Collide,” a bestseller that won the 2008 Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year.

He is chairman of President Obama’s Global Development Council, a Financial Times contributing editor, and the former CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO. He holds a master’s degree and doctorate in economics from Oxford University, having completed his undergraduate degree at Cambridge University.

frankieflack

Frankie Flack: Lies, damn lies, statistics and business journalism

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If you’re a business reporter and don’t love numbers, I don’t want anything to do with you.

I love selling stories with facts and figures a lot more than I like selling sizzle. Show me market share or same-store sales or margins data, and I’ll go to town. In contrast, today’s great profile of a brash young CEO might be tomorrow’s cautionary tale. But the numbers, they don’t lie.

(This isn’t, technically, true. Number lie all the time. They also mislead. But — and this is what I love about numbers — they can be fact checked, vetted, fisked, taken apart, put back together. You want to question my assumptions? Bring it on.)

That said, “data-driven journalism” has now officially jumped the shark. Election-predicting Nate Silver has re-launched fivethirtyeight.com for ESPN, but he’s not content to just crunch baseball stats or election polls. Nope. His site is going to bring a data-driven approach to everything, no matter how silly.

I mean, the site has been up for only a few days, and two things have already happened. First, reporters are now claiming that statistics can solve any problem. That missing airliner? If only the nerd-kings were in charge! They’d apply Bayesian statistics and — voila — have a much better idea of where the plane went down. Never mind that Bayesian statistics don’t work well in an information vacuum. Just wave that magic wand!

Second, reporters are now violating most of the primary rules of working with numbers, such as the general principle that the bigger the dataset, the better the results. Yet 24 hours after the site launched, the “lead writer for news” used this phrase: “My experiment had a sample size of one.” That is not a sentence that inspires confidence.

And it’s not just fivethirtyeight. The New York Times is launching “The Upshot” to do essentially the same thing. Ezra Klein has a similar belief in the edifying effect of charts and data. Some of this stuff will be really good. But a ton of it will be horseshit, dressed up as science.

This is going to boomerang back to haunt you business reporters. You heard it here first: It’s going to take about six weeks for the PR brain trust to decide that we need less pitches with infographics (thank God) and more datasets that we can dump on unsuspecting reporters.

You all will have to start double-checking my numbers because no one wants to let a juicy data story slip away. And we’ll all be worse off, spending our days hunched over Excel spreadsheets, looking for trickery.

So here’s my offer, and we need to agree on this quickly before things spin even more out of control: on behalf of all flacks, we will not pivot to sending you crappy “data” stories if you all agree not to hop on the bandwagon of dressing up garbage numbers as some sort of absolute truth.

That doesn’t mean I’m abandoning numbers. Far from it.

I’m still going to push for GAAP earnings reports and sensible information on marketing trends or whatever to send you.

But I won’t claim that Bayesian statistics are the key to understanding the frozen concentrated orange-juice futures if you don’t publish “experiments with a sample size of one.”

Deal?

Bloomberg-View

Bloomberg View seeks QuickTake editor

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Bloomberg View is looking for an experienced editor in Washington DC for its QuickTake team to produce crisp, context-first backgrounders on topics in the news.

The editor will work with Bloomberg News reporters and editors worldwide to identify topics readers struggle to understand and then to create appealing, sophisticated explainers dense with information and fun to read. The editor must be well versed in politics, finance and the workings of the U.S. government while also conversant with topics ranging from economics and the environment to social issues and international affairs.

He or she must be a skilled wordsmith with a knack for clearing the rhetorical underbrush from complex public controversies; a proven organizational diplomat; a web-savvy innovator comfortable with infographics, social media and the vernacular of online journalism. Washington experience is a plus, as is the willingness to work there.

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience
  • Minimum of two years of journalism experience
  • Strong understanding of topics ranging from economics, to the environment, to social issues, to international affairs

To apply, go here.

 

Philip Van Doorn

Marketwatch.com names new columnist

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Marketwatch.com editor in chief Glenn Hall sent out the following announcement:

I’m excited to announce that we are bringing on a new columnist with deep expertise in data analysis and investing strategies.

Philip van Doorn has a track record of delivering market-moving analysis as a senior analyst at TheStreet.com and TheStreet Ratings since 2007. Prior to transitioning to research and analysis and later journalism, Phil oversaw a $750 million mortgage portfolio at Riverside National Bank and served as a credit analyst at Federal Home Loan Bank of New York before that.

Phil will join us on March 31 and will report to our new commentary editor, Parris Kellermann. He will be be based in Jupiter, Florida.

I worked with Phil during my time at TheStreet and I can tell you that he crunches data like nobody’s business and he knows how to translate numbers into actionable analysis that impresses investing pros and still makes sense to the rest of us.

Bloomberg_logo_grey

Bloomberg View seeks editor in Washington

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Bloomberg View is looking for an experienced editor in Washington DC for its QuickTake team to produce crisp, context-first backgrounders on topics in the news.

The editor will work with Bloomberg News reporters and editors worldwide to identify topics readers struggle to understand and then to create appealing, sophisticated explainers dense with information and fun to read. The editor must be well versed in politics, finance and the workings of the U.S. government while also conversant with topics ranging from economics and the environment to social issues and international affairs.

He or she must be a skilled wordsmith with a knack for clearing the rhetorical underbrush from complex public controversies; a proven organizational diplomat; a web-savvy innovator comfortable with infographics, social media and the vernacular of online journalism. Washington experience is a plus, as is the willingness to work there.

Qualifications:
-Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience
-Minimum of two years of journalism experience
-Strong understanding of topics ranging from economics, to the environment, to social issues, to international affairs

To apply, go here.

The Watchdog That Didn't Bark

Journalism and the CNBC effect

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Steve Waldman of Washington Monthly reviews Dean Starkman‘s book “The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism.”

Waldman writes, “Starkman spends most of his time analyzing the output of newspapers and magazines, and while he mocks CNBC, he largely ignores network and local TV news (still the sources of news for most Americans), NPR, Fox Business Network, and, for that matter, major providers of digital news such as Huffington Post or Yahoo! He probably figured they were inconsequential players in this drama, and that in and of itself deserves mention.

“And I wanted to know: In the few cases when reporters did write the stories critical of financial giants, why didn’t those stories explode on the public scene? Some interviews with the big-time business editors might have shed more light on why they ignored the growing evidence.

“The digital world is supposed to be able to take great stories—whether they’re in a small hamlet or New York City—and bring them to massive audiences. Why didn’t that happen? To some extent it’s because the 2004-2006 collapse predated the Twitter explosion and the rise of BuzzFeed, Upworthy, and other online news sources that are focused on accelerating virality. Starkman’s contempt for the digital evangelist types, aggregators, and other newfangled media is unfortunate, and may have blinded him to the profoundly important role that this new amplification system could play in accountability reporting of future scandals.

“But we’ll never know: Would those same stories have gotten more traction now because of this new amplification sector? Or would they have been crowded out by lists of ‘Betty White and Animals’ or ‘Cats Who Think They’re Sushi’?”

Read more here.

Rich Miller

Crain’s Chicago hires political columnist Miller

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Rich Miller, a well-known political columnist in Chicago, has been hired by Crain’s Chicago Business to write a regular column, reports Robert Feder.

Feder writes, “Starting Friday, Miller’s column will appear twice monthly on chicagobusiness.com and eventually will be seen in Crain’s weekly print publication as well.

“The move marks a return to Chicago media for Miller, 51, whose eight-year run as a free-lance columnist for the Sun-Times ended in January.

“‘I thoroughly enjoyed my years writing for the Sun-Times and I’m looking forward to a new challenge with Crain’s,’ Miller said Thursday. ‘[Crain’s political columnist] Greg Hinz has been a good friend for a very long time, and his encouragement convinced me that I should embrace this change. So far, I’ve totally enjoyed dealing with the management, and I’m looking forward to the publication of my inaugural column.’

“Miller’s crossing coincides with major initiatives at both Crain’s and the Sun-Times to boost coverage of government, politics and public affairs. As reported here earlier, the Sun-Times is about to marshal all of its political and government content in a new digital platform, sponsored by Jasculca Terman Strategic Communications.”

Read more here.

snark-critters

Snark prevalent in business journalism on TV

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Doug Kass of TheStreet.com writes about why many of those who appear on business journalism television shows talk snark instead of facts.

Kass writes, “The fact is that snark (a combination of snide and remark) and opinion far too often envelop the business media instead of facts and figures. Equally infuriating is the confidence of view in the delivery of the snark. Sometimes the reason for this is out of necessity, as the media appearances are typically brief and expected to be on point. Nevertheless, in a world characterized by an absence of certainty and an interrelated and a complicated market mosaic (and complexity of issues) without memory from day to day, too many attach self-confident reasons to randomness.

“I would characterize a lot of the pabulum in the business media as instantaneous entertainment and not as rigorous analysis.

“Of course, there are exceptions. Consider as an example, the preparation that Jim “El Capitan” Cramer goes through when he interviews a corporate executive on “Mad Money.” Another example is CNBC’s “Squawk Box” with Joe Kernen, Becky Quick and Andrew Sorkin, which provides a guest host with one to three hours to do a deeper dive in analysis (e.g., just watch Jim Grant’s appearance yesterday, which was solid and thoughtful in analysis). Or Bloomberg’s “Market Surveillance” in which Tom Keene shares the spotlight with an interviewee for almost a half an hour, digging into the analysis that forms the foundation of view.”

Read more here.

Stock-Market

The need to explain complex topics

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Michael Casey, a senior columnist for The Wall Street Journal, writes for the Committee to Protect Journalists about the need for business journalists to do a better job of explaining complex financial topics to readers.

Casey writes, “To be fair, those on the losing side of Wall Street’s profit-driven pre-crisis trade mostly failed to exploit new opportunities to expose the risks associated with it.  In this era of ‘big data,’ where high-tech analytical techniques can produce abundant, quantifiable information, we should all have been empowered to uncover the truth. But in reality, for the average investor, journalist, or even regulator, this new trove of data has been mostly out of reach and unintelligible.

“It should now be the duty of journalists to unlock it. And to do so, they need to harness the same tools that financial institutions and corporations use to sift, interpret and make sense of mass digital information. The value of human sources providing information on market players’ activities hasn’t gone away–think of the lasting impact of The Wall Street Journal‘s ‘London Whale’ scoop on JPMorgan Chase’s risky trading bets last year, a story that led to news that the bank had racked up $6 billion in losses and, later, $1 billion in regulatory fines. But those stories must now be complemented with computer-enhanced analysis and interpretation. To get at the truth will require crunching the numbers–billions of them.

“‘The question is: How do you take the proliferation of data and extract something intelligent out of it?’ said the Pew Center’s Murray. ‘I think data analysis is going to become a much more important part of journalism.’

“If journalists are to investigate and interpret the complex systems of data management with which financial institutions create information monopolies, they need resources. Yet in the developed countries in which these complex new financial markets are thriving, the dominant trend in the penny-pinching media industry is for cutbacks, not investment, as traditional news outlets adjust to a highly competitive environment for online advertising.”

Read more here.

Watchdog

Did online biz reporters become watchdogs?

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David Dayen of The American Prospect reviews Dean Starkman‘s book “The Watchdog that Didn’t Bark” about business news coverage during the financial crisis and wonders whether online journalists acted as watchdogs when the mainstream media didn’t.

Dayen writes, “It’s for this reason that Starkman disappoints when talking about online journalism. While he praises blogs like Naked Capitalism and the reporting at places like the Huffington Post, he believes such outlets have not filled the gap created by mass layoffs at the major dailies. In fact, Starkman mostly views digital media as a tool for corporate raiders to downsize traditional outlets, and he does not believe the business models of independent digital media support investigative journalism.

“This ignores a fairly rich body of work, including reporting on the financial crisis and its aftermath, that came directly from the online world. For example, those individuals who broke the story of foreclosure fraud—the mass use of forged and fabricated documents to rush homeowners through the eviction process—did not work at traditional media outlets but were foreclosure victims, who uncovered discrepancies with their own documents and started their own websites, like Foreclosure Hamlet and 4closurefraud.org, to get the word out when the media wouldn’t return their calls. In another era, these people would be either investigative sources or invisible, depending on the discretion of the media, but Internet publishing tools allowed them to tell their story anyway.

“While the Internet ‘presents severe structural barriers to accountability reporting,’ as Starkman writes, it also presents potential breakthroughs. Instead of long-form journalism that bundles months of reporting into one shot, there’s value in incremental, iterative reporting that releases each detail as it’s gathered, breaks down complex material into digestible chunks and furthers the narrative for months, even years. This is the tradition I come out of, and I think it does an able job, even if it’s not the Great Story, which Starkman holds up as the epitome of investigative journalism. There’s nothing inherent in word count that confers superiority.

“If we want to know what happened in the aftermath of a crash, the elites of the media universe can perform that task well. But if we’re going to catch the next instance of financial malfeasance in real time, the warning may come from someone sitting at their laptop. Starkman makes the argument that people rely on traditional media, and he’s right. But his entire book identifies the dangers of that reliance.”

Read more here.