Tag Archives: Commentary

How Steve Jobs changed business journalism

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New York Times business columnist David Carr writes Thursday about how deceased Apple CEO Steve Jobs impacted business journalism.

Carr writes, “Which brings us back to how he changed business journalism — its image and its attractiveness. Because he was a showman, because he made interesting things that consumers cared about, readers began to follow his products as they might a band or their favorite team. Being an Apple user became a marker of cultural identity and conveyed cool. Some of that splashed onto those who covered business.

“Now, young reporters with good prospects often start in business coverage, becoming conversant in unit sales, earnings per share, and Ebidta. The best and brightest of them can be found chasing the latest rumor out of Silicon Valley or peering under the hood of the just-hatched start-up. There are a lot of forces in play that make that so, but you’d have to credit Steve Jobs with making business something that did not belong to the suits.

“Business reporters hated Apple’s secrecy and found Mr. Jobs’s arrogance wearying, but we all knew that our craft picked up some glitz and esteem because of his involvement. Our readers, his consumers, cared about the guy and everything he did. He made business cool by using it to make cool stuff. It was fun to be along for the ride.”

Read more here.

McLean, Fabrikant named Reuters columnists

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Well-known business journalists Bethany McLean and Geraldine Fabrikant will join Reuters as columnists, the news service announced Wednesday.

McLean is one of the world’s preeminent financial journalists. A math major who started her career as an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs, she wrote articles for Fortune Magazine that hastened the demise of one of the biggest corporate frauds in history: Enron. Her first  book, “The Smartest Guys In The Room” — co-written by Peter Elkind — became an Academy Award-nominated documentary.

A contributing editor at Vanity Fair, McLean is also co-author with New York Times columnist Joe Nocera of the recently published “All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis.” Her column for Reuters.com will focus on finance, both high and low.

As a media reporter for the New York Times, Fabrikant dominated her beat. She started at the paper in 1985 and has won six publishers award since that time. In 1996, she won the Loeb Award for deadline reporting.

Before joining The Times, Ms. Fabrikant had been the media editor for Business Week magazine since 1981. While there, she received an award for her cover story on the Capital Cities/ABC merger.

For Reuters, Fabrikant will put a human face on business, focusing on the bold-face names that behind who make the money world go round.

McLean and Fabrikant are the newest additions to op-ed editor James Ledbetter‘s increasingly influential stable of columnists.

Dallas biz columnist celebrates 60th anniversary at paper

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D Magazine’s Glenn Hunter notes that a business columnist at the Dallas Morning News recently celebrated his 60th anniversary at the paper.

Hunter writes, “When Robert ‘Bob’ Miller began his journalism career at the Dallas Morning News, they were writing on typewriters and there was cigarette smoke in the newsroom and Harry Truman was president. Miller was assistant city editor when the JFK assassination happened, at his desk on the Sunday that Ruby shot Oswald (it was Miller’s birthday to boot).

“He’s said to have been the first DMN editor to OK women covering hard news, back in the day when they let pregnant women go once they started ‘showing.’

“Yesterday afternoon, Belo bigs including Robert Decherd, Jim Moroney, Bob Mong and George Rodrigue joined scores of Miller’s current and former colleagues and friends at the TXCN studios to help the business columnist (shown in photo by Jeanne Prejean) celebrate his 60th anniversary with The News.

“After listening to everybody talk about him, the wise-cracking 87-year-old quoted the Big Band singer Helen O’Connell, who once said: ‘If I’d have known it was an era, I would have paid more attention to it.’ Congrats to Miller, who’s still playing the pioneer’s role–showing all the boomers and Great Recession-era types how to work into their 80s (hey, buck up and get used to it) with integrity, enthusiasm, humor and class.

Read more here.

Why Business Insider is doing so well

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John Carney of CNBC.com writes about why the Business Insider site, where he once worked, has been so successful.

Carney writes, “Business Insider is an internally competitive place to work. The editors compete with each other on who can get the best stories and most pageviews. You hear them talking smack to each other in the newsroom about who is “winning” or who is “behind.”

“But this competitiveness doesn’t diminish their team spirit. The place is a start-up and it feels like one. They consider themselves underdogs battling vastly bigger media companies. They want to be better at what they do than everyone else.

“User-Focused. There’s a schizophrenia that runs through much of the media. Writers and editors often went into writing or editing with an eye on improving the world. They want to educate, inform, expose corruption. At the same time, they know they need to appeal to commercial and reader interests that they often hold in some degree of contempt.

“The animating forces at Business Insider are very different. They want to deliver what the reader wants. Their entire goal is producing the most “user-friendly” media company they can. They’re constantly experimenting with what level of reporting, aggregation, commentary, and summarizing will best satisfy and attract readers.”

Read more here.

Business Insider’s business plan for growth

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Ryan McCarthy writes for Reuters.com about Business Insider’s strategy in the wake of its announcement Thursday that it had secured $7 million in additional funding.

McCarthy writes, “None of this is intended to say Business Insider doesn’t do some very smart web journalism. Joe Weisenthal, in particular, appears to work inhuman hours and is one of the smartest and most prolific voices in business journalism. Joe’s crafted the site’s voice after his own. He regularly posts Wall Street analyst reports that others don’t get, and he’s able to provide the kind of quick context that works really well for Blodget’s readership. Blodget, for his part, can be a great blogger and has a particular knack for analyzing failures.

“So why does Business Insider risk undermining all that highly original, distinctive content for what appear to be roughly 18,000 article views? When media companies are asked to grow at a meteoric pace — and Comscore indicates that Business Insider’s unique visitors have nearly doubled this year — the line between original content and borderline theft gets awful blurry. The editorial mission quickly transforms from ‘What can I link to?’ to ‘How much can I take?’

“To be fair, Business Insider’s more prominent pieces are often its most original. But journalists and readers should be very worried when fast-growth media companies determine the standards for distinguishing between citation and theft.

“One one would hope readers and advertisers would eventually catch on to the kind of lazy lifting that would earn middle school students an F. But that hasn’t happened yet.”

Read more here.

How Bloomberg and Reuters are changing journalism

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Peter Osnos of The Atlantic writes about how financial news services Bloomberg and Reuters are causing big changes in journalism.

Osnos writes, “Because Bloomberg is privately owned, it is hard to know just how profitable it is, but every indication is that it has come through the prolonged financial crisis since 2008 without any meaningful loss of momentum. Thomson Reuters is a more complicated situation. According to a recent takeout in the Wall Street Journal, the Thomson family and its investment arm, Woodbridge, which controls the majority of shares in the enterprise, is ‘impatient with the company’s performance.’ Like Bloomberg, Thomson Reuter’s revenue is significantly tied to its sales of sophisticated and extensive material, to Wall Street, and to the international banking community through its markets division. Over the summer, Thomson Reuters restructured the markets division, leading to the departure of six top executives. The division now reports to Tom Glocer, CEO of Thomson Reuters, who led Reuters into the deal with Thomson. The stock price of Thomson Reuters has been lagging, and posted a fifty-two-week low recently, a drop of almost 20 percent this year.

“But assuming the shake-up on the financial side and the strengthening of its already formidable news operation gain the necessary traction, its competition with Bloomberg will be a vitally important aspect of how journalism is adapting to the continuing turbulence in the industry. The Washington Post Company’s stock is down by about a third this year, largely because of pressure on its Kaplan educational division in the aftermath of disclosures about the practices of for-profit educational companies. The Los Angeles Times has just let laid off another group of staffers, including several highly respected reporters. While the New York Times has come through the crisis it seemed to be facing two years ago, most legacy print news organizations are still casting about for the right combination of digital and traditional advertising and circulation revenues.

“With so much uncertainty elsewhere in the news business, the robust competition between Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg looms especially large in the overall future of news gathering. With thousands of reporters and strong leadership teams, both companies are bound to be factors in the news business in the digital age, even if their overwhelming profitability is tied to financial data.”

Read more here.

A look at Reuters’ commentary efforts

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Dylan Byars of Adweek interviewed James Ledbetter, who is the op-ed editor at Reuters, about the wire service’s efforts to beef up its commentary offerings.

Here is an excerpt:

News organizations are increasingly using columnists to draw in readers—from Bloomberg View to the Times’ expansion of its Week in Review section. Why is that happening?

I think the media world that is being shaped by the Internet and social media is increasingly a place where fast, insightful analysis is driving the cycle. Once upon a time, you had your news, and then the next day or three days later you’d get William Safire’s opinion about it. Now we have a situation in which the people who are really good at [opinion and analysis] are the people who are making the news or strongly shaping the way that readers take their news in. Nothing brought this home as clearly as the financial meltdown of 2008. There was this hunger for smart people to explain these mysteries that were destroying our economy. There are parallel examples of that in politics, in culture, in science. The news organizations that don’t put intelligent opinion in the mix are increasingly perceived as inadequate.

Some people have expressed concern that big-name writers are going to go to Reuters and then disappear.

Well, there’s a genuine issue there that’s not in any way exclusive to us, which is, “How do you make sure that the fantastic voices that you’ve gone to all this trouble and expense to hire get heard?” Certainly, there are opinion aggregation websites where there are so many contributors that it’s hard to even name a single one. It is a genuine issue, but we have had some design changes in recent months that should help us prevent that kind of obscurity. If, six months from now, you haven’t read a Jack Shafer column, call me.

Read more here.

Defending Mark Zandi’s use by business journalists

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Adam Davidson of National Public Radio defends the use of Moody’s economist Mark Zandi by business journalists in the wake of Columbia Journalism Review‘s Ryan Chittum commenting that he’s been quoted an awful lot in the media this year.

Davidson writes, “He does one of the most widely followed economic forecasts. That forces him to be on top of the very latest news and data in a way that few others are. And what he says does, in fact, have a bigger impact than what most other economists say.

“He’s also great at explaining economic issues in a clear, straightforward but still intellectually grounded way. To put it mildly, this is not a trait that is easy to find among economists.

“He’s also at least a bit bipartisan. He advised the John McCain campaign and has recently defended President Obama. And he admits mistakes when he’s wrong.

“For all these reasons, I think Zandi is more likely than most to have substantive things to say on any given economic news.

“He’s not the only economist who meets all of these criteria, I’m sure, but I can’t think of any others.”

Read more here.

Conflicts of interest and business journalism

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Gordon Crovitz, the former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, writes in Monday’s Journal about conflicts of interest in the wake of the brouhaha over whether TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington can invest in startups and still write about them for the tech news site.

Crovitz writes, “Put another way, some of the smartest venture capitalists have concluded that they could get inside access to the best startups by becoming investors alongside Mr. Arrington. This is a tribute to TechCrunch, even if it is counter to how other information brands, like the Journal, build value. It may be evidence of a change in what builds trust, at least among investors and perhaps readers.

“Regardless of technological change, one constant is that information plays the key role in driving markets. Investors need confidence that they are getting the facts. The Latin warning ‘caveat lector’ — let the reader beware — applies even more in the digital world.

“This is an era of many different sources of information and business models. Readers can decide if there is even enough room for a brand with a reputation for being so close to trades that it’s hard to tell where news ends and investing begins.”

Read more here.

Business media overuses Moody’s Zandi

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Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review writes Friday that business journalists call on Moody’s economist Mark Zandi too much and need to broaden their source lists.

Chittum writes, “Who’s Mark Zandi? He’s the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, a Keynesian McCain adviser back in 2008 who supports the Obama stimulus, and a quote machine for deadline-frazzled journalists everywhere.

“I brought up Factiva and searched major news and business publications in the U.S., to get an idea of just how much Zandi appears in the press. So far this year, he’s appeared 446 times to date, roughly 1.8 times a day. In the last week alone, he shows up about twenty-five times in USA Today (twice), Reuters, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal (twice), Marketwatch, Dow Jones Newswires, Agence France Presse.”

Later, Chittum notes, “If Zandi isn’t the Most Interviewed Man in the Business Press by a wide margin, he’s up there in the top two or three. I get roughly seventy Zandi hits on Bloomberg’s site so far this year. On Factiva, he shows up sixty-seven times in the AP, thirty-three times in the Post, thirty-two times in USA Today, and twenty-six times in The New York Times. The Wall Street Journal is relatively Zandi-deprived, with just fifteen mentions.”

Read more here.