Tag Archives: Commentary
John Kostrzewa, the business editor of the Providence Journal, announced in his Sunday column that the paper would be cutting stock and mutual fund listings during the week and the weekend to open up more space for local and national business news.
The column is available here, but the ProJo website can only be read by registering first, so here are the highlights:
1. “We also plan to use more local stories from our suburban staff that have statewide business interest. And we will have more listings, such as the new business incorporations.”
2. “Starting today, the stock and mutual fund tables in the Sunday Money & Business section will be condensed to four pages.”
3. “Daily, the stock listings will be cut back to 900 of the most heavily traded stocks from the previous day and the 1,200 mutual funds with the biggest net asset value.”
4. “We are not immune to changing economies and readership trends that require us to make business decisions in order to run our company while providing the best Business section we can. We’ve tried to do that.”
In the Jan. 4 newspaper, Kostrzewa announced other changes to the section, which can be read here. They included:
“We’re making changes to the Business section. Starting today, the stock and mutual fund tables on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be reduced to one page.” Otherwise, the Wednesday column reads verbatim to what was in today’s paper.
I don’t look at the Providence Journal often enough to make a determination about whether these changes are positive or negative for the paper. But the last comment is telling, I thought. It implies that the business section is being forced to cut the amount of newsprint it uses, which means less space — whether it’s for stock and mutual fund listings or for stories.
In last Monday’s edition of the Columbis Ledger-Enquirer, a Knight-Ridder paper, the reporters on the features and business desks were given an opportunity to let the readers know more about themselves. Here is an example:
“I’m Christopher Boyce, a Chicago transplant working on the Ledger-Enquirer business desk.
“One of my grandfather’s favorite sayings goes, ‘Money isn’t everything, but it’s right up there with oxygen.’ Grandpa Boyce is a little eccentric, but the point he makes isn’t far from the truth. It’s also partly why I think business reporting is so important — we all spend money and look to control its flow in our lives and work. That’s my beat at its most basic level.
“I cover operations at Aflac, Carmike Cinemas and in Columbus’ entrepreneurial community through The Small Business Challenge. Together with expert consultant and columnist Susan Miller, I show the trials of owning a small business and how successful practices in small businesses are often similar to those in big businesses.
“After moving here two years ago, I quickly realized that business casual is a little more casual in Columbus. But the speed of business has been plenty fast for this Yankee and I look forward to another hectic year in a town that’s bigger than it lets on.
If you have a business tip or just want to talk business, call me at 571-8523, or e-mail me at email@example.com.”
I like to see media outlets do things like this. It helps the readers understand who is covering stories that they are interested in. And it also gives the reporter a chance to reach out to sources who may provide information.
If you want to see how the Columbus paper did it, go here.
According to this post on Take Back the Times:
“Also, we hear that Nancy Cleeland, who shared in a Pulitzer Prize for the series about Wal-Mart, no longer has her labor beat, and the Times will not have a replacement soon, according to Russ Stanton, the section editor. In short, the Times, going back to the anti-labor positions of years ago, will not have a labor beat.”
I have long argued against this trend. Labor is an important beat that too many business sections are ignoring, and that’s a shame. They’re basically telling a sizeable percentage of their audience that they don’t care about them. I thought newspapers were worried about losing readership. Well, it’s decisions like this that cause them to lose readership.
For those of you looking to improve your labor coverage, here’s a great resource from Cornell University.
Professor Christopher Martin at Northern Iowa argues that the media today frame labor issues in a way in which the actual concerns of organized workers are ignored. Labor stories are written from a consumerâ€™s perspective, Martin states, trivializing the concerns of the workers while emphasizing the effect of strikes on consumers who want to purchase the goods and services produced by the workers.
As labor reporting stands today, it is a minor part of business journalism despite the fact that 12.9 percent of all working people in the United States belong to a union, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. That number is down from a high in the 1950s, when approximately one-third of all workers belonged to some union. The decline in overall union membership has led to the closure of hundreds of labor publications, including the 2002 demise of the Racine Labor, a newspaper in Wisconsin that existed for 60 years and provided an alternative to the local newspaper.
And while the mainstream media have been criticized for ignoring good labor stories, there hasnâ€™t been any movement to add coverage. Labor writer Michael Hoyt argues that â€œa lot of good labor stories are simply ignored. A rich harvest goes to waste.â€? Daily newspapers, weekly news magazines and nightly news broadcasts regularly cover strikes, but without strikes, coverage of labor issues is scant.
One notable exception has been the movement to unionize Wal-Mart stores. William Serrin, a former labor reporter at The New York Times, argues that most editors donâ€™t know or care about labor reporting. â€œIt was just something you had to have in the paper, like obits.â€? Even when labor is covered, unions defending worker rights is called â€œtroublemaking,â€? while the media like to tell workers to learn to live with layoffs and that treaties such as NAFTA will help them.
There is perhaps no part of business journalism that needs to be re-examined more than labor reporting. In the early 21st century, BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal are the only media outlets that cover labor extensively. Open any other printed media or watch the nightly news, and youâ€™ll rarely see a story about labor. With more than 15 million potential readers belonging to unions, the media needs to revisit their past â€“ primarily the past of labor newspapers â€“ and look at how labor was once covered and consider adding more stories.
There are plenty of interesting and informative labor stories to cover that would give society a better picture of why unions are declining in membership and what many union leaders are doing to combat newly aggressive corporations and industries, but there are few media that want them, believes Serrin.
This blogger neatly sums up the job facing incoming Dow Jones’ CEO Richard Zannino better than anything else I’ve read in the past couple of days:
“I hope that in his new job as Dow Jones’s chief executive officer, Richard Zannino takes a hard look at The Wall Street Journal’s editorial future. In my mind, the paper is stumbling forward.
“In September, when it launched the weekend edition, I snapped up a copy but then felt let down by it. The problem was that it read like a lifestyle magazine, albeit grayer and more prim than the New York Times. Indeed, the Times reported mixed reactions to the launch, quoting an unimpressed reader saying he found the content commonplace. Granted the Times’ rivalry with the Journal makes its criticisms suspect, nonetheless I have to agree because many others also have felt this way about the weekend edition.
“Zannino might want to ask why have it at all? After all, the Journal is peerless in its ability to break down the numbers and make sense of the free market. No other national paper has as much access to the Street and as much resources covering it. I’ve been told, for instance, that the Journal’s telecoms reporters outnumber those at the Times by 11 to 1.
“Wall Street is the Journal’s brand equity. The paper should be investing vast resources in covering the Stre”et better, faster and deeper, if it doesn’t already do so. And talking about “faster,” speed will be that much more critical if the Journal is serious about marrying its print and web divisions.
“Specifically, the paper should have beefed up its Money & Investing section, arguably its bread and butter. Instead, in the past months, it has gone on a hiring spree for lifestyle writers, whose addition to the paper has turned it into something more like the Times and less like itself.
“As an avid reader, I would vote to keep the weekend edition but instead of fashion, food and faux fur, I would prefer that it stayed on message with finance and business. After five heady days of breaking news, what it could do is step back from that informational deluge and tell readers what the week meant: who were the important players; why; what’s next and when. Also give them the hows, specifically the how-to on personal finance.
“While the weekend edition already does all that, it isn’t doing it from cover to back. But it should. In my view, that means beefing up the finance and business quotient of its staff writers, not dumbing it down with Fendi.”
For the hard-core business news reader, I think this comment is exactly on target with what the Wall Street Journal should be doing. Amen.
Jon Friedman writes the media column for Marketwatch.com. He’s a former Bloomberg and BusinessWeek reporter. His recent column on what’s In and Out for 2006 includes this:
Who’s in: Fox Business Channel
Who’s out: CNBC
It’s not exactly front-page news any more to say that Fox is moving forward with a plan to create a rival to CNBC. Rather than wilt in the heat, CNBC has (finally!) tinkered with its lineup and presentation in an effort to look brand new. It’s admirable but it may be too little too late if it eventually has to fend off Fox. If history is any guide, Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who ran CNBC in its heyday, will steamroll his foe. I doubt that Fox’s new business channel will achieve a first-round knockout, but CNBC had better beware. Ailes will scratch and claw to gain an advantage and he isn’t above (or below) fighting dirty. The man just wants to win. And he almost always does.
Read the entire posting here.
Found this interesting post from a Northwestern University student — first name Laura — who starts taking Economics Reporting today:
“I am taking an economics reporting class. I’m fairly frightened of reporting with numbers and I’ve heard good things about this class, so I thought it would be challenging and interesting and all that heart-warming junk. Before class has even started, our professor has already sent us a fun little “exercise,” to determine our net worth. We subtract our liabilities (stuff we owe, for me, like a million dollars) from our assets (stuff we own, for me, like NOTHING), and determine our equity. This is sure to be a depressing experience. Then at the bottom of the page, we do income vs. expenses. I think this exercise alone is enough for me to quit school and start temping or something. So maybe it’s a good thing! heh. Wish me luck, classes start tomorrow!!!”
The entire post can be read here.
Yes, I am forwarding this message to the business journalism professors at Northwestern. Yes, this is what those of us in the education racket have to overcome when trying to convince students that writing about business and the economy can be fun and interesting if the students can learn some simple math.
But I do think the student is being a bit overdramatic. Maybe she’ll learn how to balance her checkbook and other life skills by the end of the semester.
At least this reader isn’t upset with the editorial content. But the business magazine has just lost a reader.
Here is the post: “I received an invoice in the mail today. It wasn’t just any invoice. It was from a magazine I used to really enjoy. However, after receiving it, I decided I’ve had enough of them.
“The magazine is Fortune. This was literally one of my favorites. I read it cover to cover every month and learned a lot. However, the principles they betrayed in this one invoice made them a company I’ll scorn for life. I received an invoice demanding payment (for 2 week into the future due date mind you), for a subscription I didn’t request. I subscribed for 1 year and received my 1 year’s magazines. Apparently, this is a strategy where they “automatically” sign you up for the next year once your one year’s subscription runs out. I wouldn’t even be all that upset if they sent me something saying that and requesting payment. However, the verbiage in this invoice was more like I was delinquent on my mortgage payment, saying things like “it is imperative you pay this immediately”, etc. Excuse me? I don’t think so. I even had to “cancel” this subscription renewal I never asked for by calling their automated B.S. number.”
The entire blog post can be read here.
This poses an interesting question: Are newspapers and magazines losing subscribers because of the editorial content isn’t what readers want, or are they losing readers because of how they handle their business operations? I haven’t seen this question addressed in any of the hang-wringing coverage about the woes of the media. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not all the journalist’s fault.
The Media Bistro web site asked its reads for predictions for the new year for TV busines news. Some of the more outrageous predictions from the crystal ball include Jim Cramer leaving CNBC for Fox’s new business channel and being joined by Maria Bartiromo.
One of the more interesting predictions is this: “CNBC programming changes will prove to be disasterous and we will see some moves back to viewer liking. Mark Haines back to Squawk, Erin Burnett can handle Squawk on the Street by herself, she is quite capable, Carl Quintanilla may join Erin on the Street. Faber might pop up onSquawk during the last half of the show into SOTS and Charlie Gasparino will appear less frequently. They will gradually put the bug back on the bottom right (or maybe even above the NYSE ticker) and eventually put volumes back in the ticker. Expect to see some of these moves around the Olympic break. Now if only they can do something about those awful charts, noises, that depressing dark blue scheme, and that boring music!”
Read the entire post here. It’s worth it at least for the entertainment value.
Normon Solomon suggests that business sections in 2006 should add a labor page since most of the coverage is devoted to CEOs and companies.
Here is the specific suggestion: “Daily newspaper editors: Just about every paper has a ‘Business’ section, where the focus is on CEOs, company managers, profit reports and big-time investors. But a lot more readers are working people — and a daily ‘Labor’ section would be a welcome addition to the newsprint mix.”
He also has a suggestion for the Wall Street Journal editorial page: “Take another look at “The Wealth of Nations,” in which your hero Adam Smith shared the kind of insights that you often scorn. ‘It was not by gold or by silver, but by labor, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased,’ he wrote. And consider what Smith observed about manufacturers and merchants, the kind of special interests your editorials routinely tout as synonymous with the public interest – ‘men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.’”
The entire post can be read here. I like both of these suggestions, but not for ideological reasons. I’d like to see business journalism try new things to surprise their readers.
Here is a posting from someone who recently interviewed for a small-town business reporting job. It’s refreshing to see this kind of enthusiasm for someone just getting into the field of business reporting.
“It’s a business reporter position for a little paper in Mt. Vernon which is actually north of me (I’m already north of Seattle), but I think it would be a phenomenal experience. The editor, with whom I interviewed, has worked in business reporting for over 30 years. The city editor, whom along with the assistant city editor are pretty much also the managing editor, had retired out here from journalism. The assistant city editor is in her 30s and was a Washington bureau chief for a South Carolinian paper. It’s small, it’s pretty much locally owned and operated, and they try to hire rookies and move them up.”
To read the entire posting, go here. I do not know this person, and haven’t looked at this blog before.