Tag Archives: Commentary
by Chris Roush
Marketwatch.com media columnist Jon Friedman was not impressed by the cat fight on CNBC on Friday between billionaires Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn.
Friedman writes, “Is it memorable TV? Absolutely. Will it have a long life on YouTube? Certainly. Will CNBC figure that this is more good than bad, since controversy — like sex — sells with the public? People are likely now to tune in to CNBC, especially when the likes of the tough-talking Icahn come on.
“CNBC, Comcast and NBC Universal declined comment on the matter immediately thereafter.
“At the same time, it isn’t all fun and games for CNBC, though many of its on-air personalities were yucking it up immediately afterward, as if CNBC had pulled off a coup. This wasn’t pro wrestling,however.
“The network may escape the wrath of the Federal Communications Commission, but parent Comcast Corp. probably won’t be pleased by the attention. Likewise, big brother NBC News won’t relish the controversy. It reflects poorly on CNBC that someone as famous as Icahn chose to utter a curse word on its network.
“It looks like CNBC can’t control its guests and that it might secretly welcome this kind of forum. Plus, someone might conclude that an out-of-control commentator thinks that it is appropriate to use unsavory language on CNBC.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Melissa Harris, the Chicago Tribune business columnist, writes about why she decided to profile Chicago businessman Marty Nesbitt, a friend of President Barack Obama.
Harris writes, “At a TribU class on current events Monday night, a participant asked why I chose to write a profile on ‘first friend’ Marty Nesbitt, and why it ran in Monday’s paper — which was inauguration day. Was picking the subject politically motivated?
“Not on our part, though there were several compelling news reasons to profile Nesbitt.
“He’s the president’s best friend by the president’s own account. The president is often criticized for being a loner, yet Nesbitt visits the White House and campaigned with the president frequently.
“He’s also a well-regarded Chicago businessman whose connections helped catapult the president into office. For instance, he introduced Barack Obama to Penny Pritzker, Nesbitt’s former boss. Nesbitt later asked her to lead the president’s 2008 fundraising effort, a role which Pritzker performed masterfully.
“I had intended to write the story sooner — and actually started over the summer — but for a variety of reasons, it came together later. Nevertheless, it seemed to dovetail nicely with Monday’s inauguration.”
Read more here.
by Liz Hester
The news reports about troubles with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner have been abundant since the fleet was grounded. Two separate incidences – one in the U.S. and one in Japan – led to regulators stopping the planes from flying on Jan. 16.
And Boeing is still in the news.
On Sunday, the U.S. investigation released additional findings. Here’s the story from the New York Times:
Federal investigations said Sunday that they had ruled out excessive voltage as the cause of a battery fire on a Boeing 787 in Boston this month, widening the mystery into what led to the grounding of the world’s most technologically advanced jet after a second battery-related problem last week.
With investigators focused on the plane’s lithium-ion batteries, the National Transportation Safety Board said an examination of the data from the plane’s flight recorder indicated that the battery “did not exceed the designed voltage of 32 volts.” The fire aboard a Japan Airlines plane on Jan. 7 at Logan International Airport in Boston occurred after the passengers had gotten off.
Last week, a battery problem on another 787 forced an All Nippon Airways jetliner to make an emergency landing in Japan. That episode prompted aviation authorities around the world to ground the plane, also known as the Dreamliner. The Federal Aviation Administration said last week that it would not lift the ban until Boeing could show that the batteries were safe.
The safety board did not address the grounding issue or provide a timetable for its investigation, which industry experts said could take months.
But with investigators on a global quest to find out what went wrong, the safety board’s statement could mean that there might not be a rapid resumption of 787 flights. The 787 first entered service in November 2011 after more than three and a half years of production delays. Eight airlines currently own 50 787s, including United Airlines.
Bloomberg Businessweek ran an excellent graph of how the troubles are affecting Boeings suppliers. I like that instead of writing paragraphs about how much their stock prices dropped, they show the different components and the decline. It’s highly effective.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Boeing had to formally suspend deliveries of new 787s since they can’t test them. They also added this information:
As part of its expanding probe, the safety board also is looking at external factors. On Sunday it said investigators already have examined wiring, circuit boards and other battery-related components removed from the aircraft. Investigators also intend to test components that feed power into the battery, according to the update.
On Tuesday, according to the NTSB, a group of safety experts will meet in Arizona “to test and examine the battery charger,” which is manufactured there by Secureplane Technologies Inc., a unit of Meggitt PLC.
The safety board took the unusual step of releasing an update to its 787 investigation just after midnight, during a three-day weekend including a federal holiday. The world-wide grounding of Boeing 787s is now stretching into its fifth day, as the company and U.S. and Japanese investigators work to find the causes of the two incidents.
Forbes contributors and staff writers have also been prolific on the topic. Some of the stories have been too long and haven’t hit the point of their headlines, such as this one about Boeing having a public relations problem. While the story might not actually specify the problem, it is a nightmare.
The more journalists continue to write about this, the worse it’s going to be. Boeing’s problem is that they’re unlikely to comment on ongoing investigations and they’re in a tough spot given how much press the Dreamliner got when it was first introduced. The only thing they can really do is hope the investigations find easy solutions to the problem and absolve the company of any knowledge of issues with the planes.
No matter what happens, I’m sure there will be more ink on the topic before it’s all over.
by Adam Levy
The other night I sat down to read and watch the news – and the big story of the day was Lance Armstrong’s doping admission. First up for me was a venerable New York-based financial-centric newspaper who basically said they knew it all along, after all they had reported first in an “exclusive” that Lance’s teammate Floyd Landis had using banned performance enhancers, or something to that effect.
Soon, the story bored me so I switched on the TV news. First up was the report on a major network showing footage from its “exclusive” interview with Landis (who I could have sworn I’ve seen in another exclusive on another network). In the course of the next 30 minutes, I read and watched two more exclusive reports. Wow.
This seemed to be two things. First, it was a frenzied reaction to Oprah’s “exclusive” interview with Lance. These news outlets had to tout their own accomplishments to keep up with Oprah. Second, it seemed like the ongoing abuse of the word “exclusive”.
If a CEO sits down with a news organization – and no other news organizations – we have an exclusive. Big deal. It only matters if the CEO breaks some news or provides insight into the company that was never before known. If the CEO marches from studio to studio, from news desk to news desk, there’s actually a string of “exclusives.”
But again, does it matter? I remember an instance at a former place of employment where a reporter was lauded in breaking a news story, for getting information –exclusively – before the pack. What really happened was the reporter attended a press conference and called in a headline before anyone else. Great! Good work!
The only problem was that the press conference was televised. So did the reporter really have an exclusive? I don’t think so.
I hate the word and the way it’s thrown around so cavalierly by news organizations. Plus, I don’t think the reader/viewer cares very much.
Most of the other times that news organizations use the word, I think they do so to make themselves feel important. I don’t think the reader cares.
So kudos to Oprah for getting the interview with Lance and congrats to all the networks and newspapers that did their jobs in previous years. But let’s leave the word “exclusive” to the Woodwards and Bernsteins of the world.
Now, they had an exclusive.
by Chris Roush
Cheryl Hall, the business columnist for the Dallas Morning News, celebrated 20 years of writing her column by recounting some of her most memorable interviews.
Hall writes, “My column started in 1992, focusing primarily on local business figures and entrepreneurs. Along the way, I’ve met my share of business celebrities.
“Many were relatively unknown at the time.
“Think Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Guy Laliberté of Cirque du Soleil, Papa John’s John Schnatter, James Dyson of vacuum cleaner fame, Maxine Clark of Build-A-Bear, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, golf club innovator Barney Adams and 7 Habits author Stephen Covey.
“Others were stars who were unaccustomed to being viewed from a business slant.
“Think glass maestro Dale Chihuly, opera diva Beverly Sills and Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson.”
Read more here. Hall has been with the Morning News for 40 years, including a stint as business editor.
The rendition of Hall is by Michael Hogue, a Morning News staff artist.
by Chris Roush
Jon Evans of TechCrunch writes about how all journalism is now tech journalism in some form or another.
Evans writes, “The problem is that everything is tech now. Software is eating the world – a world increasingly festooned with new hardware. War, art, politics, romance, sports, business — these are all tech topics now. Every human activity is increasingly inextricably intertwined with technology. And if you’re going to write about new technology, you have to write about the sociopolitical implications of that technology or else, well, you’re neither a good nor an interesting writer.
“At the same time, though, people don’t generally come to TechCrunch to read about war, art, politics, romance, or sports. (Though I think they do come to read about business.) That’s fine, and fair enough. If I ever write anything here that would still make sense if you take all the references to new technology out of it, then I’ve probably strayed outside my remit; that seems like a reasonable rule of thumb. So we’re done here. Right?
“Not quite. There’s something more interesting and provocative going on here.
“If the range of tech journalism has extended to pretty much the full range of human activities, then, at the same time, all journalism is becoming tech journalism. We’re not there yet, of course; but we’re getting there. That’s just a simple corollary of software-eating-the-world and one-smartphone-per-person. One day in the within-our-collective-lifetimes future, all stories will be tech stories to some extent.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Eric Hananoki of Media Matters writes about how The Wall Street Journal regularly failed to disclose the election-related conflicts of interest of its op-ed writers.
Hananoki writes, “The paper’s editorial page published op-eds from 12 writers without disclosing their roles as advisers to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. It also didn’t regularly disclose columnist Karl Rove’s close ties to the super PAC American Crossroads and the affiliated political organization American Crossroads GPS, two groups which spent a massive sum of money attempting to aid Mitt Romney and various Republican congressional candidates in November’s elections.
“According to a Media Matters review, the Journal published 2012 pieces from the following Romney advisers without disclosing their campaign ties: John Bolton; Max Boot; Lee A. Casey; Seth Cropsey; Paula Dobriansky; Mary Ann Glendon; Kevin Hassett; Michael Mukasey; Paul E. Peterson; David B. Rivkin Jr.; John Taylor; and Martin West.
“An October 2 study by Media Matters found that in 70 percent of op-eds written by Mitt Romney advisers, the Journal failed to disclose the writer’s connections to the Romney campaign. In several instances, the paper failed to disclose an op-ed writer’s connection despite its own news section reporting that the writer is advising Romney.
“For months, the News Corp.-owned publication also failed to disclose that Rove is the co-founder and adviser for American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, even though Rove’s columns were regularly about the political races that Crossroads was spending money on. Rove’s columns contained optimistic forecasts for Romney and falsehoods against President Obama.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Dean Starkman of Columbia Journalism Review writes about the balancing act of access and accountability by most business journalists in the wake of New York Times business editor Larry Ingrassia announcing last week he was moving to another job at the paper.
Starkman writes, “Like I say, it’s a balancing act. And that absolutely means you can fall off, though usually it’s not so abrupt as a fall; more like a slow sinking into the warm, cushy, perfumed maw of access, where fancy canapés are served.
“On the other side, credit must be given where it’s due, and to say that the Times has walked away from accountability reporting would be just wrong. In 2008, I compared its coverage of the crisis favorably to The Wall Street Journal’s, a judgment that I think holds up. More recently, I’m thinking of the 2010 blockbuster that kept the News Corp. hacking story alive until the Guardian could blow it open the next summer; the iEconomy series, especially the Foxconn story; and the monster-blowout WalMart bribery story. We should call these and other similar stories what they are: a public service.
“(And it’s hard to tell how much the business editor had to do with this story or that one, but, generally speaking, it was Ingrassia’s watch, so he should get credit and blame.)
“Another way to think of it is, if Sorkin has (plenty of) space to do what he does, so does Gretchen Morgenson, who, I’ve written, represents the other pole, does as well. This is the far more vulnerable space, bureaucracy-wise, with its time-consuming, expensive longform stories, confrontations, legal risks, and bridge-burning nature. But there it is.
“Could it be bigger, better, with more? Sure.
“But big institutional journalism, especially in the business-news business, is a balancing act between access and accountability, and the business section of the most important American newspaper under Ingrassia, it should be said, stayed up upright and held on to the umbrella.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Silas Lyons, the editor of the Redding Record Searchlight in California, writes about the paper’s business writer David Benda and how readers like his writing more now that the economy has turned around.
Lyons writes, “For a while, I don’t think I went a day without someone suggesting David should be fired.
“For his part, David kept his head down, kept his cool, and kept doing his job. It wasn’t flashy bravado, but it took real courage to keep writing fairly and honestly about what was happening.
“That, of course, is what we owe our readers, and our community. Doesn’t mean it’s easy, when you’re under constant attack.
“Well, I have to say David has made a remarkable turnaround.
“Several different times recently, unsolicited, I’ve had people tell me they see a real difference in David’s writing. He’s so much more positive, they say. He really seems to be writing stories that are uplifting, and shine a positive light on the business community, they say.
“What have you been putting in his coffee?
“If only journalists truly had the power attributed to them.
“I’ve worked pretty closely with David for more than five years now, through all the worst of the economy, and now watched as the green shoots of improvement have emerged. You want to know the secret about him? He hasn’t changed one bit.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
The society correspondent for Talking Biz News once again attended the Financial Follies, hosted by the New York Financial Writers’ Association, and filed this report:
Thank god 2012 was an election year. And the year of the biggest storm to hit New York City in a really, really, really long time.
For once, the Financial Follies – the annual prom and sketch show for business journalists and PR reps– wasn’t filled to the brim with esoteric jokes about Greek bond yields, China’s hard landing and the Fed’s totally unprecedented quantitative easing measures (!!! OMG, y’all, QE276 is coming).
Instead, the stars aligned and we had a hurricane named for John Travolta’s love interest in Grease. We were fortunate there was a guy who looked like a younger version of Mitt Romney, could sing, and chose to do both for us. How that damned girl (I mean storm!) wreaked havoc on my heart (I mean political aspirations! I mean city?).
Of course, the binders of women made it in!
This stuff was just writing itself this year, and all in the name of a good Follies.
Personally, it only took me four years to get a seat where I could actually see the stage. (Or maybe this was the first year that I took note that there was a stage). One veteran at my table said she’d skipped out on the Follies for the past few years, but believe it or not, she told me, it’d been around since the 1990s, and yes, it was always in that room.
I wonder if 1998 – you know, “Bill Clinton meet Monica Lewinsky” and all the shenanigans that followed — at all compared with 2012’s lineup of sketches? At least they had cigars then, my table mate told me. No, I mean, smoking was allowed in the room. …And yes, that too.
Well, we still had JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon. And the Sandy-Romney love/hate saga.
If you know anything about the Follies, you know that key to a successful night is your table, its location, its members, and most importantly the number of bottles of wine it holds. I’m not saying the volunteers for the New York Financial Writers’ Association aren’t entertaining and talented, I’m just saying they’re writers by training, and financial writers at that.
So there was a momentary scare for some attendees this year when rumors circulated that their dinner table would not have any – ANY – wine awaiting them when the show began. A Follies without wine?? 2012 definitely wasn’t going to compare to the years before. Turned out to be just one table, and don’t worry, some kind, alcoholic soul who was seated at that table made it happen. They got their wine. We all did.
As in years past, the evening started with $11 drinks for those without connections and heavy-handed bartenders dolling out free whiskeys for those who made it to the USAA pre-dinner cocktail hour. By the way, this year, they’ve caught on. If you don’t actually cover, you know, finance and markets, you can’t get in anymore.
Sorry, political reporters, this is our White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. You got the Obamas and Kate Upton, we got a tiny suite on the top floor of the Marriott and the same steak dinner as every year before, probably from the same cow. I think you know who wins.
Apparently David Faber made it. Photographic evidence exists, in fact. Everyone loved Pat Kiernan’s presence. Well, everyone on one side of the room, as I actually am not sure if he was at the event or made an appearance on stage or if people just really like Kiernan and were talking about him a lot. He is pretty great, go NY1.
The lack of financial focus this year I think made us all feel a bit cooler. There were jokes I could take home to the outside world. Granted, I don’t remember any of them, but I promise I laughed at them! And I would again today! Maybe.
But the one that got a ton of laughs was still as nerdy as they come — “No more Goldman Sachs means no more Bloomberg snacks.”
Aren’t you witty, Financial Follies. It’s true, and it rhymes.