Tag Archives: Coverage
by Chris Roush
Gwen Moritz of Arkansas Business writes about how she become a banking reporter.
Moritz writes, “Several things contributed to my journalistic evolution, starting with my desperation to get away from a boss who modeled himself after Captain Queeg. The day my editor at the Nashville (Tenn.) Business Journal told me that I was now a banking reporter literally changed my life.
“The first bank story I covered, in the summer of 1992, was a press conference announcing that a bank from Birmingham called First Alabama was entering the Nashville market by acquiring a small mutual savings and loan. The reporters for the daily papers — back then, Nashville still had The Tennessean in the morning and the Banner in the afternoon — were asking questions about ROA and ROE, and I was taking notes as fast as I could and putting question marks by everything since I had no earthly idea what those letters stood for, much less what they actually meant.
“If I knew then what I know now, I would have asked a whole lot more questions about what the depositors in that little mutual S&L were getting out of the deal. Instead, I followed up on a tossed off comment by one of the First Alabama executives about hoping to reach $500 million in assets in Tennessee within a year.
“I didn’t even know what a bank asset was. But I used the Tennessee Bankers Association directory to call about two dozen bank presidents around Nashville and asked them if they were being courted by First Alabama. I was too naïve to realize that no banker would answer a question like that. Fortunately, four of those bank presidents were equally naïve and confirmed that they were in talks with First Alabama, which, you know, is now called Regions Bank.”
Read more here.
by Liz Hester
There have been many stories recently about Silicon Valley’s new campaigns to influence immigration policy. Most recently, the New York Times ran a piece analyzing the campaign reminding me that this is an especially interesting topic for business journalists.
Here are excerpts from the Times story, which leads with pointing out that Republican Marco Rubio is the center of commercials sponsored by the technology industry arguing for reform.
But most who watched the commercial, sponsored by a new group that calls itself Americans for a Conservative Direction, may be surprised to learn who bankrolled it: senior executives from Silicon Valley, like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, who run companies where the top employees donate mostly to Democrats.
The advertising blitz reflects the sophisticated lobbying campaign being waged by technology companies and their executives.
They have managed to secure much of what they want in the landmark immigration bill now pending in Congress, provisions that would allow them to fill thousands of vacant jobs with foreign engineers. At the same time, they have openly encouraged lawmakers to make it harder for consulting companies in India and elsewhere to provide foreign workers temporarily to this country.
Silicon Valley is joining other business groups like the Chamber of Commerce in trying to get the law passed and venturing into new territory in their government relations, the Times said.
The profound transition under way inside Silicon Valley companies is illustrated by their lobbying disclosure reports filed in 2010 to $2.45 million in the first three months of this year, while Google spent a record $18 million last year.
The immigration fight, which has unified technology companies perhaps more than any other issue, has brought the lobbying effort to new heights. The industry sees it as a fix to a stubborn problem: job vacancies, particularly for engineers.
“We are not able to fill all the jobs that we are creating,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, told the Senate Judiciary Committee late last month.
Chief executives met with President Obama to discuss immigration. Venture capitalists testified in Congress. Their lobbyists roamed the Senate corridors to make sure their appeals were considered in the closed-door negotiations among the Gang of Eight, which included Mr. Rubio and Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who have been particularly receptive.
An Economist story (via Business Insider) points out that many foreign-born entrepreneurs create jobs for those born here, making their contributions even more important as the U.S. works to decrease unemployment:
SHAYAN ZADEH, the co-founder of Zoosk, a popular online-dating service based in San Francisco, is worried.
In the current debate on immigration, few realise that foreign-born entrepreneurs create jobs for locals.
“It’s a real public-relations problem,” bemoans Mr Zadeh, who came to the country as a student from Iran and worked at Microsoft before establishing his own firm, which now employs almost 150 people.
On May 2nd Innovate for America, the new brainchild of Scott Sandell, a venture capitalist, launched a plan to get American firms with at least one immigrant founder to publicise the number of people they have hired in America. Some 40 companies, including Zoosk, BloomReach, a start-up that analyses data to help firms maximise online revenues, and QBotix, a robot-maker, have already signed up.
Politico did an interesting piece outlining the different talking points of the debate and who is saying what. Read the full article here. One of the arguments is that immigration reform will create economic growth:
This is the argument pro-immigration reform Republicans, like Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan, are using to make their case.
They insist that economic growth will do a lot to outweigh any costs of the bill, and they got a boost last week when the Congressional Budget Office said it will consider the economic impacts when it estimates the cost of the Gang of Eight bill.
They’ll have strong support from other conservative thinkers, especially Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum, who says the economic benefits of immigration reform are the key to any chance of survival of the entitlement programs.
His group put out a paper that concluded immigration reform would speed the pace of economic growth and could reduce the deficit by $2.5 trillion. The growth will come because immigrants will participate in the labor force at higher rates, according to the analysis, but also because they’re more likely to own small businesses.
While immigration reform is often written about as a partisan issue, there are conservatives and liberals on both sides of the debate. As the bill moves through the Senate and heads to the House of Representative, I hope we’ll see more business outlets covering the economic aspect of the debate. Many business leaders have been calling to relax visa requirements for years. Only now it’s not writing about a CEO speech, it’s covering spending by some of the largest companies in the U.S.
The outcome will have far reaching affects on policy and business.
by Chris Roush
The Greenwood Index-Journal in South Carolina has added a Sunday financial news section called Money.
A story on its website states, “The Money section – Section E in the newspaper – includes stories about business, technology, retail sales, banking, finance, tourism, real estate, environmental issues and energy. It’ll include profiles on businesses and their leaders, entrepreneurs, small businesses, upcoming economic projects and new businesses.
“‘This section is an opportunity for us to highlight businesses and the economy in the Lakelands,’ executive editor Richard S. Whiting said. ‘The Lakelands has a bustling business sector, and this section will cover that topic and more.’ The Money section is also open to submissions. Businesses that recently won awards, promoted or hired employees or expanded services can be included in the section’s Business Briefs sections. New businesses can also be highlighted in the section.
“The Money section is also the new home for Dave Ramsey’s popular Dave Says column, which offers financial advice. Property transfers, permits and business licenses will also be included in the section.”
Read more here.
by Liz Hester
There was an interesting story in the New York Times about the intersection of the business and political worlds. Several lawmakers are urging the Securities and Exchange Commission to require companies to disclose political contributions, creating some transparency in the murky world of big donations.
Here are some of the details:
A loose coalition of Democratic elected officials, shareholder activists and pension funds has flooded the Securities and Exchange Commission with calls to require publicly traded corporations to disclose to shareholders all of their political donations, a move that could transform the growing world of secret campaign spending.
S.E.C. officials have indicated that they could propose a new disclosure rule by the end of April, setting up a major battle with business groups that oppose the proposal and are preparing for a fierce counterattack if the agency’s staff moves ahead. Two S.E.C. commissioners have taken the unusual step of weighing in already, with Daniel Gallagher, a Republican, saying in a speech that the commission had been “led astray” by “politically charged issues.”
A petition to the S.E.C. asking it to issue the rule has already garnered close to half a million comments, far more than any petition or rule in the agency’s history, with the vast majority in favor of it. While relatively few petitions result in action by the S.E.C., the commission staff filed a notice late last year indicating that it was considering recommending a rule.
In response to the growing pressure, House Republicans introduced legislation last Thursday that would make it illegal for the commission to issue any political disclosure regulations applying to companies under its jurisdiction. Earlier this month, the leaders of three of Washington’s most powerful trade associations — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable — issued a rare joint letter to the chief executives of Fortune 200 companies, encouraging them to stand against proxy resolutions and other proposals from shareholder activists demanding more disclosure of political spending.
Tax-exempt groups and trade associations spent hundreds of millions of dollars on political advertising during 2012 elections, but they are not required to disclose their donors. Evidence has mounted that a significant portion of the money came from companies seeking to intervene in campaigns without fear of offending their customers, their shareholders — or the lawmakers they target for defeat.
While the Times isn’t the first to report on the subject, it definitely helped gain attention for the issue with mentions in CNN Washington update and in a Fiscal Times blog.
But the real issue is what do shareholders want? From the USA Today story:
At the same time, companies holding annual meetings this spring face 126 shareholder resolutions encouraging them to reveal more about their campaign contributions and lobbying activity or calling on them to curb political spending, according to Heidi Welsh, executive director of Sustainable Investments Institute. She tracks shareholder proposals on social and environmental issues. Many come from investor activist groups and labor unions.
That’s up from 61 such resolutions in 2010 – the year the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling helped pave the way for unlimited corporate spending by corporations and unions.
The disclosure push is part of the continuing battle over corporate political spending in the post-Citizens United era. Trade associations and other tax-exempt groups that are not required to disclose their donors poured more than $300 million into the 2012 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors money in elections.
Some institutional investors argue political spending poses financial risks for shareholders. Leading business groups say the disclosure is unnecessary and motivated by partisan politics.
From the Times:
While campaign finance regulations are usually the province of the Federal Election Commission, advocates for the new proposal have pressured the S.E.C. to issue its own disclosure rule. They argue that shareholders should be able to evaluate business executives’ oversight of company resources and that S.E.C. regulations already require disclosure of similar information, like executive compensation.
“Shareholders have been demanding this information for some time” said Robert J. Jackson Jr. a law professor at Columbia University who helped write the original petition to the S.E.C. “It’s a basic precept of American securities law that shareholders should be given the information they need to evaluate their companies.” The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the A.F.L.-C.I.O., Bill de Blasio, the New York City public advocate, and others have lobbied the S.E.C. in support of the petition.
Opponents argue that the agency does not have the authority or expertise to issue regulations about political spending, and that a disclosure rule would infringe on companies’ free speech rights — and damage shareholder value — by exposing them to criticism and attack from political opponents.
“The Chamber believes that the funds expended by publicly traded companies for political and trade association engagement are immaterial to the company’s bottom line,” said Blair Holmes, a spokeswoman for the business group, who added that the advocates’ “apparent goal is to silence the business community by creating an atmosphere of intimidation under the cover of investor protection.”
But according to a Huffington Post story on April 16 talking about how comments on the proposal had passed the half a million mark, companies are able to give money to alternate groups that don’t have disclosure rules:
Despite companies’ post-Citizens United freedom, few large corporate donations have been reported to the FEC, the agency in charge of enforcing campaign finance laws. Many campaign observers believe that corporations are giving to politically active groups that, unlike candidate campaigns or super PACs, are not required to name their donors — groups such as trade associations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or social welfare nonprofits like Crossroads GPS, American Action Network or Citizens for Strength & Security. An inadvertent disclosure by the health insurer Aetna revealed that the company had donated $4.05 million to the Chamber of Commerce and $3 million to the conservative American Action Network in 2011.
While it is another layer of regulation and compliance for companies, as responsible shareholders, many investors likely want to know how their money is being spent. It’s an important check in the system that has opened the floodgates of corporate donations.
by Chris Roush
Susan Anderson, the new business editor of the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming, writes about why business news coverage in the state is different than anywhere else.
Anderson writes, “If you try to describe living in Wyoming to someone from elsewhere, after you finish with our terrific outdoors and small cities or towns, you plunge right into what it’s like to work in the state with the least number of people spread over 98,000 square miles.
“Building a road in Wyoming has its unique issues. So does selling ice cream in a town of 10,000 that can balloon to 40,000 in travel seasons. It’s one of the delights of covering business in Wyoming to see the ways that people tackle their sometimes-exotic challenges.
“Give us a call
“People sometimes think we reporters know more than we do. In fact, we often don’t know about it if you don’t tell us.
“Writing about business in this Sunday section will be about much more than numbers and profit reports. The people who struggle and fail or succeed give us all insights that charts and numbers cannot.
“Expect to meet many of your neighbors in these pages. We want to know Wyoming people who are building their own businesses or struggling with universal challenges.”
Read more here.
by Liz Hester
President Obama unveiled Wednesday his $3.78 trillion budget proposal, which is destined to be picked over and debated. Let’s take a look at the initial coverage of the proposal.
Here’s the story from the Wall Street Journal:
President Barack Obama‘s $3.778 trillion spending proposal for next year incorporates for the first time a number of measures to slow the growth of spending on Social Security, Medicare and other federal benefits, hoping to draw Senate Republicans to the table for negotiations.
The White House has said it would accept many of the benefit changes only if they are part of a broad deficit-reduction package that combines spending cuts with tax increases. But with many Republican lawmakers opposed to any more tax increases, the odds of a large-scale budget deal remain low.
“I will not agree to any deal that seeks to cut the deficit on the backs of middle class families,” Mr. Obama wrote in the budget blueprint released Wednesday. “I am willing to make tough choices that may not be popular within my own party, because there can be no sacred cows for either party.”
These budget decisions loom at a time when the economic recovery remains fragile. The stock market is at record levels and tax receipts are rebounding, but unemployment and the budget deficit remain high.
Mr. Obama’s budget proposal, for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, calls for more than $700 billion in new taxes over 10 years, and seeks increased spending on highways and other infrastructure, early-childhood education and mental health programs.
The Bloomberg coverage started with the proposal to raise taxes on the highest earners, appropriate angle for their clients:
President Barack Obama wants to again rely on the top-earning U.S. households for most of the tax increases he’s proposing.
Obama’s budget plan, released today in Washington, would cap tax deductions for top earners, increase the estate tax, eliminate private-equity managers’ ability to receive lightly taxed carried interest and require those earning more than $1 million to pay a minimum tax rate.
In a break from past budgets, Obama wants to reserve most business tax increases to pay for a cut in the corporate tax rate rather than designate the revenue for deficit reduction.
Under Obama’s budget plan, in 2023 the federal government would collect 20 percent of the gross domestic product as revenue, the first time it would hit that mark since 2000.
That’s compared with 16.9 percent this year and 19.1 percent projected for 2023 if Congress does nothing, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Congressional Republicans want to rewrite the U.S. tax code without adjusting overall revenue levels from the CBO projection.
New tax provisions scattered through the budget plan accompany many repeated proposals that Obama has made since 2009.
The New York Times story was the most general, leading off with a bit of information for everyone. Here are some excerpts:
In his fifth annual budget proposal to Congress on Wednesday, President Obama once again has put forward a fiscal mix of investments in infrastructure, education and research with further deficit reduction through tax increases and spending cuts. But for the first time he has included changes to Medicare and Social Security intended to entice Republicans back to the bargaining table.
The main new element of the budget is his proposal, offered previously in private negotiations with Speaker John A. Boehner, for a new cost-of-living formula that would reduce future Social Security benefits. On the spending side, Mr. Obama wants to help states make prekindergarten available universally, paid for by higher taxes on tobacco products.
Mr. Obama incorporated the compromise offers on Social Security and Medicare into his annual budget for the first time — over vehement objections from many Democrats — in part after earlier private discussions with individual Republican senators about what he could do to assure them of his seriousness about reaching a long-term deal to stabilize the national debt.
The 10-year budget plan would cut spending by about $1.2 trillion over that time to replace the indiscriminate across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, that took effect March 1 when Mr. Obama and Republican leaders failed to agree on alternative deficit-reduction measures.
One of the more interesting sidebars was in the Wall Street Journal and touched on overhauling the tax code. This is an issue that most corporations, small businesses and individuals are keenly interested in seeing resolved, so kudos to WSJ for writing a separate story:
Notably, the budget proposal endorses the idea of overhauling both the individual and business tax systems at the same time, something that Republicans say is necessary to prevent political battles that could kill the effort.
The budget blueprint also effectively declares a truce with Republicans on the president’s longstanding goal of raising income-tax rates on people making more than about $250,000. The fiscal-cliff compromise at the end of 2012 set that level at around $450,000 for couples and the administration budget basically accepts the parameters of that deal, although it proposes revisiting the deal on the estate tax, and raising estate-tax levels starting in 2018.
“The President believes that today’s tax code has become overly complex and inequitable and that we should immediately begin the process of reforming the individual and business tax systems,” says a White House fact sheet accompanying the release.
Lawmakers in both parties are hoping that a tax overhaul will become part of the elusive grand budget bargain that President Barack Obama and lawmakers continue to seek.
Little about a tax overhaul would be simple, and obstacles abound in the budget. Perhaps the biggest stumbling point for Republicans is the administration’s continuing demand for about $600 billion in additional taxes from high-income individuals.
Most of that money would come from the administration’s proposal to reduce the value of tax breaks for couples making more than $250,000, according to the new budget. The affected breaks would include itemized deductions as well as other breaks for workplace health care, retirement-savings contributions and others.
The administration’s proposal would reduce the value of these breaks to 28%. For example, $100,000 in tax deductions would produce a break of $28,000 for a very-high-income household, compared with $39,600 currently based on the top tax rate of 39.6%. That change is projected to raise about $529 billion over a decade.
Let the debate (and the see-saw coverage) begin. It’s likely to be a fierce battle to consensus.
by Chris Roush
Curt Woodward of Xconomy writers a piece for 90.9 WBUR, a National Public Radio station in Boston, that takes issue with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick stating “The media here is awful to the business community” in a speech to the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council.
Woodward writes, “But here’s the real reason Patrick’s dig at the press was so galling: It’s demonstrably false.
“Look at the business media in this state and try to tell me, with a straight face, that the narrative being presented is solely one of doom, gloom and failure. You can’t.
“Let’s just take a tour through the recent business headlines in the local press to illustrate this. This past Sunday, there was a big Globe feature by Kirsner himself on Entrega, a local biotech company that is developing a way for patients to take powerful drugs in a pill, rather than the injections currently used.
“The Globe also featured no fewer than four separate stories through the last week of March on U.S. and European regulators approving a new multiple sclerosis drug from Biogen Idec, a step that the paper saw as ‘cementing the Weston company’s dominance in MS treatments.’
“The Herald covered the rise of 3D printing, putting some Massachusetts startup companies on the map alongside other players nationwide in this burgeoning tech trend.
“Both papers, along with online-only news outlets like my employer, Xconomy, also carried lengthy pieces about a new offering from Nuance Communications that could see the Burlington, Mass.-based company leading the way in voice recognition-equipped advertising — the kind of stuff you might see in a sci-fi movie.”
Read more here.
The Newspaper Guild/Communication Workers of America released Tuesday a summary report of their new “Labor & Unions in National TV Network News.”
The CWA and Newspaper Guild funded the study directed by Federico Subervi of the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Texas State University.
The report is important. There is a big story here: over the past 30 years, public policies have dimmed the prospects for the working class (I use that term expansively – it includes most Americans) and increased the gap between the wealthiest and the rest. This study looks at three recent years – 2008, 2009, and 2011 – years in which the U.S. has struggled with the worst recession since the Great Depression, the years that gave rise to the global Occupy Wall Street movement, and years in which the right has gone after public sector unions with a vengeance.
Yet, the study finds, only 0.3 percent of network TV news in those three years covered labor issues. It’s a direct line from the decline of labor unions and collective bargaining to the decades-long economic slide of American workers, yet few journalists seem to be able to find the narrative thread.
There is a persistent notion in American discourse that labor unions are what are wrong with our economy, despite decades after the peak of labor union power. It was right there last year in contradictory glory in candidate Mitt Romney’s 160-page “Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth.”
On one hand, Romney’s platform had a pie chart documenting labor’s decline to just 7 percent of the private sector workforce; on the other, Romney insisted on calling unions “Big Labor” and had an entire chapter on “Labor Policy” that would weaken National Labor Relations Board enforcement, boost anti-union right-to-work states, and undermine union political power so “job creators” could “get the economy growing again.”
Christopher R. Martin is professor and interim head of communication studies at the University of Northern Iowa. He is the author of “Framed! Labor and the Corporate Media” (Cornell University Press) and is working on a book about news media coverage of labor in the 20th century.
Unfortunately, that’s the same contradictory conclusion the news media seem to make: they can in one story report that organized labor is small and weak, and in another suggest that Big Labor is holding back our economy. As the News Guild/CWA summary concludes, “the [TV news] discourse and framing continues to fault the workers and their representatives for any conflict or impasse, not the business, company or government.”
Tuesday’s release was just a three-page summary of the study. Coming soon is more analysis and policy recommendations, including “the need for more accurate teaching about labor reporting in schools of journalism.” Agreed, although we will not likely see a resurgence of a labor beat to cover unions and working class issues on a regular basis. There are no labor beat reporters at national broadcast news organizations (including NPR), and only two newspaper labor writers left in the country – at the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
With continued cutbacks – by 2012 newspaper newsroom staffs have declined 30 percent since their peak in 2000, says the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism – it’s a good guess that journalism organizations won’t be creating new labor beat positions. But, general assignment reporters and those covering business, sports, government, and the arts all interface with labor issues, and should be able to knowledgably tell stories that go beyond the “Big Labor” stereotype.
There may also be opportunities for enterprising journalists to develop their own independent news organizations to cover labor and the working class. With network TV news devoting 0.3% of their programs to labor issues, there are certainly plenty of good stories left untold, and audiences who would be interested in seeing their lives accurately reflected in the news.
by Chris Roush
Chicago Tribune business reporter Ameet Sachdev talked to TribNation about his job.
Here is an excerpt:
What’s unique about Chicago’s business climate?
Its diversity. In nearly 13 years as a business reporter at the Tribune, I’ve covered beats that have included food and agriculture, accounting, aviation and Chicago’s legal community. There’s a never-ending list of fascinating companies and business personalities to write about.
When did you get into journalism, and what hooked you?
My dad used to bring the Chicago Tribune home every day and I would devour the sports section. My love for journalism grew in high school, where I worked for the newspaper. My first assignment freshman year: Write a story on the varsity soccer team. The newspaper adviser liked the story and encouraged me to continue writing. I haven’t stopped since.
You grew up and went to J-school around here, then went to papers in St. Pete, Lexington and Poughkeepsie before coming back to the Trib. What did you learn about Chicago when you got back that you didn’t know before?
I hate to sound so negative, but the amount of public corruption surprised me. I grew up in the western suburbs, but as a kid you don’t pay attention to that stuff.
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
A study examining national TV networks’ coverage of unions and the labor movement across three years found that the media largely ignores labor, except to paint unions as a source of trouble in the American economy.
“Even in stories about labor or unions, the main sources relied on are external to labor or unions,” writes professor Federico Subervi in a summary of the report. “Moreover, the discourse and framing continues to fault the workers and their representatives for any conflict or impasse, not the business, company or government.”
Subervi’s report was commissioned by The Newspaper Guild-CWA. Subervi is the director of the Center for the Study of Latino Media & Markets at the School of Journalism and Communications at Texas State University.
To conduct the study, researchers accessed the Vanderbilt University Television News Archives, which offer an online searchable database of news headlines and abstracts of news programs. The study focused on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN.
Ultimately, over three years – 2008, 2009 and 2011 – researchers identified a total of only 141 stories among the four networks that focused on labor either primarily or secondarily. “Estimating that these networks collectively air approximately 16,000 news stories per year, the 141 news items about labor/unions represent less than .3 percent of their news inventory for the studied time period,” Subervi writes.
Read more here.