Tag Archives: Coverage
by Liz Hester
With the economy the central issue in this year’s election, it’s not surprising that many companies have been mentioned by name on the campaign trail and in ads. But none have actually had to set the record straight themselves, until now.
Chrysler, which received government support and money to get through bankruptcy during the financial crisis, had to send an email to employees today after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said it was planning to move Jeep manufacturing jobs to China.
From the New York Times Caucus Blog:
Chrysler’s chief executive on Tuesday strongly refuted claims that production of Jeeps would shift to China, an insistence that cast further doubt on the Romney campaign’s recent efforts to undercut President Obama’s support for the auto industry as it fights for Ohio’s 18 electoral votes.
In an e-mail to employees, the chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, said that Jeep’s commitment to the United States was unequivocal. “I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” he wrote. “It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”
Mr. Marchionne’s response — an unusually forceful gesture from the chief executive of a major American corporation a week before Election Day — came as the politics of the auto bailout took center stage in the presidential campaign.
The Romney campaign has come under considerable criticism in recent days for taking liberties with the facts in a new television commercial that suggests Jeep, a recipient of federal bailout money, will soon outsource American jobs to China. Chrysler, Jeep’s parent company, does not in fact have plans to cut its American work force but is considering opening a facility in China where it would produce Jeeps for sale locally.
The Chrysler head decided to speak out after Romney made remarks at a political event in Ohio. From the Wall Street Journal:
Chrysler, like Detroit rival General Motors Co. has tried to keep its distance from the presidential contest, even as President Barack Obama has used their comebacks from federally financed bankruptcies as a prime selling point in his effort to win votes in the U.S. auto industry heartland of Ohio and Michigan. Chrysler on Monday reported an 80% increase in third-quarter net income.
Mr. Romney’s campaign launched an ad in Ohio last week aimed at blunting the Obama campaign’s effort to take credit for the auto industry recovery. In the ad, an announcer states that Mr. Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.” The line is accompanied by images of cars being crushed at a junkyard. The Romney campaign has defended the ad as factual. The Obama campaign on Monday shot back with an ad characterizing the ad and Mr. Romney’s statement as false.
Chrysler hadn’t issued a statement on the issue since a blog post from the company’s chief spokesman, Gualberto Ranieri, which was posted prior to Mr. Romney’s remarks in Ohio. That post dismissed as false the speculation on some blogs that Chrysler was considering sending U.S. Jeep production jobs to China.
In his email to employees, Mr. Marchionne said the company plans to invest $500 million in the Toledo factory that builds the Jeep Liberty model and plans to add 1,100 jobs at the factory by 2013.
What makes this story interesting isn’t the back and forth of politics, but the obvious public relations and brand protection strategy Chrysler was forced to implement. It’s rare for any corporation to weigh in on politics.
After the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allows unmitigated corporate contributions to candidates, many feared companies would own the election with their deep pockets. But as Bloomberg Businessweek reported in August, many corporations are putting limits on how they back candidates to avoid public relations nightmares.
Chrysler is looking to avoid the label of a company that moves jobs overseas, hence the quick move to respond to political statements. So what is clear from all of this is that companies haven’t forgotten the bottom line and that protecting their images remains of the utmost importance.
by Liz Hester
With Hurricane Sandy, the latest phenomenon of nature, bearing down on the East Coast and wrecking havoc in the business world, it seemed like a good time to take a look at how business media covers storms.
It’s also the only thing anyone’s really talking or writing about, so I have little choice. As someone who recently left New York City for the quiet of North Carolina, it’s a bit odd to watch my friends suffer the suspense that many here consider a part of every October.
But, I digress. Sandy is massive, slow moving and likely to hit shore at high tide during a full moon creating huge storm surges Monday evening. She also closed down the stock and bond markets for at least two days and transit in much of the Northeast.
As the New York Times reported (Note: NYT was free for everyone online Monday) about the economic effect:
From the mighty New York Stock Exchange to local restaurants and retailers, businesses up and down the East Coast came to a halt Monday as the effects of Hurricane Sandy swept ashore.
Financial markets, department stores and many big companies on the East Coast announced plans to close Tuesday for the second day in a row. Unlike past hurricanes which blew through in a day or two, Hurricane Sandy’s fallout will be felt for much of the week, broadening the economic fallout.
Overall, total economic losses from the storm could be $10 billion to $20 billion, according to an analysis by Eqecat, a firm that performs catastrophe risk modeling for the insurance industry and government.
Reporter Nelson Schwartz also points out that Google delayed an event announcing a new smartphone among other products, Pfizer postponed its earnings announcement and many retailers closed up and down the East Coast.
Also from his story:
Oliver Chen, an analyst for Citi, wrote in a research note that he expected traffic to retailers could be down as much as 40 percent for the week in impacted areas, and November comparable-store sales could be hit by as much as 2 percent to 3 percent. However, he said, stores that sell emergency supplies, food and other staples should see an uptick in traffic and sales.
The business effects of the storm only added to the uncertainty pervading markets, economists said, with investors and executives already worried by the impending “fiscal cliff” in Washington as well as continuing economic problems in Europe and slowing growth in Asia.
The storm, which will deliver powerful wind gusts and heavy rains to the some of the most populous parts of the U.S., could cost the insurance industry between $5 billion and $10 billion, Eqecat estimated Monday.
At the high end of that range, Sandy would rank as the fifth-most expensive hurricane of all time, surpassing Hurricane Charley, which caused an inflation-adjusted $8.8 billion in insured losses when it struck Florida and the Carolinas in 2004.
Damage estimates from Eqecat and other disaster-modeling companies are closely tracked by the insurance industry for the early indication they can provide about the financial impact of major catastrophes on insurance-company capital.
Wall Street analysts that track the insurance industry say insurers will easily be able to absorb a loss of $5 billion to $10 billion. The 2012 hurricane season has been uneventful until now, and insurers are considered flush with cash.
Bloomberg TV preempted all other coverage to talk about the hurricane. In a non-scientific, random sampling of coverage, I saw: NOAA officials, executives of major companies including Jet Blue and the New York Stock Exchange, coverage of AT&T’s disaster center (and information about the cell phone networks), pictures from the New York and New Jersey region, as well as commentary on the political campaign. It was quite wide-ranging and informative.
Here’s an interesting story on home losses from Forbes:
Sandy is expected to trigger flooding, topple trees, cause power outages and damage buildings — including homes. Lots of them. Nearly 284,000 Mid-Atlantic homes valued at more than $87 billion are at risk for property damage, according to CoreLogic. The Irvine, Calif.-based research firm calculated its report based on storm surge flooding if Sandy hits the coast as a Category 1 hurricane.
CoreLogic estimates eight major metro areas located from Virginia to Massachusetts bear the highest risks, with a combined 238,000 properties valued at close to $75 billion. Perhaps not surprisingly, the densely populatedNew York metropolitan area, which includes northern New Jersey, Long island and Westchester, has 119,312 residences, valued at about $48 billion in total, at risk.
And then this on the markets from CNBC.com:
Dennis Gartman, who runs a hedge fund and authors the widely followed Gartman Letter, said that space, too, will be a mixed bag. (Read More: Sandy Also Could Wreak Havoc With Oil Refineries)
“If Sandy becomes truly untoward in the next 48 hours, we can imagine crude oil prices coming under pressure while gasoline, and particularly heading oil, race higher,” he said. “We can imagine the heating oil backwardation (future month prices lower than current) to become even more extreme than it already is, and we can imagine gasoline going backwardated out into the spring of next year rather easily. Indeed, we’d be surprised if it did not do so.”
It’s never pretty, but definitely gets coverage in a different class when a storm hits New York and Washington. Here’s hoping all those sandbags in Lower Manhattan do their jobs and that things can get back to normal soon.
by Chris Roush
Talking Biz News asked Tom Hudson, the co-anchor and managing editor of “Nightly Business Report” on PBS, how the 30-minute show had adjusted its coverage due to Hurricane Andrew.
Here is Hudson’s response:
First, our thoughts are with our colleagues, friends and families in Sandy’s path.The closing of the U.S. stock exchanges does not relieve NBR of delivering what we say we are: a nightly business report. For instance, tonight NBR reported on the historic exchange closings, gasoline supplies along the East Coast, the financial wherewithal of property insurers and how to gauge any real impact on the economy from Sandy among other items.As a small operation, NBR also has had to overcome the closing of our NY and DC bureaus due to Sandy. We did so by utilizing technology by our personnel in those locations that wasn’t available the last time a hurricane closed the NYSE. (By the way, on Tuesday we will be posting on www.nbr.com the original NBR broadcast from the day in September 1985 when Hurricane Gloria closed the NYSE.)From a practical stand point, the storm’s preparations and the precautions taken by our sources in Sandy’s path has us relying on our sources beyond the storm’s reach.For example, tonight’s broadcast featured our interview with former FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison from our Miami set. Tuesday, we discuss the decision to close the stock exchanges with former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman David Ruder from Chicago.While equity trading is central for our program, NBR is about more than stock prices.Again, our thoughts are with those dealing with the storm and we hope for their safety.
by Liz Hester
Remember back in July when Yahoo named Marissa Mayer as its new CEO. Not only is she a woman; she was pregnant. Cue the stories about work-family balance and if someone just starting a family could hold such a high-profile position.
Even other women joined the chorus of questions, like this Miami Herald blog post by Cindy Krischer Goodman when Mayer took the job. Then there was this July post in the New York Times Motherlode blog:
Ms. Mayer’s pregnancy appears to be a first among new chief executives, and possibly (according to TechCrunch) a first among C.E.O.’s of publicly traded Fortune 500 companies. Coverage of her pregnancy is rampant, as, of course, is interest, spurred partly by all those firsts — including the fact that this will be Ms. Mayer’s first baby.
As an honest woman, I have to predict that the balancing of a new baby and such a high-profile job may be more challenging than Ms. Mayer’s blithe dismissal of the question suggests. (“I like to stay in the rhythm of things,” she told Fortune magazine. “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it.”) But that’s no reason Ms. Mayer can’t make it work — and kudos to her and to Yahoo for taking it on.
But would you have? One question raised as the media and the business world discuss Ms. Mayer’s pregnancy is whether a man would face the same scrutiny for taking a high-profile job during his wife’s first pregnancy. The answer? Of course not, although it would surely come up for discussion — witness even the observers who wondered if a father as involved as Barack Obama would, could or should run for the presidency while his children were young.
Well, yesterday, Mayer delivered on the earnings, only weeks after delivering her first child on September 30. It wasn’t perfect, and the coverage of earnings ranged from critical to glowing. But in a quarter of change, Mayer showed her detractors she is capable of turning the company around.
From the AP story:
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer turned in an encouraging report card covering her first few months running the troubled Internet company.
The third-quarter results announced Monday weren’t astounding, but they were better than analysts anticipated. Most importantly, Yahoo’s net revenue crept up from the previous year for the third consecutive year. That reinforced the belief that things are finally getting better at Yahoo after five years of financial malaise, especially with the hard-driving, well-respected Mayer at the helm.
And from the New York Times coverage:
Yahoo reported stronger earnings than a year earlier, but future growth remained uncertain. “We have a fundamental foundation on which to grow,” Ms. Mayer said in a conference call with analysts. “We believe Yahoo’s best days lie ahead. We intend to win.”
Those problems start with the company’s stagnant revenue, which was $1.2 billion in the quarter. Its income from operations decreased 14 percent, to $152 million from $177 million in the year earlier period.
With 700 million users each month, Yahoo remains one of the most visited sites on the Web, but it has been ceding its share of the online display ad market to rivals like Facebook and Google.
Its search business, which Yahoo outsourced to Microsoft in 2009, is on its last legs, propped up only because of a revenue-guarantee clause in its contract with Microsoft.
And the Wall Street Journal weighs in with a measured assessment as well:
Marissa Mayer has injected a feeling of hope inside Yahoo Inc., but her first quarterly report card points to a tough slog for the long-ailing Internet pioneer.
The Silicon Valley company on Monday reported third-quarter profit that soared due to Yahoo’s sale of part of its stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. But revenue fell 1%, lagging steady growth in the online advertising market.
Yahoo’s results were above analysts’ expectations, however, sending its share price up 4.3% to $16.45 in after-hours trading following the announcement.
Given all the speculation about Mayer’s ability to balance having a baby and trying to turn around a struggling company, I think her first quarter should help stop some of the criticism. It’s not perfect. But it takes more than three months to fix an ailing company and Mayer seems to be well on the way to accomplishing her plans.
One thing she could do better, according to nearly all the media stories, is explain what those plans are and how she’s going to execute them. While it seems she’s come a long way in three months, there’s definitely room for improvement. I just hope the next quarter’s stories focus more on the company and less on the new mother’s ability to lead it.
by Chris Roush
Tom O’Boyle of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who wrote a book about former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, writes about Welch’s relationship with the business press.
O’Boyle writes, “Although Jack Welch was the epitome of the modern celebrity CEO, his greatest genius wasn’t in reading a balance sheet or executing a business strategy, but rather in his preternatural understanding of raw power. He knew how to ingratiate as well as intimidate the media — to squelch, kill or chill unflattering portrayals of him. That meant rewarding allies and punishing potential adversaries.
“During the six years I researched and wrote a book about Mr. Welch back in the 1990s, his high-powered legal team threatened to sue me and my publisher (Alfred Knopf) no less than a dozen times, though they never did. My offense: having the audacity to question the well-spun Welch myth, which publications like Fortune, Business Week and even my own Wall Street Journal were all too willing to convey.
“At the same time, Mr. Welch courted allies with great zeal, among them Fortune. Little wonder then that when the magazine gave out its millennial awards back in 2000, none other than Jack Welch was declared ‘Manager of the Century.’ No, not men like Henry Ford or either of the Watsons of IBM fame, who would have been obvious and logical choices.
Read more here.
by Liz Hester
Lance Armstrong’s decision to step down as chairman of his cancer-fighting Livestrong foundation in the wake of doping allegations isn’t just a blow to the man himself; it’s a blow to an organization with a beneficial mission and a powerful brand.
From Juliet Macur’s story in the New York Times:
“I have had the great honor of serving as this foundation’s chairman for the last five years and its mission and success are my top priorities,” Armstrong said in a statement. “Today therefore, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship.”
Armstrong, the seven-time Tour winner who denies ever doping, founded the organization in 1997 after he survived testicular cancer and it sold millions of yellow Livestrong wristbands and went on to partner with Nike to sell millions of dollars of Livestrong gear. Jeff Garvey, the vice chairman of the organization, will become chairman, while Armstrong will remain on the foundation’s board.
Livestrong funds programs that support cancer survivors through diagnosis to life after the treatment. Each year, they spend around $35 million, with $30 million of that going to programming, according to their website.
The foundation, which will celebrate its 15th year in 2012, has raised more than $470 million with 81 percent of those funds going to programs, according to the Livestrong web site. That’s an incredible amount of money, no doubt enabled in part from Armstrong’s celebrity.
How else could you sell 80 million of those ubiquitous yellow silicone bracelets? That’s right, 80 million people shelled out a $1 each to wear their support on their wrists, according to USA Today. And it was the first of what is now a cultural phenomenon.
Livestrong might not be one of the Forbes top 200 U.S. charities, but it’s a well-known brand that’s seeped into the broader culture beyond cycling and cancer charities. The foundation and its founder are intertwined as brands.
This connection complicates Armstrong’s personal legacy (or lifts it despite the doping scandal) and it makes it hard for the foundation. People like to give money to causes that make them feel good and have the potential to elevate their social status. Why else would so many people wear those yellow bands?
At least that’s what I thought, until I read this CNN story. Here are the important lines (some parts have been omitted, so click the link for the full story.)
The organization, which had strongly defended Armstrong’s role as recently as last week, did not ask him to step aside, Livestrong spokeswoman Katherine McLane said.
Armstrong founded the charity in 1997 after his own successful treatment for testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs. He came back from the disease seemingly stronger than ever, winning the first of his seven Tour de France titles three years after he was diagnosed with cancer.
McLane also noted the day of the report’s release that donations to the charity had boomed since August, when Armstrong announced he was ending his legal fight to stop USADA’s investigation.
McClane said Wednesday that Livestrong’s audience — cancer patients and their families — aren’t troubled by Armstrong’s woes.
“The last thing that’s going to enter your mind is news from the cycling world,” she said.
Donations to the charity are up. I think this shows that celebrity can only go so far to help/hurt a brand. People are smart enough to separate the works of the charity from the actions of the founder. It might dilute the story, but the doping doesn’t change the fact the man’s a cancer survivor and started a foundation to help others.
I’m not a fan of cheaters. And this post should in no way be read as a defense of Armstrong’s actions. But I do think it interesting that for all the money spent on brand and research, that it takes more than a founder’s fall from grace to stop people from giving to charity.
And no matter what you think of Armstrong or cycling, cancer survivors and their families deserve all the help they can get.
by Chris Roush
More journalism needs to cover the federal and state governments as if they were businesses, said Matt Winkler, editor in chief of Bloomberg News, in a speech Tuesday night.
Bloomberg’s new service called Bloomberg Government, which launched at the beginning of 2011 set out to “cover the governnment as a business because it is a business,” said Winkler in a speech at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“Instead of covering the bloody sport of politics, what the coverage needs to do is really focus on government and its contractors and how the government does business every day,” said Winkler.
Winkler spent about 35 minutes discussing Bloomberg’s coverage of the U.S. economy since the federal government’s debt rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s in August 2011, and then he answered questions from two student business journalists before a crowd of approximately 200. Winkler also answered questions from the audience.
When asked why much of the election coverage focused on the unemployment rate, Winkler noted the importance of jobs in the economy but also suggested that business journalists spend more time examining home sales, housing starts, retail sales and new car sales.
A group of executive editors at Bloomberg News are constantly thinking about three or four big stories related to the campaign and assigning those stories to a team of reportings. “It’s collaborative, and the ideas are coming from a variety of places,” he said.
Winkler also lauded the work of Bloomberg reporter Greg Stohr, who was the first to correctly report the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare this summer. “The area where he as particularly astute and prepared was in reading the ruling on the mandate,” said Winkler. “He was determined to find the answer in the decision.”
Bloomberg is doing a better job of covering the current election than in 2008, Winkler said, because it is using more data to illustrate stories. “If we have made an improvment, it is in the ability to show with more data,” he said.
by Liz Hester
For some reason, the awarding of Nobel Prizes this year has captured my attention. The awarding of the prize for economics (not one of the original endowed by Alfred Nobel) to Americans Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley for their work on markets brought up interesting topics about efficiencies, especially when money isn’t involved.
The New York Times explains what they each worked on:
Their work primarily applies to markets that do not have prices, or at least have strict constraints on prices. The laureates’ breakthroughs involve figuring out how to properly assign people and things to stable matches when prices are not available to help buyers and sellers pair up.
Mr. Roth, 60, has put these theories to practical use, in his work on a program that matches new doctors to hospitals and more recently for a project matching kidney donors. Public school systems in New York, Boston, Chicago and Denver use an algorithm based on his work to help assign students to schools. A professor at Harvard, he recently accepted a new position at Stanford.
Mr. Shapley, 89, a mathematician long associated with game theory, is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles. He made some of the earliest theoretical contributions to research on market design and matching, in the 1950s and 1960s.
In a paper with David Gale in 1962, Mr. Shapley explained how individuals could be paired together in a stable match even when they disagreed about what qualities made the right match. The paper focused on designing an ideal, perfectly stable marriage market: having mates find one another in a fair way, so that no one who is already married would want (and be able) to break off and pair up with someone else who is already married.
NPR’s Planet Money put together an excellent blog post chronicling the careers of the two and featuring several interesting stories from recent years. One of the best links in the post is to this Boston Globe story from last year about Roth’s work. It’s well written and chronicles his move from theorist to practical problem solver.
I like the fact this work and story isn’t about making money. It’s not a business story talking about “masters of the universe” or an acquisition or private equity. It’s business principles that help other people. Roth and Shapley’s work has led to more efficient matching of kids to public schools, creating efficient ways to match kidney donors and recipients, and residents with hospitals.
Think of all the good created when these mathematical theories are used to solve practical problems – happier doctors, people with kidneys and kids placed in schools of their choosing. Instead of going to Wall Street and applying math to make money, these two have applied it to help others, making them truly deserving of the prize.
Then, there’s the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the European Union. From the NYT story:
Members of the Nobel committee lauded six decades of reconciliation among enemies who fought Europe’s bloodiest wars while simultaneously warning against the hazards of the present. The decision sounded at times like a plea to support the endangered institution at a difficult hour.
“We see already now an increase of extremism and nationalistic attitudes,” said Thorbjorn Jagland, the former Norwegian prime minister who is chairman of the panel awarding the prize, in an interview after announcing the award. “There is a real danger that Europe will start disintegrating. Therefore, we should focus again on the fundamental aims of the organization.”
Yet on the very day that the award was announced in Oslo, leading European policy makers again publicly bickered over how to deal with Greece’s bailout. Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, rejected calls from the French head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, to give Greece more time to make additional spending cuts to rein in deficits.
But some weren’t so happy about the choice. The Associated Press reported that many in the EU were skeptical about the decision of the Nobel committee.
In hard-hit countries such as Greece and Spain, where the European debt crisis has sparked severe hardship, unemployment and violent protests, the prize was met with disbelief.
“The peace prize? The way things are going, what will happen in the immediate future? Peace is the one thing we might not have,” said Giorgos Dertilis, an insurance company worker in Athens.
It’s hard to reconcile a prize being given to a block of countries that can’t resolve their debt issues with one given to men who’ve saved lives. But the media should all be lauded for not shying away from the controversy and for their coverage of all the prizes.
by Chris Roush
Liz Ryan writes for The Huffington Post about what she calls the nasty bias in business journalism — the lack of coverage about the people who work at companies.
Ryan writes, “People move the numbers. People build the products and have the ahas and design the supply chains. Without human mojo and pixie dust, we’ve got nothing, but the public business conversation denies that inescapable reality. People are meaty, earthy, milky, warm and wise. They power everything that happens in business, but we leave them out of the story and the equation. We don’t send journalists looking for data to support the idea that paying executives tons of money is good for productivity. We take it as an article of faith.
“I once had an editor of a big-city daily tell me that he couldn’t run my story (gently chastising a large employer for lying to its employees about a company HQ move — and looking back, I’m not sure why I was gentle about it) because the employer could turn out to be a big advertiser in the paper. I think that was an aberration — I don’t think it’s a fear of employer retribution (in the form of pulled ads) that makes business-page editors so weenified. I think it’s one of those unexamined American frames, just the way things are, never discussed, never considered through another lens, not even around the business-page editorial table.
“If we can’t say how a theme or a notion helps corporations make more money (pumping milk at work, for example, or reversing the steady mechanization of people at work that started with time-and-motion studies and continues through tighter and tighter turns of the screws in American workplaces every day) then there’s simply nothing to say about it.
“That’s wrong. It’s not responsible journalism, but more than that, it’s not responsible citizenship.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Scott Nelson is the business editor at The (Portland) Oregonian, being named to that slot in July 2011. He oversees a staff of 11.
He had served as deputy business editor, breaking news editor, online enterprise editor and Portland editor since joining The Oregonian in 2003. He has taken a newsier approach to coverage, building on what he sees as the newspaper’s strong consumer and enterprise reporting.
Nelson graduated cum laude from Linfield College with a B.A. in mass communications and political science. He has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Maryland and a certificate in financial planning from the University of South Florida.
He was personal finance editor at The Tampa Tribune and also worked for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and The Boston Globe.
In October 2011, The Oregonian unveiled a revamped business section, focusing on the fast pace of economic activity across the Portland area and provides a deeper focus on local businesses.
The paper also added two new reporters to the staff – Elliot Njus, covering real estate news, and Molly Young, writing about small business.
Nelson spoke with Talking Biz News on Saturday during the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism Boot Camp workshop at The Oregonian on covering companies. What follows is an edited transcript.
What is the Oregonian’s philosophy in covering business and economics news?
W’e're in a period and a place where you have competing ideologies and really competing demands on your time. And I think the reporters feel that acutely. So in one regard, when I came in as business editor 15 months ago, I said we need to be more aggressive than we had in the past on transactional stuff. Things are happening in the business community that are not being reflecting in our coverage.
What I really wanted to do was differentiate the business section from any other section that we had. I wanted it to be unique and have its own look and feel. I wanted it to have a higher story count. We would have three or four story counts and big pictures, but I wanted seven or eight stories on the front.
We have done that, and we’re much better. The reaction from business readers as been almost uniformally positive. They think they are getting lot more. They had felt like the paper was taking things away from them, and this was giving them more.
How can you do all of that?
That’s also happening at a time that everybody is having to do a lot more on the digital front. That is much more important. Almost every business reporter has a beat blog, and those take a fair amount of time.
So how do you do that and do the higher number of dailies to have the higher story count and some A1 stories and Sunday stories? I think the bar is higher than it has in the past. The number of things you have to juggle and be good at is at so much more of a premium than it has been in the past.
What have been the bigget changes have you made since you took over as business editor?
What you try to do as a manager is not burn people out. If you looked at the business section in the year before they appointed me, it’s a very different looking and feeling section. The whole team does that. We shifted our focus. It’s a much higher story county, much more news, and a faster pace.
Is there a price to be paid for that in terms of enterprise? Probably so. It would be denying the obvious. We try to find a balance and walk that line all the time.
The business section recently underwent a redesign. What has been the reaction?
We went from a four- or five-story count standard front with large centerpieces, which was like our other sections, to one that is unique to business. It went to more of an old-school newspaper like, more like The Wall Street Journal or a 19th-century newspaper.
We now have at least a seven-story front, sometimes eight or nine. Photos are smaller. We went with much more vertical format.
We put doglegs in, which the Oregonian hadn’t done in a long time, so the design staff had to be retrained that that is OK. So visually we we thought was a cleaner, sleeker, more vertical, more information intensive look.
We only have standalone sections most weeks Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. On Wednesday and Saturday, we’re inside Metro. On Monday, we don’t have a section at all.
What is the competition like for business news in Oregon?
There is a real competition with time. Unlike the business journal, we have an obligation and a need to do bigger take out stories. We have to do trend stories. We have to do investigative pieces of important companies and watchdog companies that frankly business journals don’t have to do.
In terms of traditional media, the business journal is the biggest traditional competition. They are competitors in terms of daily, transactional breaking news. And they are very good at that. A lot of things, they put things up first and we chase it down. It’s funny because we’re owned by the same company. (Editor’s note: The Oregoninan’s parent is Advance Publication, while the Portland Business Journal is part of American City Business Journals. Both are part of the Newhouse media empire.)
What are the biggest companies that the paper focuses on and why?
Portland is not a big headquarters city. We do have a handful of big companies. Nike is the biggest one. Precision Castparts is big. Intel is not based here, but it has 16,000 ewmployees in here. Adidas North America operations is there.
In general, it’s not like a Boston or San Francisco or a Charlotte. So one of the changes I made when I came on was to better reflect the smaller businesses. We now have two small business reporters. One spends half of his day managing our website, and the other day doing entrepreneurs and startups and small companies.
Since this is not a huge headqurters town, we cover more small businesses. Our blind spot has always been covering the 1,000 small companies in the market.
You don’t see too many daily business sections focusing on consumer issues. Why does The Oregonian?
Laura Gunderson is fabulous. It probably is based on the fact that we’re not a major headquarters town. We have the fleibility to look around and decide the best use of our reporters, and consumer and retail coverage is one of those areas that is really popular. Readers can’t get enough of it, so we go with where the readers are.
Another reason that plays so well in this mariket is because we have a beat reporter who is really good. I would put Laura up against anyone else in the country on that beat, and she really gets digital and engages readers.
Is there anything you’d like to do to improve the paper’s coverage?
I think that any time you make a big adjustment, you have to play it out and see how it goes and then you correct the course. There is always adjusting. We have added a lot more stories and information and lists and a lot more transactional in the daily. And that is good.
But we need to find a way to tip the balance an get more enerprise and investigative. I want to get more of that, the big stories. If the Oregonian doesn’t do that in this market, nobody will. We have to find ways to find the most important stories for business readers. Finding a way to make sure that balance is kept or tipped slightly will be a focus for us.
It’s tough for reporters these days because we’re giving them so many mandates these days. That will continue to be true. But I want to make sure that the enterprise doesn’t get lost in the mix.