Tag Archives: Coverage

Jack Welch

Jack Welch and the business media

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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.

livestrong

Charities and the power of brands

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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.

matthew_winkler200

Shifting coverage of government toward a business focus

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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.

Nobel Prize medal

Nobel Prizes: Looking at the coverage

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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.

Workforce

The nasty bias in business journalism

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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.

Scott Nelson

Business news in the Pacific Northwest focuses on consumer and enterprise

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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.

Private equity

Lost in the shuffle, or Don’t forget the broader audience

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Lost in the shuffle of Thursday’s news was a little nugget about private-equity firms agreeing to not compete for deals. From the Bloomberg story:

Top executives at buyout firms including Blackstone Group LP (BX)KKR & Co. (KKR), Bain Capital Partners LLC and Carlyle Group (CG) LP assured each other in e-mails that they wouldn’t compete on deals to avoid driving up prices and angering competitors, according to a now public court complaint.

The correspondence was cited as evidence that the firms rigged bids in 19 leveraged buyouts and eight other transactions, including the biggest deals of the leveraged buyout boom, according to the amended complaint unsealed yesterday by a federal judge in Boston.

“We would much rather work with you guys than against you,” Blackstone President Tony James wrote in an e-mail to KKR co-founder George Roberts in reference to the Freescale Semiconductor Ltd. (FSL) buyout, according to the complaint. “Together we can be unstoppable but in opposition we can cost each other a lot of money.” According to the complaint, Roberts replied, “Agreed.”

The extensive Bloomberg story goes on to chronicle many high-profile, expensive deals and their funding in detail. It devolves into a deal list. The story does mention the suit is being filed while private-equity is fighting for its reputation as Mitt Romey, co-founder of Bain Capital, runs for president.

Ok. But really, who cares? There’s absolutely nothing relatable about the story for the average person. That’s not Bloomberg’s core audience, but you’d think that somewhere in there would be a mention of WHY this is bad.

The reason, I think, is that pension funds have billions of dollars invested in private-equity firms like KKR, Blackstone, and Carlyle. That’s money that ultimately belongs to firefighters, police officers and teachers. It’s hard to think about not getting the best deals for pensioners.

According to the Associated Press (via WSJ):

A complaint released Wednesday by a federal district court in Boston details email exchanges between executives at Bain Capital, Blackstone Group LP, and other private equity giants. It’s part of a long-running lawsuit charging the firms with rigging bids for 19 buyouts during the wave of blockbuster deals before the financial crisis.

The plaintiffs in the class-action case are former shareholders in the companies bought by the private equity firms. Their lawsuit names nine of the largest private equity firms along with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. as defendants.

The plaintiffs say the firms colluded in some of the largest private-equity deals made between 2003 and 2007, such as buyouts for Neiman Marcus, Toys “R” Us and the hospital chain HCA, among others. They argue that the firms joined together to suppress competition and lower prices.

Blackstone spokesman Peter Rose described the complaint as far-fetched and a “fabrication.” Rose said the plaintiffs have imagined a conspiracy “involving hundreds of investment professionals, 11 firms and 27 transactions” lasting years. The emails, Rose said, are “wrenched out of context.”

Private equity deserves the benefit of the doubt. And it’s an important point to make that none of the pension funds are part of the suit. That means they’re likely happy with the returns they’re receiving for their investments, which is the whole point.

It’s hard to complain when you get what you want. But I am surprised that journalists aren’t immediately pointing out the link between regular citizens and private equity. It would make the story much more relatable to the average person and would help them understand something about their investments.

Fierce competition in business journalism for the attention of sophisticated readers is causing some outlets to forget that there’s a broader audience out there. Most people need to feel connected to fully engage in a story. This is something that some business news outlets should remember.

Mortgage

The “so what?’ missing from Wells Fargo lawsuit story

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In yet another chapter in the seemingly never-ending mortgage saga, the U.S. government sued Wells Fargo on Tuesday, claiming the bank approved less-than-stellar loans backed by the government then sought insurance to cover their losses once they defaulted.

From the Wall Street Journal story:

The complaint alleges nearly a decade of misconduct dating back to May 2001. The suit contends that San Francisco-based Wells engaged in “regular practice of reckless origination and underwriting” of government-backed loans. The company said that more than 100,000 FHA loans met federal guidelines when more than half of them didn’t, according to the complaint.

In a statement Tuesday, Wells Fargo denied the allegations. The company acted in “good faith and in compliance” with federal rules, it said. Many of the issues in the lawsuit had been previously addressed with federal agencies, the company also said. “The bank will present facts to vigorously defend itself against this action,” it said.

Add another bank to the long list that have been singled out by the government for their actions before the 2008 financial crisis. From the New York Times:

The action against Wells Fargo came after many civil lawsuits were filed by the government against large banks related to their lending practices. A number of the banks have settled the cases, including Deutsche Bank, which paid more than $200 million to resolve civil fraud charges; Citigroup’s Citimortgage unit, which settled claims for $158 million; and Bank of America, in a settlement connected to its Countrywide Financial business, for $1 billion.

To bring these cases, the government has used an obscure law called the Financial Institutions Reform, Recover, and Enforcement Act. The law, passed after the saving-and-loans scandals in the late 1980s, gives the government broad authority to bring civil claims and seek big financial penalties against federally insured banks. That law also has a lower standard of proof than criminal business fraud statutes.

Despite these civil actions against the large banks, the Justice Department has been criticized for bringing too few criminal cases against banks and their executives tied to their conduct during the housing boom and financial crisis. Prosecutors have said these cases are difficult to bring because they require proving an intent to defraud beyond a reasonable doubt.

It’s this last paragraph here that I find intriguing. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is the cornerstone of our legal system and I would doubt anyone actually wants to see that standard pushed aside. As bitter as it is for taxpayers, it seems that civil actions are going to be the only way to recover some money after the debacle.

But there are other ways for the government to attempt to penalize banks for bad behavior. From the WSJ:

Another set of cases centers around the role of large banks in packaging mortgages into bonds and selling them to investors. Last week, New York’s top prosecutor filed a civil lawsuit against J.P. Morgan Chase, alleging widespread fraud by the company’s Bear Stearns unit in the sale of mortgage-backed securities. It was the first case to be brought under the aegis of a group of federal and state prosecutors and regulators formed by President Barack Obama in January.

J.P. Morgan Chase spokesman Joseph Evangelisti said the bank intends to contest the allegations, and that it is “disappointed” the New York attorney general “decided to pursue its civil action without ever offering us an opportunity to rebut the claims.”

Last month, Bank of America agreed to pay $2.43 billion without admitting wrongdoing to settle claims it misled investors about the acquisition of troubled brokerage firm Merrill Lynch & Co.

So, just add Wells to the growing list of firms potentially being fined for actions before or during the crisis. Sigh.

The stories out there from the major business papers did a good job pulling together all the suits and reasons banks might have to pay-up from the mortgage crisis, but I’m missing the “so what?” from all of these.

Who gets the money? Will it actually help consumers? If banks are getting sued for mortgages is this going to cause some to exit the business? I guess I’m just missing the big, grand state-of-the-mortgage industry now story. I want it spelled out for me. Implications for me, my potential to buy a home, you know, how are all these suits affecting real people.

What happened to all those lenders and servicers after the crisis? How are modified loans performing? Are banks even still working through that backlog or have they moved onto the next crisis?

As sad as it is, I think it’s time for the “Five Years After the Crisis State of the Mortgage Industry” story. So, who’s going to write it?

Variety

Entertainment biz pub Variety sold to Deadline owner

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The Hollywood trade paper Variety has been acquired by Penske Media Corp. and its financial backer, hedge fund Third Point, for about $25 million, in a power shift for the world of show business and a transformation of the industry’s most famous news brand, writes Ben Fritz of the Los Angeles Times.

Fritz writes, “Santa Monica-based Penske already owns Deadline.com, the website that has in just six years become a dominant news source for show business professionals and, together with online competitor Wrap and a resurgent Hollywood Reporter, stolen much of the thunder that belonged to Variety for its 107-year history.

“The fact that Penske, a digital media company headed by Chief Executive Jay Penske, won a nearly seven-month long auction held by Variety’s British owner Reed Elsevier signifies how dominant a force the Internet has become in Hollywood. While Variety competes online, its five-day-a-week daily edition and weekly magazine are no longer the must-reads in Hollywood that they once were.

“In an interview, Penske said he believed Variety had faltered due to complacency, and that he intended to make it ‘absolutely fundamental and indispensable’ to its readers in Hollywood.

“He has not yet determined, however, what key changes he will make, including whether he will stop publishing either or both print editions.”

Read more here.

Energy industry

What we need from energy journalists

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David Roberts writes on ThinkProgress.org about the type of journalism that needs to be practiced in terms of covering energy companies.

Roberts writes, “There are finance and business journalists who cover energy as a commodity business, tracking global supply and demand flows, prices, futures trading, all that sort of stuff. There are business and tech journalists who focus on cleantech. There are environmental journalists, who tend to cover energy (when they do it) through the lens of enviros vs. polluters. And there are political journalists who cover energy as a campaign and/or policy issue, sometimes as a specialty, more often as part of a portfolio.

“There are journalists who straddle more than one of these tribes, but they are fairly rare — mostly what you have is a blind men and elephant situation. Each tribe has its own ambit, tropes, and habits of thinking, which persist through sheer vocational inertia.

“What I’d like to see in all these varieties of energy journalism is a little bit more systems thinking, a greater sense of context. Humanity’s relationship with energy is changing in fundamental ways and lots of the familiar frames for energy coverage no longer make much sense, or at least are woefully inadequate.”

Read more here.