Tag Archives: Economics reporting

The biz media hates the market

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TheStreet.com media critic Marek Fuchs writes Monday that the business media’s recent negativity toward the economy signals that the stock market might have hit a bottom.

Marek FuchsFuchs wrote, “The Business Press Maven is not one to call short-term trading moves, but conventional wisdom is always reflected in the price of stocks. And the business media is often nothing if not a perfect reflection of conventional thought. Remember, they are almost always giving you a snapshot of what is. Nothing less, but also nothing more. So if the headlines say: ‘Kill, Crush, Destroy’ maybe, just maybe, it’s time someone gets out alive.

“Can this be a near-term, short-term bottom? Let’s look for the very first quote, to see if, at least, someone sais — with all this focus on valleys and imperfect radar, maybe we’ll fly into a peak. No such luck. Here’s the first quote:

“‘I don’t see much on the schedule that can help this stock market,’ says Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist with Windham Financial Markets. ‘I don’t see any surprises to the upside in these numbers, but I see a lot that could do damage to the market.’

“And forget the idea of anyone hitting the numbers on Wall Street. The Associated Press says the numbers are going to be doing the hitting on Wall Street this week: Spending, inflation data to hit Wall St.‘ Warned. To which I say, ouch.”

Read more here. 

Responding to critics of real estate coverage

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Melanie Sill, the editor of the Sacramento Bee, writes Sunday about the paper’s coverage of the slumping real estate market, which has drawn numerous complaints.

Melanie SillSill wrote, “Our reporting shouldn’t be overly gloomy, of course, but we shouldn’t tilt news coverage to try to be ‘positive,’ as some critics suggest.

“Business editor Cathie Anderson’s staff digs into the numbers, and we’re working more and more to get ahead of trends.

“Anderson guides her reporters to look beyond statistics for news in people’s lives: job losses, grocery price increases and foreclosures, for example.

“We’re also increasing the level of detail we offer through sacbee.com. Among the assets: a foreclosure map searchable by location and detailed charts on home sales by ZIP code, with more to come in the near future.

“The Bee knows the housing story because we’ve covered it closely through its rise and now into its fall.”

Read more here.

Lunch with Jim Cramer

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Chrystia Freeland, the U.S. managing editor of The Financial Times, writes Saturday about having lunch with CNBC “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer.

Jim CramerFreeland wrote, “Even if you buy Cramer’s shtick about his tortured relationship with himself — and this Woody Allen-esque self-loathing is certainly an essential foil to his show’s other excesses and part of what makes it so watchable — it isn’t the whole story. For one thing, he is unambivalently proud to have succeeded as a journalist, a career that seems to have more value for him than his previous incarnation as a hedge fund manager.

“‘I like what I do,’ Cramer says, for a moment sounding absolutely earnest and unconflicted. ”I had done the hedge fund thing. It was fine, but I always wanted to be a journalist. And I think this is more fun for me now. Everybody’s a hedge fund manager. There’s not a lot of guys with their own TV shows.’

“Part of what motivated Cramer’s move is his conviction that his combination of Wall Street pedigree and Animal House slap-stick is the best way to bring the markets — and all the riches he believes they can deliver — to the ordinary guy. Cramer occasionally comes across as the Street’s raucous spokesman, as he did in his infamous and, it turns out rather prescient, summertime rant when he called on the Fed to wake up and start cutting rates.”

Read more here.

The problem with covering the credit crunch: No easy villain

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TheDeal.com executive editor Yvette Kantrow writes Friday that the problem for business journalists covering the current credit crisis is that there’s no easily identifiable crook to pin the problem on.

Credit CrunchKantrow wrote, “During the last big financial crisis, the one caused by the Internet bust and a wave of corporate fraud, the media knew whom to blame. It chased an ashen Jack Grubman down Fifth Avenue and hounded Henry Blodget and Frank Quattrone. It threw spitballs at the Enron and Tyco guys and jeered at Martha Stewart. Villains don’t come any better than Martha.

“But this crisis is different. True, the media got excited when Wall Street CEOs like Stan O’Neal and Chuck Prince fell to atone for their firms’ subprime sins. And, for a few days at least, it appeared as though Countrywide Financial Corp.’s Angelo Mozilo would become the poster child for bad subprime lending. But without incriminating e-mails or the possibility of any of these people being taken off in handcuffs, they have largely faded from view. Even the demigod of the last bubble, Eliot Spitzer, then New York attorney general, now governor, can’t seem to generate much heat this time around.

“His attempt to break up the so-called monolines may have generated headlines, but the hoopla will likely end there. ‘The Sheriff of Bond Insurance’ just doesn’t have much of a ring to it.”

Read more here.

Dallas Morning News publishes two business sections on Friday

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Dallas Morning News business editor Dennis Fulton writes Friday that the paper is publishing two business sections — the regular section and a special section on the commercial real estate market.

Dallas Morning News

Fulton wrote, “Welcome to our new quarterly section dedicated entirely to commercial real estate. Our readers asked for it, and we listened. This section will appear four times a year, right behind the daily Business section.

“At the same time, we’re expanding coverage in our daily Business section and on dallasnews.com.

“Veteran reporter Steve Brown is a recognized authority on Dallas-area real estate, having covered the scene here for 30 years. We’ve also beefed up our staff, adding Sheryl Jean, a seasoned reporter but a relative newcomer to Dallas. Check out her inaugural column on this page.

“We’ve greatly enhanced our commercial real estate presence on dallasnews.com.”

Read more here.

Business journalists partly to blame for recession talk

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Rich Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes magazine, writes in the latest issue that business media incompetence and fear is one of the reasons behind all of the talk about the grim outlook on the economy.

Rich KarlgaardKarlgaard wrote, “Want to know the truth about business journalists? Most of us are failed sportswriters. There are exceptions, and a good many are found between these pages and at Forbes.com. Think about what it takes to be a first-rate business journalist. One must be facile with numbers and financial statements and have the confidence to talk to CEOs, high-level executives, board members, analysts and so forth. One must delve deeply into the industry one writes about–what is the competitive landscape, what are the technological disruptions on the road ahead? It is also critical that one have a coherent global economic view to be able to put a story into context. And one must be a good storyteller.

“Now, if one possesses all of these talents, what are the chances one goes into the low-paying field of journalism? Not great. One instead becomes a Wall Street analyst, a Booz Allen consultant or just goes into business, perhaps to raise money and start a company. Low-paying journalism can’t compete for pick of the litter. (Unless it’s Forbes, where journalists flock to a higher moral purpose!)

“The thin talent pool in business journalism combines with two other forces: Journalism is populated by left-of-center people, many of whom are hostile to business; and traditional journalism itself faces threats of disruption from the Internet, leaving business journalists in a fearful mood, which gets projected into their stories.”

Read more here.

Critic: AP emphasizes negativity in housing reports

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Tom Blumer writes on the NewsBusters site that the Associated Press seems to always accentuate the negative in the National Association of Realtors report on the housing market.

Housing reportBlumer wrote, “Granted, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is a trade organization which will, as trade organizations do, try to put the best face on a bad situation. And granted, part of the press’s job is to filter through hype and false sunniness to report the truth of what’s really going on.

“But that is most emphatically not what the Associated Press did with yesterday’s NAR report on the state of the national housing market.

“Instead, AP failed to report overall statistics in favor of reporting individual metro areas; ignored most of the legitimately good news; ignored an important piece of historical context; and, most importantly, and as has been the case for well over a year in the national business press, emphasized reductions in unit sales while de-emphasizing much smaller reductions in sale prices.”

Read more here.

Washington Post to add personal finance items in Sunday paper

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The Washington Post business section is launching several new weekly personal finance features this weekend, writes personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary.

The Washington PostSingletary wrote, “You can follow the investment chatter from Wall Street in the Market Buzz column, written by Sunday Business editor Steven E. Levingston.

“For investors looking ahead, economics reporter Neil Irwin will write briefly every Sunday about key data being released in the coming week. Also we’ll ask three personal finance advisors to answer a question on the minds of individual investors.

“Finally, each week there will be news and information from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, which specializes in giving guidance on investing, taxes, retirement and other money issues.”

Read more here. 

Conclusion of 44-year-old California resident: Recession

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Hal Morris, writing on his Grumpy Editor blog, wonders why an Associated Press story about the nation’s economy has a 44-year-old woman from a small California town being the one to claim that we’re in a recession.

The EconomyMorris wrote, “In an Associated Press story released Sunday with a lead touching on empty homes and for-sale signs, lost jobs and nest eggs taking a hit, a Washington-based economics writer’s second paragraph asked:  Could the country be in a recession?

Three paragraphs down, came the answer via the first person quoted:  “Absolutely, we’re in a recession.�

Was that conclusion reached by (select one):

A — An economics professor from Harvard.

B — An executive with a Wall Street investment firm.

C — A hedge fund manager.

D — A spokesman for Fed chairman Ben Bernanke.

E — None of the above.

Answer:  E.

“The definitive word came from Hilda Sanchez of Waterford, Calif., population 9,000, in California’s central valley, 2,283 miles from Washington, D.C.  There was no further identification of the woman other than her age, 44.”

Read more here.

Writers on the storm

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TheStreet.com media critic Marek Fuchs wants to know why so many business journalists believed Wal-Mart Stores Inc. earlier this week when it announced that January sales were hurt by the weather.

The real riders on the stormFuchs wrote, “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a federal agency that compiles world weather data on land and ocean surfaces, and you can use that data to compare months. And let me tell you, the national weather overview of the United States, which is Wal-Mart’s major ‘region,’ shows some interesting stuff in January.

“The average temperature of January 2008 was 30.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 1.3 degrees cooler than the average temperature in 2007. Was that cold enough to keep shoppers inside or cold enough to spur people to go buy a new jacket? Part of the problem with using weather as a cause/effect in retailing is that it can be easily interpreted different ways.

“There are, of course, isolated circumstances when weather might be a factor in a retailer’s performance. If, say, a retailer was very regional and over one week in January in that particular region there was a blizzard that enameled all the malls in snow and ice brought business to a near standstill, well, I could swallow the excuse. A week of biblical flooding some spring in the backyard of another regional retailer? Well, sure. In these isolated circumstances, I can accept weather as something more than a sly formulation to deflect blame and attention.

“But this brings me back to Wal-Mart’s misdirection. Weather in the Midwest, South and Southeast, where Wal-Mart is exceptionally strong and where Reuters specifically said the company’s sales were effected, had what NOAA described as ‘near-normal’ temperatures.”

Read more here.