Tag Archives: Ethics

Business Insider website

Why Business Insider reporters travel gets paid by others


Lucia Moses of Digiday writes about how Business Insider reporters have sometimes traveled to report stories and have had their travel expenses covered by others.

Moses writes, “BI has published at least three stories in the past year that included a disclosure that a source paid expenses related to the coverage. A story by Steve Kovach about Samsung’s design philosophy, for example, includes the following disclosure: ‘Samsung paid for a portion of our trip to South Korea for this story, including the flight and some meals. Business Insider paid for lodging and all other expenses.’

“Another, about Chinese Internet company Tencent, ends with this revelation from the author, Nicholas Carlson: ‘Disclaimer: I was only in Beijing because Tencent paid for me to fly to China to be on a panel. I paid for my airplane ticket to Shenzhen, however.’

“A third, by Alyson Shontell, about a high-tech London hotel CitizenM, includes this disclosure: ‘London & Partners, a not-for-profit funded by the city’s mayor, paid for our flight and hotel to London this week to cover London’s startup scene. It paid the full price (about 400 pounds for three nights) at the CitizenM.’

“‘We do these very rarely — maybe a few a year — and we evaluate them on a case-by-case basis,’ explained Blodget. ‘The deciding factor is whether we think the trip will lead to stories that our readers enjoy. We always disclose any arrangements prominently (being clear and straightforward is the key). We also don’t guarantee any kind of coverage, or coverage at all.’

“He said in the London case, the story ‘sounded like a cool adventure that our readers might enjoy.’”

Read more here.

Andrew Ross Sorkin

NYTimes’ Sorkin: I am not a Wall Street Insider


New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan writes about when journalists are considering “insiders,” including Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Sullivan writes, “The author Dean Starkman draws a distinction between two kinds of journalism: access and accountability. In his new book about the failure of the financial press before the 2008 meltdown, ‘The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark,’ he analyzes The Times’s DealBook as a prime example of the former. That financial news section was founded by Andrew Ross Sorkin, one of The Times’s biggest stars, who is often criticized as representing Wall Street interests too unquestioningly, including in his regular appearances on CNBC’s ‘Squawk Box.’

“Mr. Starkman writes that ‘access reporting tells readers what powerful actors say, while accountability reporting tells readers what they do.’ The business press failed the public miserably before the meltdown by accepting corporate spin at face value.

“Mr. Sorkin rejects such complaints, pointing to tough stories that DealBook has published, including those by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Ben Protess. (Mr. Eisinger, of ProPublica, is also a regular DealBook contributor.)

“The criticism of him as an insider is, Mr. Sorkin says, ‘an old meme,’ and simply untrue.”

Read more here.

Is there room for a variety of approaches to dealing with sources? To some extent, yes. The Times — a large, establishment institution itself — provides a big tent for beat reporters, investigative reporters, critics and columnists. Each has a role, each a reporting technique.


Ex-Bloomberg editor Richardson says company tried to muzzle him


Ben Richardson, the editor at large at Bloomberg News who resigned earlier this month due to the company’s spiking of investigative stories in China, says the company has tried to keep him from talking about the issue.

Richardson spoke in an interview with Ellen Killoran of the International Business Times. Here is an excerpt:

IBT: You are the more vocal among the three recent departures (Forsythe, Bennett) who were involved in investigative journalism on China. You’ve mentioned that you are tied to a nondisclosure agreement and have refused to answer some questions specifically. Are you concerned about legal action from Bloomberg for speaking to reporters at all, or do you feel you are protecting yourself by avoiding discussion of some particulars?

BR: They’ve gone to great lengths to make me aware of my legal obligations to keep quiet. When you take a new job, you’re not really in a position to refuse the legal declarations that human resources departments put in front of you. Refuse and you lose the job. And in any case, who takes a new job imagining they’re going to end up where we’ve all found ourselves? It was only when I got into conflict with the company that I reviewed my legal obligations that I’d signed in 2001, including a very hefty “core guide.”

In any event I’m very keen to move on from discussing the details of what happened, and prefer to focus on the bigger issues that the incident raises…

IBT: What’s next for you?

BR: Researching the viability and sustainability of an Asia-based and Asia-focused public-interest journalism group. If you think the global media is under-resourced and under pressure, take a look at the local industry. Investigative journalism should be a fundamental component of a society’s fabric. We can’t rely on intermittent interest from news desks in America or Europe to deliver the consistent scrutiny needed to make governments in the region more accountable to their people.

Read more here.


Seeking Alpha

Seeking Alpha takes steps to prevent paid stock promotion


Eli Hoffmann, the senior vice president of content and editor in chief at SeekingAlpha.com, writes about how the financial site is taking additional steps to prevent writers from posting content about stocks they were paid to promote.

Hoffmann writes, “We are grateful to Richard Pearson for his outstanding undercover work in unearthing foul play on Seeking Alpha and other investing websites, and for sharing his research with us proactively so that we could deal promptly with non-compliant authors. You can read Richard’s recent articles on this topic here and here.

“This discovery has led us to re-examine our contributor due-diligence policies, and to implement the following safeguards:

  1. Ticker monitoring and blacklisting: We now monitor a number of websites that keep running tabs on stocks that are being actively promoted. When we receive an article on a stock that is suspected of promotion, the article must be reviewed and approved by a managing editor. We have also blacklisted certain stocks from publication altogether in order not to fall prey to promotion.
  2. IP tracking: We recently deployed IP tracking in our content management system. We are now able to cross-check article submissions against each other, which has helped us uncover a number of contributors submitting under false identities.
  3. ID verification: In cooperation with IDology, we are deploying a system to validate contributors’ identities by matching our information against publicly available databases. In cases where we’re unable to validate a contributor’s identity, we require them to submit official photo ID which IDology can independently validate.
  4. Zero-tolerance policy: Any contributor found to have cooperated with stock promoters will have his contributor status permanently revoked, no exceptions.”

Read more here.


Bloomberg keyboard

Why China needs Bloomberg more than Bloomberg needs China


Gwynn Guilford of Quartz writes about Bloomberg’s situation in China, where it has apparently shied away from publishing investigative articles for fear of upsetting government officials.

Guilford writes, “While this might sound contrarian, the company over time likely has a lot more leverage to pursue both hard-hitting journalism and commercial success than its chairman Peter Grauer suggests.

“Chinese state-owned enterprises have Bloomberg terminals, despite the fact that China has its homegrown terminal technology, called Wind. Even researchers at the People’s Bank of China (paywall), the country’s central bank, use them. They do so because they need access to them to compete. While Bloomberg’s competitors could benefit from the government’s dissatisfaction with the company’s reporting, it’s not clear that’s happening or ever will.

“In fact, China needs Bloomberg a lot more than Bloomberg will need revenue from that market. As Chinese companies engage more with the global economy—particularly in complex things like currency and commodity trading—they’ll face an enormous competitive disadvantage without Bloomberg’s data and news.

“And that’s with a closed capital account. As China opens up its financial sector, its reliance on Bloomberg for fast, accurate global data and news could only grow—and the Chinese government’s ability to block that flow of information will risk the collateral damage of its own companies’ losses.”

Read more here.


NYTimes CEO takes swipe at Bloomberg


Mark Thompson, the CEO of the New York Times Co., poked rival Bloomberg News on Wednesday at a media conference when asked about the latter’s decision not to publish stories critical of people connected to the Chinese government for fear of hurting its business.

Matthew Garrahan of the Financial Times writes, “Mr Thompson was speaking days after Peter Grauer said Bloomberg ‘should have rethought’ investigative articles about China because of the potential harm to the company’s business information operation in the country.

 ”‘To state the obvious, Mr Grauer seems to have a rather different conception of what journalism should consist [than the New York Times],’ said Mr Thompson at the FT Digital Media conference in London.

“‘We don’t think you need to rethink investigative journalism,’ he added. ‘There are commercial realities…but it depends on what your priorities are.’

“The New York Times and Bloomberg have both been penalised by the Chinese authorities over investigative articles that have focused on the wealth accumulated by the families of senior members of the ruling Communist party.

“Fewer visas have been given to journalists at the two companies while sales of Bloomberg terminals in China declined after a 2012 article that explored the family wealth of Xi Jinping, China’s president.”

Read more here.


Richardson: “Uncomfortable” with spiking stories


Ben Richardson, the former editor at large at Bloomberg News who quit earlier this month due to concerns about the news organization’s decision to spike stories critical of businessmen tied to the Chinese government, spoke Tuesday about the move with David Folkenflik of “All Things Considered.”

In the segment, Richardson is quoted as saying, “It was a decision I felt very uncomfortable with.” Folkenflik also reported that Richardson plans to set up a not-for-profit website that will pursue such stories.

Folkenflik also reported that company founder Michael Bloomberg attended the news service’s daily editorial meeting on Monday and stated that all editorial decisions would be made by editors, not manages on the business side of the company.

Bloomberg’s comments run counter to those said last week by Bloomberg LP chairman Peter Grauer, who spoke in Hong Kong and said that the company needed to rethink its investigative journalism efforts. Bloomberg has seen sales of its terminals in China slow after it published articles connecting businesses to Chinese government leaders.

Said Richardson in the Folkenflik piece: “It’s a no-win situation.”

To listen to the segment, go here.


Ben Richardson speaks and wants Bloomberg to respond


Ben Richardson, the Bloomberg News editor who was involved in editing the spiked China stories, spoke with James Fallows of The Atlantic about how he decided to resign from the company and what happened.

Here is an excerpt:

James Fallows: Four months ago, during the Mike Forsythe episode, Bloomberg officials contended that his stories just “weren’t ready,” and that the accounts in the NYT and elsewhere were misleading or incomplete. What was your understanding of the episode and whether the company’s claims were correct?

Ben Richardson: I was one of the two editors on the story that was spiked last year, and one of three who helmed the 2012 stories on the hidden wealth of China’s Communist Party leaders, so I have a pretty intimate knowledge of what happened. Unfortunately, I am bound by a confidentiality agreement that prevents me from disclosing the details. That said, much has already become a matter of public knowledge.

I felt the NYT and FT articles were a fair account. As often happens in news coverage, the stories painted the picture in stark black and white when in reality it was more nuanced. However, the contention that the story “wasn’t ready” is risible: the only proof of readiness is publication. The real question is whether the story had any merit, and if it did, how could we get it to press?

That’s a simple question. So if Bloomberg felt the story had no merit, then why has the company not explained its reasons? Four seasoned, veteran journalists (with help from many others on the periphery) laboured for months on this story. Were we all wrong? All of us deficient in news judgment?

Read more here.

Ben Richardson

Video mocks Bloomberg in China with another resignation


Next Media Animation has posted another video making fun of Bloomberg News in the wake of the resignation of editor at large Ben Richardson due to Bloomberg’s handling of sensitive stories in China.

Next Media also produced a video when it was disclosed that Bloomberg had held the stories for fear of upsetting the Chinese government.

Seeking Alpha

Seeking Alpha editor: We did not disclose anonymous source


Eli Hoffmann, senior vice president and editor in chief of Seeking Alpha, writes about the resolution of its case with Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn, who wanted the financial site to disclose the name of an anonymous writer who disclosed one of Einhorn’s investments.

Hoffmann writes, “We were about to file our opposition to this petition, but Greenlight dropped the suit of its own accord. We did not at any time disclose the author’s identity formally or informally, and at no time were our actions dictated by reaching any sort of deal with Greenlight.

“So why did they drop the case? It seems they were able to contact the author, who convinced Greenlight that he had built his thesis by joining the dots on publicly-available information.

“We’re pleased this has ended. But given the appropriate opportunity, we will defend our position when challenged. This is not the first demand we have had to disclose pseudonymous authors’ identities; we have yet to disclose author identity in any claim submitted to court.

“Platforms such as Seeking Alpha are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an ‘interactive computer service’ who publish information provided by others. This doesn’t stop attempts to file pre-action motions to try and get to specific posters, but so far our experience has been that the claims get shut down or withdrawn.”

Read more here. Einhorn has posted in the comments section that the statement “who convinced Greenlight that he had built his thesis by joining the dots on publicly-available information” is materially incorrect.