Tag Archives: Ethics

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Anonymous sources, Trish Regan and business journalism

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Felix Salmon of Reuters writes Monday about Bloomberg Television’s Trish Regan and her interview with Seeking Alpha CEO David Siegel where she was critical of his company’s refusal to disclose the name of an anonymous writer who had disclosed an investment by hedge fund manager David Einhorn.

Salmon writes, “Let’s say that the blogger in question had phoned up Regan and told her (off the record, but with Regan knowing her source’s identity) that Einhorn was buying up shares of Micron Technology. That might have turned into a nice little scoop for Regan, if she had confirmed it with other sources — all of whom would themselves surely have insisted on anonymity as well.

‘If Regan had published that story, Einhorn would surely have been annoyed, since he was taking great care to accumulate his stake in Micron as quietly as possible. But here’s the thing: Einhorn would never have dared take Regan and Bloomberg to court, trying to force them to reveal her sources. If a journalistic organization finds out a true fact and publishes it, that might inconvenience a hedge-fund manager, but it’s not going to result in a court case.

“In the Micron case, however, Einhorn saw an outlet which was small enough to bully. If he wins, as Sorkin says, ‘the case could have a chilling effect on the free flow of information to traditional news outlets’ — it would damage not only Seeking Alpha and its pseudonymous blogger, but also Trish Regan and all other journalists with confidential sources. Einhorn wants to be able to keep his own information confidential; he just doesn’t want Seeking Alpha to have a similar right.

“If anybody deserves a lecture on journalism in this case, then, it’s not Siegel, it’s Einhorn. Meanwhile, Siegel is faced with a very hard decision. Einhorn is not the kind of person to back down from a fight: he has essentially bottomless resources, and will happily spend millions of dollars on lawyers just to make Seeking Alpha’s life miserable and expensive for the foreseeable future. Big media organizations are set up to fight such threats; smaller startups aren’t.”

Read more here.

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Investor asks for his ban from CNBC to be lifted

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Doug Kass, a money manager who writes for TheStreet.com, writes about how he has been banned from appearing on Larry Kudlow‘s last show of “The Kudlow Report” for comments he made last year in a New York Post article.

Kass writes, “This morning I am reaching out to CNBC to put my comments in the New York Post in the proper perspective, to discontinue the Dougie Kass CNBC embargo and to reconsider its decision not to invite me onto Larry’s final show.

“It would give me great pleasure in honoring a great American and good friend this week on CNBC.

“As I have written today, respectful disagreement should be encouraged not discouraged.

“Invite me on CNBC based on the merits of my analysis, the originality of my views and my ability to communicate an opinion clearly and succinctly. Don’t continue to be influenced by a one-sided, misconstrued and biased (CNBC-hating) New York Post column published last August.

“The olive branch has been offered to CNBC.”

Read more here.

Seeking Alpha CEO David Siegel

Seeking Alpha president discusses anonymous writers

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Seeking Alpha President David Siegel discusses crowd-sourced stock opinions on Bloomberg Television’s “In The Loop.”

He also addressed the issues regarding Seeking Alpha allowing writers to post anonymously on its website.

“Our focus is on building the best possible site we can with a vigorous editorial review,” said Siegel in the interview. He said that Seeking Alpha knows the identities of its anonymous bloggers and that it does a vigorous background check on them.

bloomberg

Bloomberg’s growing China problem

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Dean Starkman of Columbia Journalism Review writes about Bloomberg News and its coverage in China in the wake of chairman Peter Grauer stating earlier this week that the company needs to rethink whether it does investigative reporting in the country.

Starkman writes, “Say a ‘business’ story about a failing company turns up accounting problems, and that leads to discoveries of irregular transactions with a related party, and the related party turns out to be controlled by a local political boss, and the local political boss has business interests with senior part officials, etc. Where does the reporting stop, exactly?

“And another thing: it’s not clear how Bloomberg’s 300,000-plus subscribers—many of them investors in China— are well-served by a news service that purports to cover a country but declines to engage in ‘investigative’ stories that might document institutionalized corruption. Speculators and traders might not care about such things, but investors with long-term interests might care a lot.

“Third, and most important, the specter of Bloomberg implicitly or explicitly curbing its journalism in China affects more than its coverage in a single country and speaks to the integrity of Bloomberg News, certainly in the dictionary sense: ‘The state of being whole, entire, undiminished.’ Just as Bloomberg can’t hive off ‘investigative’ reporting from ‘financial’ or ‘business’ reporting, it can’t pretend that its China news policy, whatever it may actually be, doesn’t have implications for the rest of the news operation. Can a news organization follow a set of guidelines in one country and another set in another? I don’t see how.”

“Integrity is something Bloomberg, the company and the news organization, takes very seriously. As its style manual, the Bloomberg Way, says (emphasis in the original): ‘Three things characterize the people who follow the Bloomberg Way: integrity, commitment, and gratitude. Without integrity, there is no value in anything we do…’”

Read more here.

Money

Stock promoters making inroads on financial news sites

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Stephen Gandel of Fortune writes about how the writing of stock promoters is increasingly being found on financial news sites.

Gandel writes, “In the past year or so, several finance websites — including Forbes.com, Seeking Alpha, Wall St. Cheat Sheet, and others — have published articles by authors who were allegedly paid to promote the stocks they were writing about. These articles were not labeled as advertisements and carried no disclosures that the authors had been compensated by their subjects. In fact, on at least one of the websites — stock blog Seeking Alpha — the articles carried a disclosure stating the author had not received any compensation from anyone outside of Seeking Alpha to write the article. Seeking Alpha now admits that some of those disclosures were inaccurate.

“The articles in question were published through the websites’ contributor networks and were allegedly paid for by an investor relations firm called The DreamTeam Group. Most of these pieces focused on so-called penny stocks — companies with shares that trade for less than a dollar and not very often, a favored terrain of stock promotion schemes.

“While not all of the facts are clear, the websites admit that they were duped. In the past few weeks, more than 100 articles have been pulled from Seeking Alpha, Wall St. Cheat Sheet, and other websites that have been caught up in the stock promotion scheme.

“In some cases, the stock promoters were successful. In late December, Forbes.com published an article by Tom Meyer called ‘The race to develop a brain cancer treatment takes an interesting turn.’ The article said a small biotech company called CytRx had ‘remarkable results’ in a recent drug trial and ‘appears poised for a significant run in the months and years ahead as the company’s platform continues to be validated by science.’

“Within days of the article’s publication, CytRx’s stock rose nearly 50% to $6.90. Last week, a class action suit was filed against CytRx, its CEO Steven Kriegsman, and an investor relations firm The DreamTeam Group. The suit says that CytRx (CYTR), through DreamTeam, hired Meyer and another author named John Mylant to place positive articles about the company and its shares on Forbes.com and other websites.”

Read more here.

bloomberg

Bloomberg should have rethought articles on China, says chairman

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Bloomberg News should have reconsidered articles that deviated from its core business-news coverage in light of the huge potential for its products in the Chinese market, the chairman of Bloomberg LP said in a speech on Thursday.

Neil Gough of the New York Times writes, “Bloomberg, the financial data and news company, relies on sales of its terminals, which are ubiquitous on bankers’ desks around the world, for around 82 percent of its $8.5 billion in revenue. But sales of those terminals in China declined sharply after the company published an article in June 2012 on the family wealth of Xi Jinping, at that time the incoming Communist Party chief. Following its publication, officials ordered state enterprises not to subscribe to the service.

“Acknowledging the vast size of the Chinese economy, the world’s second biggest after that of the United States, the chairman, Peter T. Grauer, said, ‘We have to be there.’

“‘We have about 50 journalists in the market, primarily writing stories about the local business and economic environment,’ Mr. Grauer said in response to questions after a speech at the Asia Society. ‘You’re all aware that every once in a while we wander a little bit away from that and write stories that we probably may have kind of rethought — should have rethought.’

“He did not specifically mention the article about Mr. Xi or any other articles.

“Mr. Grauer’s comments on Bloomberg’s journalistic priorities in China reflect what some Bloomberg employees say is a re-emphasis on financial news and skepticism from the business side of the company that investigative journalism might not be worth the potential problems it could create for terminal sales.”

Read more here.

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Why Seeking Alpha accepts anonymous posts

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Eli Hoffmann, senior vice president of content and editor in chief of SeekingAlpha.com, writes about why the financial news site accepts anonymous posts.

A hedge fund manager is currently taking legal action against the site to find out who disclosed one of his investment positions before it became public.

Hoffmann writes, “I’m not going to comment on that case. But I do feel this is an opportunity to explain how Seeking Alpha’s contributor network works, why we allow contributors to write under a pseudonym, and what steps we take to ensure the integrity of our contributors – and perhaps dispel some common misconceptions along the way.

“Let’s start with the basics: What are we? At its core, Seeking Alpha is a crowd-sourced, contributor-driven research platform for U.S.-focused stock market investors. Because we’re contributor driven, all views you read on SA are those of our contributors (we have more than 3,000 active contributors). There is no house opinion.

“What is so powerful about crowd-sourced equity research?

“We are skeptics about the supposed objectivity of traditional media outlets and research providers. We think that Socratic debate – which gives both sides an equal say and allows the listener/reader to make up his or her own mind – is a far more powerful way for readers to develop an educated opinion. Seeking Alpha takes Socratic debate one step further by allowing not only authors but also readers to have their say using article comments, StockTalks and Instablogs. What emerges is a profound mosaic that frequently outweighs the value of any single piece of research. This idea was underscored in a recent Brunswick Group study which found that blogs such as Seeking Alpha drove 58% of all investors to do further research – double the influence of any other digital information source.”

Read more here.

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A hedge fund goes after a blogger

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Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times writes about hedge fund manager David Einhorn’s attempts to find out the name of a Seeking Alpha blogger who disclosed one of his investments.

Sorkin writes, “The case could be a watershed for both the reporting of financial news using anonymous sources, and perhaps more important, the increasing trend of confidential information being posted anonymously on social media like Twitter and the comment sections of established news websites.

“Leaks to the media are a well-worn tradition on Wall Street. Yet rarely do firms go after the leakers — or the media outlets that published the leaked information — in court. It is not necessarily a criminal violation to leak confidential information, but it may be a civil violation if an individual breached a fiduciary duty or breached a specific agreement to keep certain information private.

“Journalists have traditionally been protected by state shield laws or other court protections that allow them to publish confidential information without disclosing the identity of their sources. Even when courts do get involved, many journalists are willing to go to jail rather than comply with judges’ orders.

“But what happens when the source of the information bypasses journalists or news organizations and goes directly to the public through an anonymous blog or social media? Are those individuals protected by a journalistic privilege? What if their motives go beyond mere reporting? And are courts willing to appear to limit freedom of speech rights to intervene in what is largely a commercial matter?”

Read more here.

Lisa Kassenaar

How — and why — Bloomberg News gets more women into its coverage

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Lisa Kassenaar is editor-at-large, global women’s coverage, for Bloomberg News.

As editor-at-large in charge of global women’s coverage, Kassenaar is leading the news and information company’s fresh look at how its newswire, two magazines, and TV and radio operations explain the role of women in the global economy. More than 2000 journalists are taking part, breaking news and writing features to create a more complete picture of markets and the effects of globalization.

Kassenaar is a former senior feature writer for Bloomberg Markets magazine. Her cover stories on Wall Street firms throughout the financial crisis detailed the inner workings of the world’s biggest banks. She previously was an editor and reporter covering banks and the U.S. and Canadian bond markets. Kassenaar joined Bloomberg in 1995.

In 2006, she won a Newswoman’s Club of New York Front Page award for a story on families moving into the historic bank towers of Lower Manhattan.

A native of Winnipeg, Canada, Kassenaar — who is a devoted Jets fan — earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Manitoba and a masters in journalism from Northwestern University. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters.

Kassenaar spoke Tuesday by telephone with Talking Biz News about covering women in business and the economy. What follows is an edited transcript.

TBN: How did this all start?

I was sort of doing some social issue coverage going into the financial crisis period, and then I was drawn into the coverage of the big firms in 2007 and 2008. As we broadened our outlook again after having our heads down covering the financial crisis intensely, I was having a conversation with (editor in chief) Matt (Winkler) one day that we had not really seen a lot of women as major actors in the story that we were covering. We were not alone in that regard. For us, it was a slightly different situation. If you’re covering the global economy and how the markets work and how businesses work, and there are rising leaders and graduates who are women and they are not in our coverage, we are not presenting he best possible version of what the emerging global economy is.

So at Markets I identified some women we wanted to meet, So I went to France and we interviewed Christine LeGarde, and that went over well. There were other women out there. I also interviewed Elizabeth Warren before she became well known. And I was building up this roster of really fascinating and potentially groundbreaking women who seemed under the radar of this discussion of what was happening on Wall Street.

What if it is a bottom up look at how women are including in every person’s coverage of their beat? So Amanda Bennett appointed me to this position, but we decided we’re not going to have a women’s team. We’re going to work on raising awareness of how we can find the most important women and write about them.

TBN: How does it manifest itself in Bloomberg’s coverage?

I am still a team of one. We are focused on the reporters and editors of Bloomberg around the world look at this through four different buckets.

The first is to look at women as sources and voices. To encourage everyone to look at their source lists and get more women in their stories, as analysts, traders, investors. Just to add variety to the commentary.

The second bucket is to have the most important women on their beat,m and get them to write about them now or later. It is not an imperative to write about them now. It is changing how we look at it overall. Only 4 percent of women are CEOs in the Fortune 500, and only 17 percent are in Congress. Women are underrepresented in a lot of organizations and in a lot of leadership roles. If you cover beats and start with the CEO and get to know them and then work down, you’re not going to have a lot of bandwidth to find the women.

We’re asking people to find the women who are running sales in China or who have the greatest returns on their portfolios. We have had a great breakthrough in a few cases. Mary Barra at GM was one of them. Our GM reporter knew her, and when she was named CEO, our story was able to turn around quickly. That’s not to say if she was a man, we wouldn’t have been able to turn that story around as well.

Invariably, there is a woman somewhere who is doing something interesting. We’re hopefully revealing who those people are. We really do feel that the world is evolving to more women in leadership positions.

The third is to be aware in our commentary section. Where are the women in our commentary section? I continue to talk to the folks at Bloomberg View, but that is really David Shipley’s part of the business.

And the fourth bucket is to look at the world to understand the role of women as actors in big stories, such as health care and politics. We did some pieces on women’s sanitary health in India, and we can relate that to the Indian economy. If you look beneath the surface, to best represent what is going on at India is to write about barriers to justice in rape cases in India, and to write about women’s health.

During the Arab spring period, we were looking at where the women were in all of these countries. We did a story about the women in the Tunisian elections and the women in Libya during its crisis.

TBN: Is there a process to get Bloomberg’s reporters to quote more women?

It is what I am doing every day. There is a lot of talking about it. There are small, internal ways that we can help each other to remember. In some ways, this isn’t about anybody disagreeing with the mission. I think that after a few years after talking about this, the initial objections have kind of dissipated. In the greater scheme of things, there is tremendous good will about wanting to participate. And I think part of that is due to us not having a women’s team. I was not interested in disseminating small stories just because they had a woman in it.

And the factor that can not be underestimated is that Matt is a driver of this in a huge way. He is a huge sponsor. He feels that this is the way forward in terms of Bloomberg News having a better news product. So I get tremendous support from him. So the women’s project is going to be in the new Bloomberg Way that is coming out.

I can not overstate how Matt has been engaged in this to the point where I was meeting with him every week for two years. It has been something where he has been present in every way.

The other thing we have done is present it as an open question as to how we should do this together. So all thoughts are welcome, and that keeps the discussion flowing.

TBN: How do you quantify success?

There is a category on the Bloomberg that is NI WOMEN. That is a big, broad bucket code. We don’t want to suggest that every Angela Merkel story go into NI WOMEN. But we do think it is enough of an incentive to think about the world through the lens of women that people are thinking about stories that could go into NI WOMEN. When we started, there were zero stories in NI WOMEN. It was a very small category.

We did about 1400 the first year and 2000 last year. That’s about a 30 percent increase. I go to bureaus and talk about NI WOMEN stories. This is a way for us to search and track things that we think are part of that big broad category.

An example is the fact that there were no women on Facebook’s board when it was going public. After we did the story, within a day there was a Facebook page for getting a woman on Facebook’s board. That is a classic NI WOMEN story. It was something where we could change the conversation. And a couple of months later, they named Sheryl Sandberg to the board.

Another story is that the World Economic Forum has not been very successful in inviting women to Davos. We just want to put the information out there. We’re not commenting further on it. But the story is gender inequality.

TBN: How hard is it to get men journalists to talk about this issue?

I don’t think that has been a problem. It is kind of a story whose time has come. We are a commercial operation. We are trying to write really influential news about the global economy and governments. And you can’t get there unless you are including women in the story. It’s not just a man story.

There are men who are in their 50s who have a daughter in college, and they are glad that we are doing this. They say, we should be putting out stories that have more women in them. It resonates with them as well. It’s maybe a lot easier than you think.

TBN: Do you think we’ll ever reach a stage where stories about women executives in the media don’t mention their clothes or the color of their nail polish?

We’re already at that stage here. That’s not something that we revert to.

Part of what becomes the narrative of women in media tends to revolve about celebrity and beauty. We become worried about Barbie and the body image for little girls. But that is not something that Bloomberg writes about, or aspires to write about. And it’s not where we need to go to.

I’m much more more interested in Kirsten Gillibrand and what she has to say at the table at  the U.S. Senate. And I think a hedge fund manager wants to know that too, not the color of Kim Kardashian’s nail polish.

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WSJ enters native advertising field

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The Wall Street Journal is jumping on the native ad bandwagon with the launch of a new content division, WSJ. Custom Studios, reports Lucia Moses of Adweek.

Moses writes, “The division will offer the Journal’s first native ad product, Narratives, which will first appear March 11 with a three-month-long campaign for Brocade.

“However, Robin Riddle, who joined the Journal last April as publisher of WSJ Custom Content, won’t be overseeing it; he’s moving to another, as-yet unknown sales role there. The announcement of the studio’s launch was made by Trevor Fellows, global head of ad sales at the Journal.

“‘Creative content, including infographics and enhanced video, is a key element of our clients’ marketing strategies,’ Fellows said in the announcement. ‘We are pleased to launch an innovative, intelligent and flexible suite of capabilities that will help market-leading brands develop even deeper relationships with their clients and our readers, the world’s most important decision makers.’

“The Journal said that Narratives content will be created by the studios and ‘clearly and compellingly’ delineated from the paper’s editorial content. One of the problems with native advertising is the lack of agreement on what it is (and whether it’s a new format at all or just advertorials in a new package).”

Read more here.