Tag Archives: Ethics

Jenna Wortham

The ethics of a biz journalist sharing passwords


Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of The New York Times, writes about technology writer Jenna Wortham‘s recent admission that she shares passwords for Netflix.

Sullivan writes, “Another reader, Fred Goodwin, wrote to me: ‘I find it surprising that a NYT columnist would publicly advocate and actively participate in such a practice. This strikes me as tantamount to piracy.’

“They raise valid concerns.

“Ms. Wortham and her editor, though, see the matter differently.

“‘The column is supposed to be experimental, and Jenna is deliberately on the frontier – that’s the whole point,’ said Jeff Sommer, an assistant business editor who worked with Ms. Wortham to conceive the column idea. ‘It’s wonderful to have someone who’s ahead of the curve.’

“He said he did not see the column as endorsing subscription-sharing but rather describing the situation and looking at the business practices and implications. And he said he had encouraged Ms. Wortham to explore the ethical issues in another column or article.

“Ms. Wortham said she hadn’t been surprised by the reaction. ‘The column tends to be provocative,’ she said. ‘We’re trying to capture the rapidly evolving landscape.’

“As for the ethical issues, she said, ‘It’s a very murky area when the companies themselves don’t really seem to see it as a huge problem.’”

Read more here.


Companies that pay for content in biz news media


Tanzina Vega of The New York Times writes Monday about how some companies are paying for content in the business news media.

Vega writes, “Forbes has worked with about two dozen brands in its two-year venture into branded content. Articles written by FedEx employees for the site have focused on small businesses. Other articles have competed for space on the most-e-mailed list for the site. Michael S. Perlis, the president and chief executive of Forbes Media, said the brands are never allowed to make a direct pitch to consumers in their articles.

“‘It is, in fact, content,’ Mr. Perlis said. ‘It’s not advertising. Its about big issues that relate to thought leadership.’

“Newspapers for years have run special sections to appeal to advertisers, and almost all of the publishers running branded content say they abide by the traditional church-and-state separation — news on one side of the wall, advertising on the other. But the sponsored content runs beside the editorial on many sites and is almost indistinguishable. The content can be ranked on the sites and shared on social media just like any other article.

“The Mashable staff said that, despite having a sponsor, the articles they write are editorial content. ‘These are not advertorials,’ said Lance Ulanoff, the editor in chief at Mashable. ‘I know what an advertorial is. These are pure editorial.’”

Read more here.


The value of ethics in business journalism


The ethical rules of business journalism online should not be any different than the standards for traditional print or broadcast business journalism, said a group of top business journalists on Saturday.

“It’s a lack of common sense,” said Karen Pensiero, assistant managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, about the problems that can occur with business journalim on Twitter or other outlets. “It’s a lack of remembering what our core ethics are.”

Pinsiero, as well as Bloomberg News executive editor Susan Goldberg and Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron were on a panel of journalism ethics at the annual Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference in Washington, D.C.

“I don’t think the standards of accuracy should be any less for online,” said Goldberg.

Baron encouraged the journalists in attendance to use traditional reporting methods.

“One great way is to pick up the phone,” said Baron. “:The problem is that everybody wants to be first.”

Added Goldberg: “Sometimes you even leave the building.”

Baron said, however, that not everything that business journalists post online can be reviewed by editors. Media organizations have to rely on the skills and training of their staff.

Pensiero said she believes that overall online delivery methods such as Twitter have been positive for business journalism and what is being experienced now are “growing pains.” She added that problem tweets from journalists are sometimes flagged by their colleagues.

“What we tell people on social media is pretend like your on television for us,” said Pensiero.

“Pause for a minute” before sending something out, said Baron. “I think that would be great.”

April Fools

Why April Fool’s pranks are dangerous in the biz news business


Allen Wastler, the managing editor of CNBC.com, writes about why news organizations that write April Fool’s news stories are playing with fire.

Wastler writes, “You see, to some of us news is sacred. Yes, there are efforts to sex it up. Some outfits also like to push certain angles and points of view. But by and large most of us in this business understand the need to get the facts right and report what we believe to be true. Misinformation is the enemy. Credibility is our fortress. And April Fools’ Day is the yearly siege.

“In the latest round of battle, there were two breaches.

“One was a news story from TechCrunch proclaiming that Facebook was going to buy the app outfit “Bang With Friends” for $30 million. While there’s running debate about BWF’s validity in the first place, the dead giveaway appeared in the article’s third paragraph, which declared ‘robust staff penetration and rumors that Google is building a competitive hook-up platform called Google F*ck Now also hastened the deal.’

“The second incursion was a story from Edmunds.com about Tesla entering the Nascar race circuit. It, too, had some giveaways in the copy, not the least of which was the sponsorship of Duracell and the need for the Tesla car to play recorded Chevy Charger revving sounds to satisfy Nascar crowds.

“Both pieces were lighthearted, fun, and well-executed. The problem is where they were coming from…two websites that have strived, and succeeded to a certain degree, to be recognized sources of legitimate news.

“It’s dangerous to mix credibility and pranking for a couple of reasons.”

Read more here.


TV news ignores labor coverage


A study examining national TV networks’ coverage of unions and the labor movement across three years found that the media largely ignores labor, except to paint unions as a source of trouble in the American economy.

“Even in stories about labor or unions, the main sources relied on are external to labor or unions,” writes professor Federico Subervi in a summary of the report. “Moreover, the discourse and framing continues to fault the workers and their representatives for any conflict or impasse, not the business, company or government.”

Subervi’s report was commissioned by The Newspaper Guild-CWA. Subervi is the director of the Center for the Study of Latino Media & Markets at the School of Journalism and Communications at Texas State University.

To conduct the study, researchers accessed the Vanderbilt University Television News Archives, which offer an online searchable database of news headlines and abstracts of news programs. The study focused on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN.

Ultimately, over three years – 2008, 2009 and 2011 –  researchers  identified a total of only 141 stories among the four networks that focused on labor either primarily or secondarily. “Estimating that these networks collectively air approximately 16,000 news stories per year, the 141 news items about labor/unions represent less than .3 percent of their news inventory for the studied time period,” Subervi writes.

Read more here.

Corrected WSJ story

WSJ pulls article from website after error


The Wall Street Journal has pulled an article from its website that ran in the paper earlier this week due to an error.

The correction online currently states:

The article “Grant Flows to Troubled Nonprofit,” originally published on March 25, has been removed because it was incorrect.

The Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council isn’t slated to receive a “member item” grant –an earmark with an anonymous sponsor slated for a nonprofit group – of nearly $2 million under New York’s latest budget deal, as was erroneously reported in the article. That grant was, in fact, made in 1994 and was used by the council to build a youth center in 2004. The article incorrectly said that the grant is new and was expected to be made this year. The entire article, including the reaction and analysis, was based on this incorrect factual premise.

The author of the article was Laura Nahmias. Her LinkedIn page lists her as a “contributing reporter” to The Journal since October 2012.

IR Magazine

What were they thinking? Edition No. 982


Less than a year after the infamous JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s “London Whale”  trading scandal that led to a $6.2 billion loss, IR Magazine gave an award to Jamie Dimon, the company’s chief executive officer, for having the best investor relations by a CEO or chairman in the large market capitalization category.

Though perhaps IR Magazine is giving Dimon the award for the way he handled investor relations following the scandal, in April 2012 Dimon described the would-be sweeping trading scandal as a small event that had been exaggerated out of proportion on JPMorgan’s first-quarter earnings conference call.

In response to a question regarding London Whale Bruno Iksil’s large position in credit-default swaps in corporate bonds, Dimon said on the call:

“It’s a complete tempest in a teapot. Every bank has a major portfolio. In those portfolios you make investments that you  that you think are wise, the offset your exposures. Obviously it’s a big portfolio, we’re a large company, and we try to run it – it’s sophisticated, obviously complex things, but at the end of the day, that’s our job is to invest that portfolio wisely and intelligently over a long period of time to earn income and to offset other exposures we have.”

This misleading statement along with the lack of transparency provided to investors about trading practices raises eyebrows about IR Magazine’s decision to award Dimon the honor of having the best investor relations as a CEO.

IR Magazine’s Methodology

On its website, IR Magazine says that it conducts in-depth research to identify the best corporate investor relations teams. The magazine canvassed opinions through electronic surveys and telephone interviews of more than 800 sell-side analysts, buy-side analysts and portfolio managers across the U.S. to determine the winners.

Other nominees in Dimon’s category “Best IR by a CEO or chairman” included Covidien’s José Almeida, Danaher’s Lawrence Culp and Coca-Cola Co.’s Muhtar Kent.

“But fundamentally good IR is still a matter of building trust with the investment community – which is what all our award winners and nominees – as well as the IR Magazine US Top 100 – have achieved,” said IR Magazine’s CEO and founding editor Janet Dignan on its website.

Lack of Transparency 

In a New York Times Dealbook article last week about the hearing by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that summoned Dimon and other current and former JPMorgan officials as it continues to formulate reports, John C. Liu, the New York City comptroller, raised concern on the way Dimon misinformed investors.

“It’s clear from the Senate report and Friday’s hearing that senior executives not only misinformed investors and regulators about the excessive risks the bank was taking, but also withheld this information from their own board. Mr. Dimon’s failure on this score come from the hubris of having too much power placed in his hands.”

Liu has invested in $500 million worth of JPMorgan shares on behalf of public pension funds. Liu is hoping to bolster support for a shareholder proposal that would split JPMorgan’s CEO and chairman roles, The New York Times reported.

Yet on the other side, Joe Evangelisti, a bank spokesman, said:

“Our management always said what they believed to be true at the time. In hindsight, we discovered some of the information they had was wrong…Jamie apologized and took responsibility on live television, multiple analyst calls, and in testimony before Congress and the Senate.”

Additionally, JPMorgan’s board have remained largely in support of its CEO and the bank has had its most profitable year ever and its stock rose more than 20 percent in the last four months.

“And above all the din and arguments concerning risky banking practices is the voice of money — if you’re making it, then you’re fine with how it’s being made,” wrote the International Business Times on Monday.

Yet some in the business media have been critical of Dimon and JPMorgan’s actions. Bloomberg News’ Jonathan Weil wrote an article in January about the omissions in JPMorgan’s report about the London Whale trading losses.

Weil wrote:

“The report also included this bizarre disclaimer: “This report sets out the facts that the task force believes are most relevant to understanding the causes of the losses. It reflects the task force’s view of the facts. Others (including regulators conducting their own investigations) may have a different view of the facts, or may focus on facts not described in this report, and may also draw different conclusions regarding the facts and issues.” In other words, we haven’t been told the whole story.”

What do you think? Did Dimon deserve to receive IR Magazine’s award as ”Best IR by a CEO or chairman” for the way he handled investor relations during and after the London Whale crisis, or does this seem like a suspicious action of the business media cozying up to the CEO of the most powerful banks in the world?


Reuters digital media editor denies charges


Mackenzie Weinger of Politico reports that Reuters digital media editor Matthew Keys has denied the charges that he helped hackers access the Tribune Co. computer system.

Weinger writes, “‘I did not give a username and a password to anyone,’ he wrote in a Facebook post. ‘I did not ‘conspire’ to ‘cause damage to a protected computer.’ I did not cause ‘transmission of malicious code,’ and I did not ‘attempt’ to cause ‘transmission of malicious code.’’

“‘My attorneys have said much of the same over the past few days, but I feel it might mean more coming from me directly,’ he added.

“Keys — a former web producer for the Tribune Co-owned television station KTXL FOX 40 in Sacramento, California — has been charged with giving members affiliated with ‘Anonymous’ log-in credentials for a computer server belonging to the Tribune Co. According to the indictment, the group used the information to hack into the Los Angeles Times and change a news story online.

“He has been suspended from Reuters, with pay.”

Read more here.


WSJ investigated by justice department


The Justice Department last year opened an investigation into allegations that employees at The Wall Street Journal‘s China news bureau bribed Chinese officials for information for news articles.

Devlin Barrett and Evan Perez of The Journal write, “A search by the Journal’s parent company found no evidence to support the claim, according to government and corporate officials familiar with the case.

“The U.S. government, meanwhile, is nearing the end of a broader investigation of the Journal’s owner News Corp. stemming from allegations of phone hacking and bribery at U.K. tabloids, among other issues, according to people familiar with the case.

“During the course of that broader probe, the Justice Department approached News Corp.’s outside counsel in early 2012 and said it had received information from a person it described as a whistleblower who claimed one or more Journal employees had provided gifts to Chinese government officials in exchange for information, according to people familiar with the case.

“News Corp. and the Journal don’t know the identity of the informant, company officials say, and government officials wouldn’t discuss such details. It isn’t clear whether the person worked inside the Journal and whether the informant provided names of alleged bribers.”

Read more here.

Fortune logo

Fortune writing articles for advertisers


Lucia Moses of Adweek writes that Fortune magazine has a deal where it is writing some articles for advertisers.

She reports, “Fortune is rolling out a new response to this dilemma in the form of a program called Fortune TOC—Trusted Original Content. Similar to licensed editorial content, TOC involves creating original, Fortune-branded editorial content (articles, video, newsletters) exclusively for marketers to distribute on their own platforms. The publisher has set a price range from $250,000 to $1 million.

“‘As marketers fight to engage with users [and] readers in a noisy, competitive world, marketers have all become publishers,’ said Jed Hartman, group publisher of Time Inc. news and business, with oversight for Fortune. Capital One has signed on as the first client, using Fortune to create content about small-business strategies.

“TOC represents the first formalized process by a Time Inc. title to make good on outgoing CEO Laura Lang‘s promise of ‘next-generation’ advertising products that join its magazine content with marketing in new ways. Time Inc. titles like People and InStyle have run ads that combine their own content with an advertiser’s message.

“‘There have always been ways to license content,’ said Paul Caine, evp, chief revenue officer and group president, advertising at Time Inc. ‘But what’s emerged is the ability for advertisers to populate their owned and earned media with our content. That’s part of what some of these solutions represent. What we need to do is create easy ways for them to get to our content.’

“While brand-created content has gotten better, it often falls short of quality editorial product. By creating the TOC edit, Fortune ostensibly will avoid that pitfall.”

Read more here.