Tag Archives: Fortune

The demise of green biz reporting?

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Joel Makower writes on the Huffington Post about his worry that coverage of environmental and green business issues is on the decline.

Makower notes that Fortune recently gave layoff notices to Marc Gunther, one of the leading business writers on corporate environmental practices, along with Todd Woody, whose coverage of clean technology has led the pack.

Makower writes, “As I’ve noted earlier this year, mainstream business writers still seem ill-informed and overly cynical about company efforts to be greener. Like the preponderance of their readers, editors and reporters seem to start with the assumption that most environmental activities undertaken by companies, especially large companies, are done primarily for P.R. reasons. True, healthy skepticism is the currency of a good journalist, but undying cynicism is more the norm when it comes to environmental business reporting.

“The recent spate of downsizings of writers, editors, and producers covering environmental issues will only exacerbate this, relegating green business coverage to reporters with less knowledge, context, and historical perspective on the transformation taking place in business.

“I hear from such reporters every week: general-assignment reporters from newspapers and broadcast stations around the U.S., niche trade magazines, and others seeking comment or context on a story they’re covering. I can tell you unequivocally that the nature of their questions reveals a high degree of ignorance. I’m happy to bring them up to speed, but it’s a slog.”

Read more here.

Regulators, readers ignored warnings from business press about housing

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UNC-Chapel Hill journalism professor Chris Roush writes in the latest issue of American Journalism Review that the business media did a strong job in covering the problems in the housing market in the past decade, but few listened to the warnings.

Roush writes, “Here’s the issue that financial journalism faces: No one likes a nattering nabob of negativism, especially when the stock market is climbing and all of our 401(k) plans are tied to it. So we shut out what we don’t want to hear because it conflicts with what we’d like to happen.

“To be sure, the business media haven’t been perfect. Both Fortune and Forbes, for example, sang the praises of Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain in 2008, shortly before the company was forced to sell itself to Bank of America or risk going under. Forbes went so far as to say the financial house was in ‘damn good shape.’ And the personal finance magazines that tout the best stocks and mutual funds can be maddening because they rarely, if ever, outperform the market. Do they really think they – or the so-called experts they’re interviewing – know?

“But anybody who’s been paying attention has seen business journalists waving the red flag for several years. ‘The fact that housing was a bubble was printed millions of times,’ says Allan Sloan, a Fortune columnist and arguably the country’s preeminent business journalist. ‘This is one time that we did what we were supposed to do.’

“Don’t just take the business journalists’ word for it. Their effectiveness in naming the scoundrels is supported by academic research. In 2003, then-Harvard Business School professor Greg Miller studied more than 260 cases of accounting fraud. He determined that nearly a third of them were identified by the business media before the Securities and Exchange Commission or the company said they were targets of investigations.”

Read more here.

Buyout volunteers looked for at Fortune, Money magazines

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Peter Kafka of All Things Digital writes about how Fortune and Money magazines are looking for volunteers for its buyout program to reduce their staffs.

Kafka writes that Fortune managine editor Andy Serwer is looking for about a dozen volunteers. He did not have specific details about how many positions Money is looking to cut.

In a memo to the staff, Serwer wrote, “Unfortunately, we will need to reduce staff at Fortune in the writer-editor, writer-reporter, designer, editorial assistant and copy coordinator Guild categories, and we are asking for a number of volunteers to leave the company with a severance package. 

“If you are interested in confidentially exploring this option, please contact Dawn Dunlop in HR at [redacted] or Edith Fried at [redacted] by Friday, November 21, 2008. If we do not have enough volunteers, we will need to begin a process of involuntary layoffs. For your reference, the Company’s severance formula is in the Guild contract and is also posted on Time Traveler.”

Read more here.

Being a scrooge is the new mantra for personal finance magazines

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The Deal executive editor Yvette Kantrow writes about how personal finance magazines have changed their tune with the current economic crisis.

Kantrow writes, “Clearly, these are not fun times for the personal finance press. Most people can’t even bear to open their 401(k) statements these days, so they are not all that interested in reading about 10 investments they should make right now! We saw this problem a few years ago after the tech bubble burst and personal finance mags like Smart Money morphed into pseudo-lifestyle pubs. But this time around, even that category is suspect; it’s hard to have much style in your life when you’re worried about losing your home or your job.

“Now, the personal finance buzzword is thrift. ‘The present crisis could actually be the ideal moment to make thrift cool again, because debt has rarely been in worse repute,’ Money Magazine’s sister Fortune recently intoned helpfully. OK, that makes sense. But what does that really mean for the legions of personal finance journalists out there? How do they write about ‘thrift’ without boring readers to tears or coming off like the latte police? Can thrift be ‘cool’? And can it make for interesting, helpful journalism?

“The Wall Street Journal, for one, seems to think so. It has launched a new column called Cheapskate in which reporter Neal Templin dishes about his thrifty ways. In one recent offering, Templin urged readers to ‘opt for the cheapest way to look acceptable’ and proudly revealed he was wearing $40 dress slacks and a $35 shirt. Good for him. Meanwhile, Wall Street Journal style columnist Christina Binkley last week told us ‘in a troubled economy, splurges seem shameful and cheap is cool.’ And in another recent personal finance offering, the WSJ presented ‘How to Make a Spending Plan.’ Its words of wisdom: ‘The goal of successful budgeting is learning to live within the bounds of your discretionary income.’”

Read more here.

Matters named Money ME

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Craig Matters, who earlier this year was named executive editor at Fortune, has been named the new managing editor at sister publication Money.

Matters replaces Eric Schurenberg, who will leave the magazine near the end of the month.

In an announcement posted by New York Observer reporter Matt Haber, Time Inc. head John Huey wrote, “As FORTUNE’s executive editor he headed up Fortune.com and helped to oversee technology and investing coverage. He has worked closely with FORTUNE writers to increase the title’s technology and investing coverage both in print and online at Fortune.com and CNNMoney.com.

“Craig is a veteran of every title in the old Fortune|Money group. He originally joined Time Inc. as a senior editor at Money, later named assistant managing editor, where he primarily worked on investing coverage and feature editing. He left in 2001 and headed out for the web, serving as the first editor of the incredibly successful CNNMoney.com, which at that time was a combination of CNNfn.com and Money.com. The site re-launched in 2006 to include all Time Inc. business and financial titles, and in October, under executive editor/VP Chris Peacock, received 39.5 million unique visitors and 37 million video streams based on internal Omniture data. In 2004 Craig rejoined Money as executive editor.

“Previous to his time at Time Inc., Craig spent ten years at American Lawyer Media, where he was editor of an early online community for lawyers called Counsel Connect and ran newsrooms for American Lawyer in San Francisco and Miami. He began his career as a reporter and editor at weekly and daily newspapers in Connecticut.”

Read more here.

Biz media goes gaga for Paulson

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Elinore Longobardi of Columbia Journalism Review wonders why the business media, including recent cover stories in Fortune and Bloomberg Markets, are praising Treasury secretary Hank Paulson.

Longobardi writes, “But the fundamental problem with these pieces is deeper than a missed observation or clashing versions of the same person. The underlying problem is that they are a species of the Great Man theory that is all too prominent in the business press. In these stories, Paulson is not just the institutional face of the credit crisis, he’s a kind of stand in for that crisis. Rather than scrutiny of the system, of which Paulson is undoubtedly a key part, it’s Paulson front and center.

“And so, as with any ‘great man’, his story needs bits of background that illustrate the formation of his current character. Each piece falls in line with this model.

“Newsweek even starts to lay out the mythological groundwork in the first paragraph with Paulson ‘the former college-football star’ who is ‘carrying the weight of the troubled markets on his shoulders.’ Thank you, Atlas.”

Read more here.

Breakingviews column to run in Fortune and online at CNNMoney.com

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Robert MacMillan of Reuters reports that Breakingviews.com has struck a deal for its business news and analysis column to appear in Fortune.

The column was dropped earlier this year by The Wall Street Journal. It has since been picked up by the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune.

MacMillan writes, “Breakingviews plans to announce on Thursday that it has strucka deal to appear in Fortune magazine starting Oct. 27, while selected ‘views’ will run on the Internet at CNNMoney.com, which includes Fortune’s online material. In addition, Breakvingviews staffers will join the CNNMoney video line-up in the near future.

“Breakingviews, which jostles with The Wall Street Journal’s Heard on the Street and Financial Times’s Lex column to analyze business news for investors and other market types, has 27 columnists based in London, New York, Paris, Washington, Madrid and San Francisco.”

Read more here.

Biz magazines providing perspective during economic turmoil

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John Koblin of the New York Observer writes Wednesday about how the business magazines are able to compete against the business networks and daily newspapers in explaining what’s going on during economic turmoil.

Koblin writes, “Operating between the screaming financial pundits on the two-headed cable-financial-news dragon of CNBC and Fox Business Network, who have to correct themselves on the Dow mid-sentence all day long, and the cool daily dispatches coming out of The Times, the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, it would seem time for the business magazine to step up and tell us what’s actually going to happen.

“It’s probably a question whether the business magazines — which have for some time now only had to race for ‘gets’ among CEOs who would agree to sit for smug, arms-crossed portraits, to be printed next to ‘how’d he do that?’ Genius Profiles — have the metabolism to do that, especially on lead times stretching to weeks, in some cases.

“But can anybody tell us what’s going to happen?

“Two weeks after Lehman Brothers went under, a blown-up picture of Henry Paulson’s face, looking not so smug, was plastered across the cover of the biweekly Fortune with the cover line: ‘Paulson to the Rescue.’ On Oct. 23, an image of former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg in sunglasses took the cover, weeks after AIG went down.

Fast work? Not so much. Mostly luck.”

Read more here.

Biz media go easy on Google

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TheStreet.com media critic Marek Fuchs writes Friday that the business media let Google off the hook by ignoring how cost-cutting improved its profits and instead implied that it was recession-proof.

Marek Fuchs

Fuchs writes, “But part of weathering economic uncertainty — especially for a company, such as Google, never known to be overly concerned with costs — is to rein costs in. By not making this clear, articles such as Reuters’ failed to inform savvy investors.

“Time got even more breathless with its headline and lead, and, incredibly, failed to even mention Google’s cost controls, which helped its bottom line to such a degree: ‘Behold! The Recession-Proof Google: Hail Google!.’

“If you can find a single mention of cost cuts, The Business Press Maven will give you a shiny nickel.

“By contrast, check out the clarity of this article by Yi-Wyn Yen in Fortune. Instead of a simple celebration, in a vague way, of a Google accomplishment, the cost issue fittingly makes the headline: ‘Google gets frugal and profits soar.’”

Read more here. 

Business magazines outperform the industry in third quarter

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TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE

Business-related titles performed better than the overall magazine industry in the third quarter, according to data released Tuesday by Publishers Information Bureau.

The magazine industry saw a decline of 8.8 percent in advertising revenue and a 12.9 percent decline in ad pages for the quarter. However, a majority — nine — of the 15 business publications tracked by Publishers Information Bureau reported an increase in ad revenue, and seven reported an increase in ad pages.

Fortune Small BusinessLeading the way were the three Time Inc. publications. Fortune Small Business reported a 46.8 percent jump in ad revenue for the quarter to $12.6 million and a 42.7 percent rise in ad pages to 113.92.

Fortune posted a 29.7 percent increase in ad revenue to $70.6 million and a 27.1 percent increase in ad pages to 610.55, while sister publication Money reported a 10.3 percent increase in ad revenue to $38.9 million and a 7.3 percent rise in ad pages to 203.98.

The two Mansueto Ventures titles — Inc. and Fast Company — also reported strong gains. Fast Company posted a 36.1 percent increase in ad revenue to $9.6 million and a 30.5 percent rise in ad pages to 128.89, while Inc. posted a 21.3 percent increase in ad revenue to $24.7 million and a 13.5 percent increase in ad pages to 232.55.

Also posting strong gains for the quarter was The Economist, which had a 33.9 percent increase in ad revenue to $27.8 million and an 11.5 percent rise in ad pages to 523.66.

Among the decliners, Smart Money fell 29.9 percent in ad revenue to $9.8 million and dropped 32.6 percent in ad pages to 116.75, while Forbes declined 21.7 percent in ad revenue to $54.6 million and fell 26.2 percent in ad pages to 449.74.

See all of the data here.