Tag Archives: Fortune
Dan Gainor, the director of the Business & Media Institute, is a veteran editor with two decadesâ€™ experience in print and online media. He has served as an editor at several newspapers including The Washington Times and The Baltimore News-American. Gainor also has extensive experience in online publishing â€“ holding the position of managing editor for CQ.com, the Web site of Congressional Quarterly, and executive editor for ChangeWave, published by Phillips International.
The Business & Media Institute critiques business journalism coverage that it believes is biased against a free market economy, publishing several critiques a day on its Web site.
Gainor explained the critiques and how he views business journalism today in an e-mail interview. What follows is an edited transcript.
1. How did the Business & Media Institute get started?
The Business & Media Institute has changed names twice, but was founded in 1992 as a division of the Media Research Center to help address the anti-free enterprise culture in the major media. What we do is kind of unique â€“ sort of like a business ombudsman for media.
2. How do you feel like the Web site is helping the quality of business journalism?
We target problem stories, trends, discrepancies and a host of other issues in the news. I spent a couple decades in news and write a regular pro-business column for the Baltimore Examiner. I know it stinks to have someone criticize your work. But seeing what reporters do wrong with stories is the only way to learn to fix it. Thatâ€™s what editors are supposed to do â€“ fix stories. I hope journalists see these problems and donâ€™t make the same mistakes twice. Weâ€™re also there for news consumers. Itâ€™s our hope that by learning things on our site they arenâ€™t seeing in other media, theyâ€™ll be savvier readers and viewers.
3. How does the staff select the media articles or shows to critique?
We monitor a ton of news â€“ network news, print, and online media â€“ and talk it over each day. The bad reporting is usually pretty clear. Ken Shepherd and Amy Menefee, who work with me, do a great job spotting stories that need work. Then we hit trends with our weekly newsletter, The Balance Sheet, and do big Special Reports on longer-term issues.
4. Is there more of an emphasis on critiquing economics coverage, or on critiquing business coverage?
Probably more business than econ just because thatâ€™s more reader friendly. But itâ€™s a nice mix of both. The wonkier a story, the less interested I become as a reader. At the same time, there are business and economic principles touching so many issues everyone deals with on a daily basis, so thereâ€™s lots of overlap.
5. Are you OK with articles that present an anti-free market opinion as long as they show both sides of the argument?
Of course. I might disagree with them, but nothing is beyond criticism. The problem I have is that the free-market perspective is often ignored or worse. People need all the information available to make the best decisions about their lives, especially financial decisions or voting decisions. What weâ€™re after is context. I worked for Congressional Quarterly as an editor, and I felt like they did an excellent job of presenting facts without leaning toward one side or another. In my ideal world, stories would be balanced and reporters all would do a good job. Iâ€™d gladly be out of a job to accomplish that, but I donâ€™t see it happening.
6. How often do you and the staff write critiques?
We publish Monday-Friday and post articles every one of those days. The newsletter comes out each week on Wednesday.
7. Do you ever get a response from the journalists who have been criticized? What do they say?
Of course. And the responses are all over the map. CBSâ€™s Public Eye blog responded to our analysis of their 2005 unemployment coverage. (In a year when 2 million jobs were added, the big three networks had more than 50 percent of their job stories about job losses.) Anthony Mason was quoted in their blog defending their coverage but admitting, â€œFor the most part, broad based media has done a lousy job of explaining the economy to people.â€? I agree. Itâ€™s my job to help fix that. I am a journalist. I couldnâ€™t view myself any other way. I think journalists I talk to respect that.
8. What do you see as the biggest issues in business journalism today?
Iâ€™ll say two: The first might surprise you because Iâ€™ll say audience. Who are business stories written for? Investors? Owners? Workers? Depending on that answer, you know how to write. Too many stories try to do a little bit of everything. The result is a mess. Unemployment goes down and workers are happy but businessmen arenâ€™t. How do you write that story? Usually, itâ€™s written from the consumer angle as good news. Wage drops are a worker problem and wage increases spur inflation â€“ so both results end up bad news. A new business might displace an old one â€“ which do you focus on?
The other problem is the dreaded B-word everyone hates talking about â€“ bias. Itâ€™s the big freakinâ€™ elephant in the room. Everyone has biases and opinions. Most journalists are inherently suspicious of wealth and power even in their own organizations, so that sets them up to be antagonists to business. But unions also are wealthy and powerful, and government is more so. You could say the same about trial lawyers and more. Everybody has an agenda. A good reporter shouldnâ€™t embrace one side more than another. Until journalists accept that this is a problem and work to fix it, the American public will continue to lose confidence.
Iâ€™m going to include a micro-rant on this: The first publication, network or whatever that realizes this wins big. If a major media outlet really starts to analyze how it puts together stories, how they are presented and spun and tries hard to get all of the stakeholders (as much as I hate that word) into the process, they will be the first ones to really win back credibility. Nobody I know wants a conservative monopoly on the press or a solely pro-business press. What they want is the media to tell the story of life here in America without spin or agenda â€“ and thatâ€™s darn hard.
9. How can those problems be solved?
This is a start. We have to talk about it. I think stories have to be clear about their goals. What does this mean to investors? Businessmen? I want people to talk to me about what we write, too. If you donâ€™t agree, tell me why. If you learned something, tell us that as well. It should be a two-way conversation, not a boring lecture. I strongly urge any reporter to contact me about what we write, problems in coverage, etc., at email@example.com. We focus on major media, but I still like to hear from other news outfits. I really hope to expand that conversation between journalists and businesspeople.
As for bias, stop arguing the point. Most Americans accept itâ€™s a problem; why keep refighting the issue? Journalism has a credibility problem that is getting worse, not better. Part of it stems from the star syndrome. Too many big-name reporters/editors/broadcasters use their fame and mouth off on issues instead of being quiet on their own opinions. Then thereâ€™s the mix of journalism, news and infotainment. Yes, viewers and readers like it, but we have an obligation to hold it to some professional standards.
Just the other day, Jack Cafferty, one of the hosts of CNNâ€™s â€œIn the Money,â€? went off on a crazy rant arguing that there could be some conspiracy where the oil companies are lowering gas prices to help Republicans win the 2006 mid-term elections. He didnâ€™t have any evidence. He just had a few too many opinions to keep bottled up. Had I been his boss, I would have fired him. Right there. On the spot. Why doesnâ€™t that happen more? Maybe that would stop working journalists from becoming pundits while pretending to be unbiased.
10. Do you feel like journalists are receptive to the Instituteâ€™s criticism?
Yes and I think itâ€™s improving all the time. I spoke at the Society of Professional Journalists convention in August and met many journalists who are looking for help in their coverage. Economist Brian Wesbury joined the panel at our request and he clearly struck a chord with the audience by challenging them.
One reason why we are getting noticed is we donâ€™t just point out the bad. Every issue of the newsletter includes a section we call the â€œGood, Bad and Ugly.â€? The good always celebrates the work of journalists doing exactly what they are supposed to do. No one wants to hear negative comments all the time, in my opinion. (I urge anyone reading this to sign up for the newsletter â€“ itâ€™s free â€“ and see for themselves at our site www.businessandmedia.org).
11. Who are some business journalists that you like to read, and why?
I like economists who put the complex world in simple terms â€“ Larry Kudlow, Walter Williams and Don Boudreaux, to name a few. On TV, I will always watch ABCâ€™s Mellody Hobson. Sheâ€™s great. For news copy, Iâ€™ve never been a byline watcher. To me, the hallmark of good journalism is that a magazine or newspaper produces good stories, well-written and well-edited. The names can change, but the results stay the same.
12. What publications do the best job?
Iâ€™ve always liked The Wall Street Journal. Itâ€™s the best-written paper in America. It also has an incredible editorial section. I like its smaller competitor, Investor’s Business Daily â€“ more free market and again it has a compelling opinion section. For magazines, I like Forbes for its free-market stance and Fortune for its issue stories. On TV, itâ€™s Kudlow or Cavuto. CNNâ€™s business coverage is horrible. â€œIn the Moneyâ€? isnâ€™t a business show â€“ itâ€™s often an anti-business show. Who on the network made that wonderful decision? What next? A health program thatâ€™s anti-doctor? That goes back to my audience point.
New York Times reporter Peter Edmonston wrote in Monday’s newspaper that the traffic numbers for Forbes.com are being questioned by some of its competitors as being the No. 1 Internet site for business news.
Edmonston wrote, “But a closer look at the numbers raises questions about Forbes.comâ€™s industry-leading success. For its claim of a worldwide audience of nearly 15.3 million, it has been citing February data from comScore Media Metrix, one of the two leading providers of third-party Web traffic data.
“There are several problems with that statistic, though, and comScore has since revised the figure downward to less than 13.2 million as part of a broader revamping of its worldwide data for many sites. Jack Flanagan, executive vice president at comScore Media Metrix, said the new figures were released ‘a couple of months ago’ after it changed its methods for estimating global audiences.
“There is also the question, given Forbes.comâ€™s user figures, of where those visitors were going. According to comScore, 45 percent of its February traffic went to ForbesAutos.com, a companion Web site heavy on car reviews and photos. About three-quarters of the ForbesAutos.com traffic came from outside the United States.
“Since February, comScore said, Forbes.comâ€™s traffic has tumbled. In July, Forbes Web sites drew 7.3 million unique visitors worldwide, almost a million of whom went to ForbesAutos. That put Forbes.com slightly below Dow Jones (whose online properties include The Wall Street Journalâ€™s Web site and MarketWatch), CNNMoney.com (which includes the sites of Fortune and Business 2.0 magazines) and sites affiliated with Reuters, each of which comScore says had some 7.6 million visitors that month.”
Read more here.
Syndicated business columnist Malcolm Berko was asked by one of his readers about “Mad Money” Jim Cramer and what he thought about the show.
Berko replied in his column published Sunday. He wrote, “Watching Jim Cramer’s bombast, his hysterics, philippic, harangue and theatrics is like watching a World Wrestling Federation match and not knowing for whom to root. However, Jim is the only one in the ring.
“The first time I saw his show I was ‘monsterized’ by the cornucopia of weird sound effects, flying bears, tossed chairs, water pistols, alligator costumes and S&M toys.
“I watched part of Jim’s program, but the theatrics were too slapstick for me and I couldn’t wait to change channels. Oh, how I pine for the droll and dry Louis Rukeyser and his staid, stiff and serious guests.
“But I can’t dismiss Cramer, who is called the Jerry Lee Lewis of business shows with his screaming, his props and wacky paraphernalia. Cramer is eminently qualified to dispense market information. He is one of the founders of a popular Web site, www.thestreet.com. He’s the author of several stock market books, has a syndicated radio show, and in the 1990s Jim made a bloody fortune managing a hedge fund.”
Read more here.
One day after an editorial on the topic in the newspaper, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s business section published a story written by Heather Landy in which business journalism professors questioned the tactics taken by billionaire Mark Cuban in investing in stocks before publication written about on the investigative business journalism web site ShareSleuth.com he is funding.
Landy wrote, “Cuban may be able to keep regulators at bay with his disclosures and his financial arrangement with Sharesleuth.com, but some media insiders still see cause for ethical concern.
“‘I am bothered by Cuban’s actions because it gives the impression that people involved in business journalism are out to make a buck by playing the market with the information we possess, and if people think that, then we lose all credibility,’ said Chris Roush, a former business reporter who teaches journalism and heads up the Carolina Business News Initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “‘What he is doing isn’t illegal, but it hurts the profession’s image at a time when we’re just now recovering from failing to uncover scandals such as Enron and WorldCom.’
“Star-Telegram policy prohibits its business reporters from trading in stocks of companies they write about.
“The University of Missouri’s Martha Steffens, who holds a professorship endowed by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, said SABEW recently received a $25,000 grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism, Ford, and James L. and John S. Knight foundations to explore issues such as the ones raised by Cuban’s new venture.
“Attack-style blogs, the proliferation of short-selling and the demand for real-time information are changing the landscape for financial reporters, requiring journalists to re-examine their role in the markets, she said.
“And with a Web site that departs from traditional business publications by focusing only on investigations that raise questions about companies or the executives that run them, Cuban — who made his fortune during the Internet boom by selling his Broadcast.com audio site to Yahoo Inc. — is once again on the cutting edge.
“Cuban’s arrangement with Sharesleuth.com ‘is a different animal than anything we’ve seen,’ Steffens said. ‘But you know they’ve got to be careful because you’re talking about [someone with the potential to be] a deep-pocket defendant.’
Read more here. Cuban declined to talk to the Star-Telegram.
For those of you who have been paying attention, you’ll remember that Talking Biz News wrote about a month ago about how many of the business magazines — including BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and Money — had incredibly an incredibly bad June in terms of ad sales, according to data from the Magazine Publishers of America.
Well, July was much better. In fact, most business magazines saw double-digit increases in ad sales, which only Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and Money showing declines for July.
The big winner for the month was Wired, which increased its ad sales nearly 49 percent to $6.1 million for July.
Here are some specifics:
– Business 2.0 reported ad sales of $4.59 million, a 24.6 percent increase from the $3.7 million sold in the same month a year ago.
– BusinessWeek had ad sales of $23.8 million, a 5.6 percent increase from the $22.5 million sold in July 2005.
– The Economist sold $5.9 million worth of ads in July a 16.6 percent increase from the $5.0 million sold in the same time period a year ago.
– Fast Company recorded ad sales of $3.1 million, a 34.9 percent jump from July 2005.
– Forbes sold $24.3 million worth of ads in July, up 28.1 percent from the $19 million sold a year ago. In sheer dollar amounts, Forbes was the leader.
– Fortune sold $22 million, up 16 percent from $18.9 million in July 2005.
– Inc. was up 2.4 percent to $5 million in sales.
Meanwhile, Kiplinger’s slipped 6.2 percent to $2.48 million in ads sold, while Money dropped 19.4 percent to $9.5 million in ads sold. Also in the personal finance category, Smart Money was up 3.0 percent to $3.6 million sold, so it wasn’t an across-the-board decrease for that segment.
The July stats can be found here.
The year-to-date results for business magazines can be found here. Of the magazines listed above, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, Inc., Kiplinger’s and Money are the only ones with a decline in ad revenue through the first seven months of the year.
Reuters is reporting that Mexican actress Salma Hayek is criticizing a list from Fortune magazine that shows the richest Latin Americans, but there is no such list published by the glossy.
And, thinking that maybe the Reuters reporter had confused Fortune for Forbes, I checked the recent Forbes list of highest-paid celebrities, but Hayek is not on that list.
The Reuters story stated: “‘It’s a huge lie. It’s very, very far from reality. I don’t have that amount of money,’ Hayek told Reuters, after reading an article in Mexican daily El Universal about a list of ‘Latino millionaires’ in the United States.
“‘Somebody sent me it and I laughed. It’s a bit like a joke. Obviously I have never earned $100 million and I wouldn’t even want to,’ she said in a telephone interview from her Los Angeles home.
“A spokesman for Fortune said he was not aware the magazine had published such a list. ‘It’s certainly not a list we’ve done. It seems somebody got their facts mixed up,’ he said.
Read more here.
Just a question: If the list is non-existent, and even the magazine is questioning where the list came from, then why did Reuters write a story about an actress denying a fictitious report from a business magazine? To show us that they can get in touch with Hayek? I am the biggest critic of these lists, but it appears this criticism is unfounded.
Statistics posted on the Magazine Publishers of America web site show that among the business glossies, Business 2.0, BusinessWeek, Fast Company and Money all had an incredibly bad month in June, while the other biz magazines showed gains.
And for the year, BusinessWeek has fallen behind Forbes in terms of ad dollars.
Business 2.0 posted the biggest decline in terms of a percentage loss, dropping 28.5 percent to $3.9 million in ads sold in June. BusinessWeek reported a decline of 18.7 percent to $26 million in ads sold last month.
Fast Company’s ad sales declined 27.7 percent to $2.5 million, while Money’s ad sales fell 20.4 percent to $12.4 million.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Economist saw a 33.4 percent gain in advertising to $7.7 million in the month, while Forbes‘ June sales rose 21.2 percent to $31.9 million and Fortune saw a healthy gain of 18.9 percent to $22.4 million.
Inc. magazine had a 9.9 percent increase in ad sales to $7.4 million, while SmartMoney showed a 5.6 percent increase to $4.8 million in ad sales for the month.
See the June numbers here, and year-to-date numbers here. The six-month figures show that BusinessWeek is down by 11 percent for the year, and Fortune is down slightly, while Money is down by 5 percent and Fast Company is down 21 percent, but all of the rest of the business magazines have seen an increase in ad sales for the year. As all magazine reporters and editors know, more ad sales mean more pages in the book, which means more space for articles.
My interpretation of these numbers: BusinessWeek editor in chief Stephen Adler, who has been on the job for just more than a year, must be feeling some pressure to turn these numbers around. It’s been a given for quite some time that Fast Company has been struggling, but it’s a surprise to see BusinessWeek perform poorly against Forbes and Fortune.
In terms of ad dollars, Forbes outsold BusinessWeek in the first six months of the year, while Fortune is less than $1 million behind BusinessWeek. Last year, BusinessWeek outsold both of its business magazine competitors in the first six months of the year by more than $10 million.
In its June 2006 issue, BtoB Media Business described the 25 publications as having “shaped the business publishing industry.” Publications on the list include BusinessWeek, The Economist, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
BtoB Media Business, published by Crain Communications, Inc., picked the “Media Business 100″ to reflect the events, people and publications that have shaped the industry. The “Media Business 100″ is comprised of the top 25 business publications, top 25 people and top 50 publishing milestones.
It commemorates the 100th anniversary of American Business Media (ABM), the industry association for business-to-business information providers. ABM’s more than 300 member companies reach an audience of more than 100 million people and represent nearly 5,000 print and online titles and 1,000 trade shows.
“The Media Business 100″ were compiled based on nominations by the BtoB Media Business editorial staff and freelance contributors.
Women’s Wear Daily is reporting that Time reporter Matt Cooper is leaving the general interest magazine for a job at new business glossy Conde Nast Portfolio, while Fortune star Bethany McLean has turned down offers from both Portfolio and the New York Times.
WWD reporter Sara James wrote, “Cooper was the Time reporter caught up in the investigation into the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame last year, along with The New York Times’ Judith Miller. He has been with Time magazine since 1999.
“A spokeswoman for Portfolio could not be reached this morning, but a release is expected later in the day.”
Read more here.
James also wrote, “Fortune managing editor Eric Pooley is still recovering from losing senior writer Katrina Brooker to Portfolio last week, but he has narrowly avoided a potentially more damaging loss to his masthead. Bethany McLean, the star editor at large who was the first reporter at a national publication to raise doubts about Enron and later co-wrote a book about the scandal, ‘The Smartest Guys in the Room,’ has turned down offers from Portfolio and The New York Times business desk, and accepted a counter offer from Fortune on Wednesday.”
Slate’s Jack Shafer writes this evening about the simplicity behind the writing of New York Times’ business columnist Joseph Nocera.
Schafer wrote, “Nocera is no egomaniac, I’d point out. He reaches for the first-person because it allows him an intimacy with his readers. The column is so much a one-on-one conversation over a coffee or a beer, the way a good sports column is. On more than one occasion during the year Nocera has been writing his Saturday Times column, I’ve lifted my head out of his copy to shout to nobody in particular, ‘Hey, somebody put a sports column in the Times business section!’
“By the third paragraph I’d have teed up my premise: Nocera demystifies the world of business with original thinking, brainy reporting, and the ability to see around corners. Although opinionated, he’s not really a pundit who tells you what he thinks about executive pay or stock options or antitrust as much as what he’s learned from his reporting. Because it’s harder to show than to tell, Nocera’s pieces run between 1,400 and 2,000 words, epic length compared to the Times’ other columnists. For that reason I like to think of him as a weekly feature writer and not a columnist.
“From his decade at Fortune, Nocera knows that business pundits are the dumb guys at the tableâ€”that if you have real smarts you’re probably making money or have made a lot of moneyâ€”and brings an uncharacteristic modesty to his work. Not every Nocera column comes equipped with a solution to that week’s business-world problem. But when Nocera reaches a conclusion, he’s not shy.”
Read more here.