Tag Archives: Information
Peter Copeland, the editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, gave a speech recently at Louisiana State University about the changing world of mass communication and the need for all of us in journalism to better understand the world of business. He said, in part: “Journalists are supposed to like tough questions, but we tend to leave the business questions to others. Journalists donâ€™t like to talk about money and they donâ€™t really trust those who do.
“But Katrina and Rita sharpen and highlight the contradictions that shape our future: In a time of crisis, the need for information is as great as the need for food and water. Yet providing information has become a big business governed by the rules of Wall Street. In this world, the inverted pyramid is trumped by the law of supply and demand. Good video is nothing if it canâ€™t be monetized. And the story gives way to the bottom line.”
If you want to read the entire speech, go here.
As I was going over the Greensboro News & Record’s web site earlier today, reading its coverage of the Jefferson-Pilot/Lincoln National deal, I also happened to run across the fact that its business news staff does a blog about quirky business events or items.
They don’t post frequently, but I really like the one that Dick Barron posted about the JP deal and the play, “The Turn of the Screw.”
You can look at the blog here.
Does anybody know of another metro newspaper with a business news blog? I’d be interested in hearing about others and what is being posted on them.
I spoke today with Steve Shepard, my old boss at BusinessWeek. Steve stepped down as editor of the magazine earlier this year after 20 years at the helm. He’s now the dean of the new graduate school of journalism at the City University of New York, and as part of that program, the school will have a business journalism component.
I remember Steve as a very meticulous editor at BusinessWeek. He had a reputation of reading every single story that went into the magazine every week. He also was very interested in what was on the cover every week, and often changed the cover story during the week.
Here is what Steve had to say:
1. On how business journalism was perceived in the 1960s: “Very much a backwater. It was considered second-rate. It didnâ€™t really change until the mid-1970s when we had the Arab oil embargo, the near bankruptcy of New York City and the appearance of inflation and recession at the same time, which was a phenomenon so new. All of a sudden, business journalism became front-page news, and ordinary newspapers didnâ€™t know how to deal with it. That was the turning point. Ever since then, business journalism has taken its place in the mainstream in journalism as an important story. ”
2. What did it mean to have an engineering degree as a journalist? “It was an enormous help. First of all, it made me not afraid of complexity in general and not afraid of technology and science in particular. It was very useful when the PC revolution happened in the 1980s and the Internet revolution happened in the 1990s. I wasnâ€™t intimidated by it. And I think it also gave me an advantage. There were a lot of people who had liberal arts degrees trying to make their way in journalism, and I was a little bit different.”
3. How has BusinessWeek changed since he started there in 1966? “First of all, it looks completely different. It was a black and white magazine with virtually no color photography and dull graphics. All of that has completely changed. I think that itâ€™s also much more newsy and timely,. You can do stories closely to the deadline because of the technological advances. You can do a cover story on Wednesday and have it done by the time it went to bed on Wednesday night. You couldnâ€™t do that before, so the readers are better served. I think the core is the same in this sense. Business Week was then and is now a magazine of analysis and interpretation and commentary rather than what the news magazines were back then, which was a rehash of the weekâ€™s news. Business Week was never that. The core is the same, but it looks completely different, and itâ€™s more lively and topical.”
4. The role of business journalism education at the new CUNY graduate school: “Business and economics will be one of the four major subjects of concentration that you can major in. There will be a three-course sequence, and we will teach all of the media tracks, whether broadcast or print or interactive multimedia. There will be a lot of blogging and online journalism and things like that taught. But a good business journalist will have to become like a zoom lens on a camera to zoom in and understand whatâ€™s happening about a company and an economy, and them zoom out to get the big picture and the trend. And itâ€™s very hard to see both. The goal is to train journalists to do both.”
Things don’t look good for the talks between Reuters and its business journalists. The latest contract offer was rejected by an overwhelming — almost unanimous — margin. See the story here.
If you don’t know who Allan Sloan is, then you’re not serious about business journalism. As the Wall Street editor for Newsweek, Sloan is one of the most readable and entertaining journalists when it comes to writing about business, the economy and personal finance. He writes in a style even the average person can understand, and he writes about topics and issues that have an effect on the business world. Here is his most-recent column.
I had an opportunity to talk with Allan this morning by telephone from his home office in New Jersey, where he was working today because of the Rosh Hashana holiday that begins at sundown. Working at home allows him to work right up to sundown.
And Allan had some great insights, as usual. He got thrown into business journalism like so many of us and had to find his way around the beat. But he always focused on what affected people, and that’s what has made him a four-time Loeb winner.
Here are some of his better points:
1. Sloan was highly critical of business journalists today who like to be pseudo-investment analyst: “I just hope in the end business journalism doesnâ€™t turn into just an advertising vehicle and lose site of what itâ€™s supposed to do. Weâ€™re supposed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Too many people are acting out there like junior stock pickers. If we were really good at picking stocks and making investments, we should be on Wall Street instead of selling our picks for 50 cents a paper.
“The idea that they can tell people what stocks to buy and what investment strategies to take is ludicrous. Itâ€™s very, very dangerous, and we saw this during the stock bubble. I was out there saying no all the time, and a lot of people didnâ€™t want to hear it. Publishing that stuff was not the right thing to do. Being the skunk at the garden party is not a lot of fun, but if the Federal Reserve wonâ€™t do it, then I will.”
2. His writing style was borrowed from The Wall Street Journal leaders that he read in the late 1960s and early 1970s: “I would take apart their leader stories and learn the technique. I would say, ‘This is great. These are stories you could really read.’ They were putting tons of opinions in there with funny expressions. I just swiped them all, and put some of my own in there. It admit it, whereas others havenâ€™t. But the Journal had great influence on a lot of writers.”
3. He still enjoys writing about business, even though its been his career for 36 years now: “When I hit it right, I get to tell several million people who read The Washington Post and Newsweek what is happening and influence what is happening. Thatâ€™s sort of neat. Forty years ago, the best I could do was multiple two-digit numbers in my head and budget my checkbook. Now, look at who I work for and the influence I have. Thatâ€™s what I like. I like influencing events and helping out the readers and training the new generation.”
4. He still takes pride in stories he wrote more than 30 years ago at the Charlotte Observer: “In Charlotte, because I was the real estate reporter and nobody would talk to me, I ended up stumbling across a major scandal involving Duke Power where it turned out that Duke had done all sorts of land transactions and somehow the rate payers had ended up with the costs but the stock holders ended up with the profits. At that point, the person who was the largest homebuilder in the South had agreed to build all electric apartments. That was good for Duke, but not so good for the natural gas company in town. It happened to come out about the same time Duke Power was asking for a rate increase. It created a whole lot of uproar in Raleigh that ended up reducing their rates. I would have been even prouder if I had known what I was writing about, but the story made all the difference.”
Bob Jensen, a professor at Trinity University in Texas, has prepared an Enron Quiz. I think all business journalists should be required to take this quiz.
Here is the link to the quiz: Enron Quiz
If you have any suggestions, corrections, or additions that would help this quiz, please send them to Bob at email@example.com .
The Online News Association has named its finalists for its awards this year, and I want to point out one particularly entry from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that I liked.
Earlier this year, the AJC reporters Ann Hardie, Alan Judd and Carrie Teegardin analyzed how Georgia lending laws affect consumers, creditors and regulators. These articles are the first installment in an ongoing series. (Disclosure: I worked with Alan at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and with Carrie at the AJC.)
I thought they were well done, and they show how the business beat and the government beat often intersect. Too often, business coverage doesn’t look at these type of stories.
If you want to read some of the articles, go here.
This morning’s Wall Street Journal had an article about how the popular Web site Yahoo! planned to add some original content to its pages. The original content means that it’s going to hire some personal finance columnists and begin writing about business.
The article can be found here.
I have two reactions to this move. The first is: What took them so long? Many people are using the Yahoo! site for personal and professional reasons. My family, for examples, uses the Yahoo! calendar function to keep track of our schedule. Students in my economics reporting class use the site to track their stock picks for their final project. Adding this content will just keep people at the site longer.
The second reaction is a little bit more ominous. I have long been a believer in the Internet as the next communications revolution in this country. While many still read the newspapers that they grew up with, I can envision a day when Internet companies such as Yahoo! and Google are producing newspaper-like versions on their Web sites. It also would not surprise me if they actually tried to publish a newspaper or some other type of publication as well.
What does this mean for business journalism? I think good things. With more and more financial advice and business coverage available online, a new entrant into the market means more jobs and more competition.
William Powers, a columnist at the National Journal, wrote a scathing critique of the new Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal. His chief complaint was that the writing was lifeless and that the paper wasn’t like the Journal during the week.
You can read his critique here.
Again, I wondered earlier about the reaction of the reporting staff being asked to produce any extra day’s worth of copy. Maybe their apathy is reflected in the writing.
Another sad day for newspapers. Today Scripps announced the closing of the Birmingham Post-Herald (see corporate statement below). The newspaper’s last edition will be tomorrow. I know I speak for many journalists in expressing my condolences to our colleagues at the Post-Herald. I hope they choose to stay in journalism and can find brighter futures elsewhere. I worked at the Nashville Banner years ago but left before the newspaper folded. JOAs have always made me nervous, and this is just one more example of a one that didn’t work. Of course we all know as business writers what is important at publicly owned companies. Still it’s tough when things like this happen. Good luck to all of you in Birmingham. You’re on our minds today.
Here’s a link to the Post-Herald’s online business section. They were very aggressive in covering the HealthSouth scandal and the Scrushy trial.
The link to the Scripps Howard official announcement can be found here.
Topic: Miscellaneous items
Date/Time: 9/22/2005 10:48:05 AM
Title: Scripps CEO’s letter re Birmingham Post-Herald
Posted By: Jim Romenesko
September 22, 2005
I have difficult news to share today.
Scripps has announced that The Birmingham Post-Herald will publish its final edition on Friday, Sept. 23.
Paid circulation of the Post-Herald has declined to about 7,500 copies – a level at which it no longer makes economic sense to continue publishing. The time has come, I’m sorry to say, for The Post-Herald to join other great afternoon newspapers that have passed into history.
It’s never an easy decision to extinguish the light of an independent editorial voice, especially one as bright and rich with tradition as The Post-Herald. Sadly, though, newspaper readers in Birmingham have made it clear that they are no longer interested in supporting an afternoon newspaper.
The closing of The Post-Herald will end the joint operating agreement between Scripps and Advance Publications Inc., owner of The Birmingham News, which manages the printing, marketing and distribution of both Birmingham daily newspapers. Terms related to the joint operating agreement’s termination are not being disclosed at this time.
Scripps has developed a comprehensive severance plan for The Post-Herald’s editorial staff. We’re committed to helping our Birmingham employees through a smooth transition to new employment.
For all of us at The E. W. Scripps Company, and for me personally, today is a sad day. Our hope had always been for a different outcome.
Please keep our friends and colleagues in Birmingham in your thoughts and prayers as they begin this period of transition in their lives.
Kenneth W. Lowe
President and Chief Executive Officer
The E. W. Scripps Company