Tag Archives: Marketwatch
Marketwatch media columnist Jon Friedman points out something today about the Maria Bartiromo/Citigroup flap that no one else has bothered to note: Why hasn’t her own network, CNBC, covered the story?
Friedman wrote, “Apparently, CNBC’s damage-control strategy is to hope that this unwanted intrusion will play itself out and simply go away. The network may not be so lucky, in this age of blogs.
“Anyway, CNBC bills itself as The Worldwide Leader in Business News. Bartiromo is a legitimate TV star. Those two factors alone make the story worthwhile and compel CNBC to report on it.”
Later, he added, “CNBC is giving Bartiromo what amounts to a free pass. To some outraged media observers, CNBC’s neglect seems like something of a scandal in itself. After all, how can one of its journalists ever again bemoan corporate disclosure problems with a straight face?
“Officials at the company maintain the network and Bartiromo have done nothing wrong. They don’t want to inflame a touchy situation by dignifying what insiders describe as scurrilous rumors. Further, the network’s officials contend that there was no conflict in their decision to leave her name out of its Citigroup coverage. The CNBC officials argue that the network’s coverage of Citigroup has been aggressive.”
Read more here. His conclusion is that CNBC has damaged its credibility by not reporting about its employee.
E.S. “Jim” Browning has been a Wall Street Journal reporter for more than 27 years, in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris and New York. He currently write about financial markets and investing for the Journal.
But for the hundreds of business journalists who work at the Journal or Dow Jones properties such as MarketWatch, Barron’s and Dow Jones Newswires, Browning has a more important job. He is chairman of the bargaining committee in the current contract negotiations between Dow Jones and the Independent Association of Publishers Employees, the union that represents the journalists and other workers.
Earlier this week, the two sides held a bargaining session that focused mainly on health care. Browning talked to Talking Biz News about how the business journalism at Dow Jones might be affected by the talks.
What follows is an edited transcript.
What are the unionâ€™s specific concerns about the decreasing quality of the journalism practiced at Dow Jones related to the new contract?
We believe Dow Jones has gone too far in cutting costs. It has made too many cuts in staff and benefits, and it isn’t finished. It has demoralized employees by steadily cutting their real, inflation-adjusted pay starting in 2003. A number of senior, accomplished journalists have left the paper in recent months. At a time when the paper is trying to expand the scope of its coverage, an idea everyone applauds, the journalists who remain are stretched too thin.
At one time, rising health costs at Dow Jones were a legitimate concern. But starting in 2003, the company sharply increased employees’ share of health costs. Since then, health spending by the company has actually fallen as a percentage of its revenues.
Despite that, the company now wants to increase our health premiums by a stunning 400 percent and limit our wage increases to 2 percent annually, below the pace of inflation. That means our take-home pay would continue to fall.
Some would respond that all of this is par for the course in journalism today. Reporters are taking hits everywhere. But the Journal prides itself on offering a level of quality and accuracy that other papers can’t afford. Polls show that our readers expect that of us. They trust us in ways that they don’t trust other newspapers. We all take enormous pride in that. More important, the newspaper’s future depends on maintaining that standard. The more the company seeks to knock down our wages, push up our health costs and squeeze our staffing levels, the harder it will be to produce that level of quality.
There is an additional issue. Dow Jones’s new management — now for the first time — is dominated by people who have never worked as journalists. They have become enamored of outsourcing, and are outsourcing more and more back-office finance and technology-support jobs. They have even begun buying and publishing news analysis produced by outsiders, including a column of commentary in our core area, Wall Street coverage. Outsiders are cheaper, but don’t offer the same level of quality as staff employees. By shipping these jobs outside the company, we hire and train fewer of the young people who one day will be the senior journalists and other employees we rely on for future quality. We lose institutional memory.
We have raised this issue in contract negotiations, seeking to restrict future outsourcing, but the company so far has rejected any limits or controls on outsourcing.
How much of a concern in the negotiations is who will be the replacement for Paul Steiger?
We are concerned that a growing number of people outside the news department today are seeking to influence news decisions. We believe it is essential that the news department remain independent of the ad department, the business department and the editorial page, all of which have shown signs of meddling in the news department lately. It is unprecedented here to see these attacks on news-department independence, and it is certainly damaging to the newspaper. We very much hope that Paul’s replacement will have his judgment and, above all, his independence from outside pressures. This isn’t covered by the contract and we can’t address it in our negotiations, but this issue is an essential one and it contributes to the concerns that people in the newsroom have about quality.
When will union members go back on CNBC? Is that something that has been discussed during the talks?
CNBC appearances, as well as appearances on other company video and podcast projects, are voluntary. Company lawyers have alleged that we don’t have the right to ORGANIZE any refusal to participate as long as the contract is in force. We don’t agree, but to avoid a messy legal dispute, we aren’t asking people today to stay off CNBC or other video or podcast projects.
If we don’t see progress in contract bargaining, this is something that we would be able to pick up after the contract expires. In the meantime, people are asking to be paid extra for working on weekends and days off, work for which many people, especially reporters, don’t typically ask to be paid. In the past, these requests for extra pay have been viewed by management as a strong message from staff.
What do you think about the companyâ€™s decision to focus breaking news coverage at Dow Jones Newswires and leave the Journal reports for more analytical stories?
The company has publicized this move, but it isn’t really new. We have been using newswires reports for a lot of daily news coverage for some time. It is all part of the staff squeeze. You will note that the paper no longer identifies people as “staff reporters” beneath their bylines. That permits the paper to avoid indicating which stories are staff-written and which are from the newswires.
Major breaking news stories still are being covered by staff reporters. On the margin, a few more stories may shift away from staffers. At the same time, staffers are being asked to contribute more to reports that appear on the newswires and the website, which is where we are breaking more and more exclusive news.
Staffers always have been asked to focus mainly on analytical stories. This may be another case where people aren’t really freed up much from breaking-news duties, but still are asked to produce more in other areas. All part of the staff squeeze.
That said, the company doesn’t seem to be finished with its news-department consolidation. They are likely to cut news staff at the Journal, the newswires, MarketWatch and/or WSJ.com as they consolidate further. As I said earlier, we see those kinds of cutbacks as a continuing threat to quality. To pick up on a point A.J. Liebling liked to make years ago, when you cut back on the number of journalists out there chasing stories, you end up with cookie-cutter news and you destroy quality.
Has the issue of extra pay for blogging or appearances on WSJ.com video been discussed?
No. It could still come up. Right now these are voluntary activities that people do if they have the inclination and the extra time.
Is it a concern that journalists are being asked to be more versatile and produce for multiple media for the same pay?
It could become a concern. Right now, this is in its infancy. Reporters aren’t spending much time doing work for other media. The main extra work right now comes when we are asked to break news on the wires or the website, then redo the story for overseas editions and then file for the U.S. print edition. If we are asked to produce other media at the same time, it could become an issue.
How much does it play into the negotiations that this is the first time the company has been run by someone who wasnâ€™t a journalist?
It has not yet affected the negotiations directly, but negotiations have been going on for only a few weeks. As I noted earlier, we are seeing signs that management has less respect than it once did for newsroom independence. That is a major concern.
Does it help that publisher Gordon Crovitz was once a reporter?
I believe that he was primarily a writer for the edit page and then joined the business side. We certainly hope that he is more sensitive to journalistic concerns than a non-journalist would be. It would be nice if he would stand up for newsroom independence, which he hasn’t yet done.
How much of a surprise was the fact that the Journal was closing its Canada bureaus? Do you think there will be more closings or consolidation of news staff?
The closing of the Canada bureaus was a complete suprise. There was no warning. There were indications that it was a last-minute business decision, driven by cost considerations, not news considerations. Thatâ€™s an example of outside meddling in the news department.
We have seen news reports that the company has hired an outside consultant to study news operations. There is a difference between reorganizing and cutting. As I mentioned earlier, we worry that Dow Jones may be considering further cutbacks, which would certainly be a mistake.
What role do you see the WSJ and its journalism staff playing in the future of business journalism?
The Wall Street Journal is the gold standard for business journalism. It is essential that stay that way. It is essential for the success of Dow Jones and it is essential to us, the journalists. Most important, we have an obligation to the public to maintain our journalistic quality. We need to work together with management to ensure that the Journal starts reinforcing quality, instead of continuing with the cuts.
Maintaining the Journal’s standards costs a lot more money than it would cost to let quality slip. In this day of Internet news and instant decisions, there is nothing magic about the Journal’s name that will make people buy it and read it. Our future depends on the quality of the news we produce.
Following the lead of its sister publication, The Wall Street Journal, weekly business paper Barron’s has also undergone a redesign, and Sheldon Liber, a CEO of a small private investment company, critiqued the changes on bloggingstocks.com.
Liber wrote, “As one who liked it fine just as it was, I am on the look out for ‘refinements’ in their content affected by the physical and aesthetic change.
“Randall W. Forsyth did an able job in the lead article of January 15 edition but he is not Alan Abelson. Perhaps Mr. Abelson — who is well known for his long sentences, turning of wonderful phrases, expanding our vocabulary with etymological adventurism and sharp wit — did not appreciate being directed to reduce his pontification by some artificial constraint in the name of progress. In the January 22 issue he is back. But there seems to be some reduction in the length of the story. Perhaps, in his case, a little less froth is acceptable.
“The smaller typefaces of portions of text are not better in anyway, they are just smaller. Since the accumulation of wealth, and Barron’s subscribers tend toward those with more sophistication and poorer eyesight, this is not appealing in the least bit.
“Market Watch, a sampling of advisory opinions, was hit hard down from seven or eight newsletter submissions to three. That is a huge mistake! This was one of the better sections in Barron’s and afforded the reader some diversity of subject and editorial commentary. Put it back, please.”
The Software & Information Industry Association has named the finalists for its 22nd annual Codie Awards, and some of the categories include online financial news sites, financial blogs and technical blogs.
The Codie Awards, established in 1986, celebrate outstanding achievement in the software, digital information, and education technology industries.
The finalists for Best Financial Blog are Marketwatch’s Herb Greenberg’s blog, Smallbiztrends.com, Thomson Bio/Pharma Forum and Jim Cramer’s Daily Booyahs on TheStreet.com.
The finalists for the Best Technology Blog are Techcrunch.com, Searchblog from Battelle Media, DDJ.com/blog from CMP Technology, McAfee Avert Labs Blog and NWN.blogs.com from New World Notes.
See all of the finalists here. The winners will be named April 17 at a gala at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
What follows is an anonymous submission to Talking Biz News. The writer is a well-known person in business journalism and has been a reporter, columnist and editor of a daily newspaper business section, and someone I have known for the past five years. The writer wishes to remain anonymous at this time due to his current job, but wants to foster discussion in business journalism.
I have edited the writing to eliminate anything that would identify the person.
It is increasingly clear that newspapers don’t “get it” about the future of journalism. That’s an old story, but what worries me the most is that they seem to be missing the solution.
The future of the newspaper is to be the one-stop shop for the local reader. That means being the paper equivalent of your “favorites” button on your computer, or being the print equal to any news-crawler service that goes out, finds what interests you and brings it back on one Web site every day.
Doing that means doing two things: 1) Being intensely local. You’re the only one providing local news, so it’s where you have the advantage. 2) Filling the rest of your section with the “best of breed” for whatever you do. If you use a wire story to discuss daily market activity, it needs to be the best thing out there on the subject (not necessarily the most readily available wire piece).
Want to tell your readers about how to better use their computer? Find the best computer columnist you can. Mutual funds or personal finance? Find the people you think are best. Covering the next big business scandal? Find the best coverage of it — and not the most expedient, or the first version to cross your desk — and use it, even if it means getting that coverage from Web sites, other newspapers, whatever.
Unfortunately, newspapers focus on doing it on the cheap — so they drop columns to save a few bucks, but they wind up using flaccid prose from the wire services — or in appealing to certain demographics (so that they buy a writer who appeals to a specific readership or who fits a certain profile, rather than the ones who write the best stuff). They’re thinking in conventional ways — using mostly traditional newspaper copy — while they live in unconventional times.
In short, newspapers have to be better gatekeepers. That’s not just in business. If you are running Iraq coverage, it still needs to be best in breed. And they need to think of every bit of filler, of every column, of every brief and every story as an opportunity to make themselves a must-read, a place their customers go to because they value the editors’ judgment in making something vital.
If you run a lousy computer column, someone will go online to find a good one. If you run a crappy personal finance column, readers will go online to find a good one, especially literate and computer-savvy business readers.
By doing so, many business readers have made their local business section mostly obsolete. That’s not to say that the Web is great and print stinks; it’s that, for example, MarketWatch’s base coverage is, roughly, the online equivalent of the AP. And if the newspaper is using the wire feed to fill its space, the average reader can do as well or better online, needs only to skim the local business stories and then moves on to the things THEY found online that cover the subjects better.
It comes down to this: As a business editor, I remember being excited whenever I changed columnists or brought something new to the paper. The reason I was excited is that I was always trying to create an upgrade, give readers the best columnist on any subject we felt they should see a column about. I dropped some popular, entrenched names (Louis Rukeyser, most notably) when I took over, in favor of folks who did the job better. And the readership studies for the paper showed that business section readership improved. I have to believe the changes were one reason why.
Again, if you are changing your section and you are NOT excited about how the alterations you are making are improving what you put out to the public, you have a problem.
Enough on this rant. I just think that if you polled business editors today and said, “Do you believe that you have the best … [fill-in-the-blank item that would appear in a newspaper] or that you could provide better coverage if you could use more content from the Web, buy more syndicated material,â€? etc., you’d find that business editors are running sections that they do NOT believe truly present the best mix of local/national stuff every day.
And if you can’t present that best-in-breed mix, why exactly do you think you deserve to survive?
An update posted on the web site of the union that represents business journalists working at The Wall Street Journal, Marketwatch, Dow Jones Newswires and Barron’s stated that the Dow Jones negotiators are becoming impatient in recent contract negotiations.
The update stated, “They told us at our four-hour bargaining session on Tuesday January 9th that they are tired of talking about other issues and want to shift, abruptly, to healthcare, which they have said is their top priority.
“We told them that we are willing to discuss healthcare, and we reminded them that it is the top priority for many of us as well. We aren’t prepared to accept drastic increases in health costs just because the company has imposed them on management-level employees. The only way we would consider any changes at all would be if they were compensated for by improvements elsewhere, such as in wages, job security and other benefits.
“The signals from their side were not positive. In addition to demanding sharply higher health premiums and drug costs, they told us that they intend to offer us no more than ‘market’ wage increases. They said they remain unwilling to consider the majority of our other proposals.
“We pointed out to them that they have just announced 21 more layoffs of IAPE members, in addition to layoffs of many non-union employees, which was a terrible way to start the year and makes job security an even more urgent concern for all of us.
“We did finalize a minor agreement on premium pay, which would increase the minimum amount you’re paid for working on days off, and also would set rules about the timing for submission and approval of premium-pay requests.”
Read more here.
Dow Jones plans to cut an undisclosed number of jobs at its Newswire operations as part of a restructuring that also includes its Factiva operations, according to a Bloomberg story.
The Bloomberg story stated, “The number of positions to be eliminated will be announced at a company meeting this morning, a spokeswoman, Diane Thieke, said. Employees who will lose their jobs were to be contacted yesterday, the company said in a statement.
“The cuts follow Dow Jonesâ€™s purchase in October of the Reuters Groupâ€™s 50 percent stake in the Factiva.com news database for $153 million. Dow Jones, which is based in New York, has said it planned to reduce the number of reporters who do similar work as it expands digital and business information services.
“Dow Jones is also revamping The Journal. As part of the business newspaperâ€™s recent redesign, reporters from Newswires and MarketWatch are expected to more regularly file stories for The Journalâ€™s Web site, while Journal reporters concentrate on the daily print publication.”
Read more here.
A Reuters story stated, “About 22 jobs will be cut, said Steve Yount, president of the Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees, which represents some Dow Jones workers.
“Factiva has about 750 employees, according to a previous Dow Jones news release. It was not immediately clear how many people Dow Jones Newswires employs.”
Read the rest of the Reuters story here.
In addition, this release was issued by the company shortly after midnight on Wednesday. Yes, I was still awake to catch it. Don’t ask me why.
TheStreet.com’s Mark Fuchs wonders why business journalists, especially those who work at the wires, act like stenographers when breaking news occurs.
Fuchs wrote, “A press release hits the wires at 8:30 a.m. EST on Friday. It travels into the public consciousness, and within 90 minutes, four news outlets write several sentences each on it. Boys and girls, here is the question: Why in the name of insular industry practices do three even bother writing if they are just regurgitating the blessed press release?
“Business media, you wretched little stenographers, it has now been mathematically proven that you are going to wear me to a nub before the year is through.
“At 8:30 a.m. Friday, XM Satellite Radio, the faltering satellite radio giant, announced that it had ended 2006 with nearly 1.7 million subscribers and added 442,000 new ones in the fourth quarter. It also said it had achieved positive cash flow in the fourth quarter, which is good news — unless subscriber growth isn’t as great as the raw numbers suggest. Then, long-term, I doubt it will hold.
“But taking marching orders from the press release, the business media quickly swung into action. Speed is everything in news, right? Perspective? Accuracy? It’s for wimps!”
Fuchs noted that reporters from Marketwatch, Reuters and the AP missed the story, which was that the company missed its twice-lowered subscriber growth target. He also slams the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of the Home Depot CEO resignation.
Read more here.
Marketwatch media columnist Jon Friedman, whose column last year about “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer sparked a bevy of reader e-mails, returns again to Cramer on Friday and notes that his writing in New York magazine is much more palatable.
Friedman wrote, “I much prefer Cramer’s Dr. Jekyll incarnation, as the restrained, informative author of New York magazine’s column, ‘The Bottom Line.’ When you read one of his pieces on investing, the word that jumps out is ‘authentic.’ He sure knows his stuff. The difference between him and a lot of the so-called media ‘experts’ (many of whom regularly chat on CNBC, by the way) is that he offers a rare, practical perspective.
“Any schnooks can go on TV and crow about their occasional stock market victories. What’s actually more instructive for the viewers is hearing the war stories of an investor who has rebounded after losing money. It’s similar to a boxer who gets knocked down but comes back and heroically wins a bout. Cramer can take a punch.”
Later, Friedman added, “Among magazine business journalists, perhaps only Allan Sloan of Newsweek can rival Cramer. On that score, I wonder why Time, which has been fortifying its columnist ranks, hasn’t poached Cramer already. (Or perhaps it’s simply that Cramer’s allegiance is an example of the loyalty that New York writers reserve for its editor, Adam Moss).”
Read more here.
As noted earlier, the union representing business journalists at The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Marketwatch and Dow Jones Newswire ran an ad in the New York Times on Tuesday about the redesigned Journal and its current negotiations with parent company Dow Jones.
Apparently the union, the Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees, has received a few inquirees about who paid for the ad.
The IAPE posted this response on its web site: “The ad was roughly $115,000 â€” and our parent union, the Communications Workers of America, paid for it as a sign of their support for our bargaining efforts. The CWA has also made it clear there’s more money in their coffers if we need it.
“At the same time, the Newspaper Guild, the CWA ‘sector’ of which we’re also a member, has extended a hefty chunk of additional funding for our bargaining efforts.
“All this support makes us stronger and more resilient. It means we can keep our own, steadily growing treasury to finance other costs as bargaining progresses. And it’s also a message to Dow Jones that we’re prepared to go the distance to win a fair contract.”
Read more here.