Tag Archives: Marketwatch
Jack Shafer of Slate laments the recent coverage that a number of business sections have given to a recent study predicting the billions of dollars in lost productivity from workers watching the NCAA basketball tournament on their computers — or at bars outside of the workplace.
Shafer notes, “Such prominent news sources as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Daily Press of Newport News, Va., Florida Today, the Kansas City Star, MarketWatch, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Denver Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Orlando Sentinel, The CBS Evening News, the Washington Post, the Miami Herald, the San Jose Mercury News, the Baltimore Sun, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the New York Times, and the Boston Globe publicized the $3.8 billion estimate contained in a Feb. 28 press release by consultant John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray, & Christmas.”
But he disputes the study’s findings and argues that reporters may have been duped into writing the story as a way to generate publicity for the Challenger firm, which makes money by having clients who want to increase worker productivity.
Shafer writes, “In concocting his lost-productivity estimate, Challenger doesn’t acknowledge that ‘wasted time’ is built into every workday. Workers routinely shop during office hours, take extended coffee breaks, talk to friends on the phone, enjoy long lunches, or gossip around the water cooler. It’s likely that NCAA tourney fans merely reallocate to the games the time they ordinarily waste elsewhere. Likewise, many office workers who don’t complete their tasks by the end of the day stay late or take work home. If fans who screw off at work ultimately do their work at home, the alleged ‘loss’ to productivity would be a wash.
“Last, the fear that millions of workers will waste time watching the games live for hours at the office is groundless. More than two-thirds of the games are played on weeknights or weekends, when very few employees are stuck behind their work terminals. Besides, the CBS system can only accommodate 200,000 computers at a time, as the Daily Press noted in its story. My unsolicited advice to my press colleagues is to beware of grand estimates such as Challenger’s, and to anxious supervisors, I counsel you to worry less about how your employees waste time and more about how much they screw off.”
Some in the media have caught on. The Wall Street Journal’s Carl Bialik also criticized the Challenger study, writing, “The firm assumes that all workers who are college-basketball fans will surf the Web for news about the tournament (it further assumes that all workers have Internet connections), and that the time they spend isn’t made up for elsewhere in the workday. Thus, Challenger figures the ‘cost’ to businesses is equal to the salary paid to those workers while they’re surfing.”
Hannah Clark of Forbes, in a posting called “The (Overblown) Cost of March Madness,” wrote, “The men’s college basketball tournament, known as March Madness, dominates office conversation for three weeks. And worker productivity steadily drains away, as employees focus on the tournament instead of the bottom line. Or so the story goes.
“For the first time, most games in the 2006 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament will be broadcast online for free. That’s one reason why consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas has estimated March Madness will cost $3.8 billion in lost productivity. But that estimate should be taken with a boulder of salt.”
Finally, St. Louis Post Dispatch business columnist David Nicklaus wrote, “The math is good, but the logic isn’t. If you dine out this weekend, ask your waitress if she plans to watch basketball on the job. You’ll get a laugh if you’re lucky, and a spilled cup of coffee if you’re not. For nearly all of America’s 10.6 million food-service workers, 10 million factory workers, 9.6 million transportation workers and 4.6 million groundskeepers, cleaners and maintenance workers, a hoops webcast at work is out of the question.
“Even among office workers, who seem to be at highest risk for time-wasting activity, it’s not clear that the availability of game video will harm employers.”
As for everyone else’s coverage, it’s time to call a technical foul. Or ban them from next year’s office pool. By the way, I have UConn going all the way in at least three pools. And we have TVs here in the building, so we don’t need to use the Internet to watch the games.
San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Bruce Bigelow wades into the coverage of the battle between Overstock.com President Patrick Byrne and business reporters such as MarketWatch.com’s Herb Greenberg and Mad Money’s Jim Cramer with an article exploring both sides of the issue.
To set the stage: Greenberg and Cramer have written and stated negative things about Byrne’s company in media coverage. Byrne, in return, has retaliated against them and their short-selling sources by filing a lawsuit against the short selling firm and promoting an SEC investigation into the matter. The SEC then subpoenaed the reporters, but have said now — after a media uproar — that they will not enforce the subpoenas.
Despite the fact that he quotes a business journalism professor from UNC-Chapel Hill, Bigelow makes a couple of interesting points in his article.
Bigelow writes, “In the ensuing debate, Overstock’s president has displayed a gift for invective. He has described his foes on Wall Street as ‘miscreants’ and ‘mobsters’ in league with an unnamed ‘master criminal from the 1980s.’
“Byrne and his allies claim that hedge funds routinely ‘plant’ negative stories about Overstock.com and other companies in the press. They have denounced Greenberg and other journalists as ‘dishonest,’ ‘lickspittle,’ ‘crooks’ and ‘lapdogs.’
“Greenberg counters that there is nothing wrong with talking to hedge funds. When it comes to writing about publicly traded companies, with all their public relations resources, Greenberg says he ‘prefers flying red flags instead of green ones.’
“Other journalists note that James Chanos of Kynikos Associates, a private investment firm, took a short position in Enron â€“ and then shared his insights in 2001 with Fortune magazine. Another short-seller, David Tice of the Prudent Bear Fund, was among the first in 1999 to suspect accounting fraud at Tyco International under Dennis Kozlowski.”
Later, he quoted Greenberg as saying, “Much of my time is spent just looking a computer screens and reading material â€“ the transcripts of conference calls, press releases â€“ trying to make it all fit. People don’t have a clue how difficult this is. As a journalist, you’re under a lot of pressure, time pressure. And you’re going through the financial statements, getting calls out, trying to talk to people, trying to understand.”
And then this final part of the story: “The fact of the matter, Greenberg said, is that corporate executives don’t like journalists exposing problems in their operations.”
Read the article here.
As the new site pertains to business journalism, the Chronicle’s Verne Kopytoff had this passage that should be noted: “Google Finance lacks some of what is available on competing Web sites, such as the ability to plot two stocks on the same chart. [Senior Product Manager Katie Jacobs] Stanton said that new functions will be added soon.
“She said that the company has no plans to hire its own business writers. Several of Google’s rivals have their own writers, including Dow Jones Inc.’s MarketWatch, which has a team of reporters, and Yahoo, which has several columnists.”
Mercury News reporter Matt Marshall wrote, “Google pulls company news from 4,500 sources that it collects by crawling the Web. Google also struck partnerships with various vendors of company information, such as Hoovers and Revere Data, a San Francisco company.”
Chris Kraueter from Forbes.com writes, “In contrast, both of Google Finance’s two biggest competitors have begun offering their own content in addition to data and news stories they compile from outside partners. Yahoo! Finance, which dates back to 1996, recently started offering its own group of exclusive columnists, such as Jeremy Siegel and Robert Kiyosaki, and placement on the site is determined by a group of editorialists. MSN Money also employs a team of copyeditors, writers and columnists, led by Editor In Chief Richard Jenkins, a former deputy editor of the Los Angeles Times Online.”
I should have known better. After finding stories about executive compensation at Reuters and McGraw-Hill in the past 24 hours on the Internet, I did a quick search to see if any of the other business journalism-related companies had filed a proxy statement. Dow Jones, the parent of the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s, filed its proxy on Friday afternoon with the SEC.
Except for a short Dow Jones newswire story, the proxy has gone unreported. (I did a Lexis/Nexis search and found nothing. A Google search turned up the Dow Jones brief in the Newark Star-Ledger.)
Shame on the Wall Street Journal and other business media outlets for ignoring this story, particularly since there has been a change at the top of the company announced earlier this year that was widely written about. How quickly we seem to forgot.
So here are the interesting details:
Outgoing CEO Peter Kann’s total compensation (salary, bonus, long-term incentive plan, all other compensation) in 2005 was $2.92 million, up 3.6 percent from his 2004 total compensation of $2.82 million. The biggest increase was in his bonus, which rose 10 percent to $918,500 from $835,000.
Incoming CEO Richard Zannino, who was the executive vice president and COO, saw his total compensation rise 6.6 percent to $2.0 million, from $1.88 million in 2004. His bonus also increased by 10 percent to $638,000. I could not find anything in the compensation committee report that showed what his CEO salary will be. His 2005 salary was $756,653, up about $30,000 from 2004. I would imagine that his CEO salary will be near what Kann was paid.
Zannino also receved 48,100 stock options in 2005 with a value between $1.24 million and $3.15 million.
Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger received total compensation of just more than $1 million in 2005, up 9.5 percent from the $940,589 he received in 2004. Steiger’s bonus rose $25,000, or 14.3 percent, to $200,000. His base salary was $528,327, up slightly from 2004.
Read the proxy here.
If anyone knows where else this has been reported on Saturday or Monday, please let me know. I’d like to give someone credit for writing this. I’ve done some pretty thorough searches though and came away disappointed that this story has been ignored — except for the Dow Jones wire story that ran on Friday afternoon.
I also bet there are reporters at the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and at MarketWatch — all Dow Jones subsidiaries — who are extremely interested in these details.
The Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism held its annual preliminary judging meeting Monday at the UCLA Anderson School of Management in Los Angeles, Calif., according to this press release. So if you’ve entered this year, then your entry was probably given its first review today.
This year’s preliminary judges include leading journalists representing major print and broadcast media organizations from across the nation, as well as a faculty member from UCLA Anderson School of Management, which has sponsored the awards since 1973.
The Loeb Awards are considered the most prestigious honor in business journalism — essentially the Pulitzer Prize for biz reporters — and recognize writers, editors and producers who make significant contributions to the understanding of business, finance and the economy. This year the preliminary judges considered 395 entries for the contest — a new all-time high.
Each of the Loeb Awards preliminary judges reviews all entries in one of the 10 competition categories, as well as nominations in the new business book category, to narrow the field to approximately four finalists, which then advance to the final judging round in the spring in New York City. The finalists are determined collectively by each category panel in separate deliberation sessions.
“We’re pleased to welcome 21 new preliminary judges for this year’s competition,” said Richard Rodner, associate dean of marketing and communications at UCLA Anderson School of Management and president of the G. and R. Loeb Foundation. “The Loeb Awards have always attracted outstanding judges, and we’re pleased to continue that tradition.”
The 21 new judges for the 2006 Loeb Awards competition are as follows:
Walt Bogdanich, assistant investigations editor, The New York Times; Mark Braykovich, business editor, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Bo Burlingham, editor at large, Inc. ; Michael Carroll, editor, Institutional Investor; Kathy Deveny, assistant managing editor, Newsweek; Henry Dubroff, chairman and editor, Pacific Business Coast Times; Tom Easton, senior financial correspondent, The Economist; Glenn Hall, business editor, The Orange County Register; Marlys Harris, finance editor, Consumer Reports; Peter Henderson, West Coast financial editor, Reuters; Richard Jenkins, editor in chief, MSN Money; Thomas Kupper, deputy business editor, The San Diego Union Tribune; Chris Lester, assistant managing editor, The Kansas City Star; David Morrow, editor in chief, TheStreet.com; Paul O’Donnell, business editor, The Plain Dealer; Kim Quillen, business editor, The Times-Picayune; Bob Rose, assistant managing editor of business news, The Philadelphia Inquirer; Ben Santarris, business editor, The Oregonian; Harry Fuller, executive editor, CNET News.com; Anne Stanley, assistant managing editor of enterprise, MarketWatch.com; Kathy Tulumello, business editor, The Arizona Republic.
There are 35 returning preliminary judges for the 2006 Loeb Awards competition. The 2006 Loeb Award winners will be announced at a banquet and presentation ceremony that will be held on Monday, June 26, 2006, in New York City. The recipients of the Lawrence Minard Editor Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award will also be honored.
The Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism were established in 1957 by Gerald Loeb, former founding partner of E.F. Hutton, to encourage quality reporting to inform and protect private investors and the general public. Winners are selected each year in a variety of print and broadcast categories, and career achievements are recognized with the Lawrence Minard Editor Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award. Judges are drawn from leading print and broadcast media nationwide.
Don Bauder writes in the San Diego Reader about MarketWatch.com columnist Herb Greenberg and his use of shorts as sources in the wake of the SEC subpoenas against Greenberg and a couple of other journalists.
Bauder writes, “Only a few journalists such as Greenberg have consistently warned investors about the fraud-infested market. He began shaking up the Bay Area in 1988 as a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Ten years later he joined an online news outlet, TheStreet.com, and was told he could operate from anywhere. He chose San Diego. Two years ago, he joined MarketWatch.
“In San Francisco he uncovered the fraud at Media Vision, which eventually sent two executives to the slammer. Monitoring San Diego stocks, he spotted the accounting problems at onetime high-flying health-care glove maker Safeskin, which sold out to Kimberly-Clark, and similar woes at SureBeam, a maker of irradiation systems that went into liquidation bankruptcy in early 2004.”
Later, Bauder notes, “Initially, Greenberg responded gently, telling CNBC (for which he is a contributor) that Byrne should stay away from squirrel-filled oak trees. But as the invective heated up, Greenberg got more specific, calling Byrne ‘an emotional nutcase,’ a description close to that of CNNMoney.com’s ‘a bit of a nut job.’
“As the civil suit moved forward, the Securities and Exchange Commission began an investigation. Recently, the agency shocked the journalism profession by subpoenaing information from Greenberg, another Dow Jones writer, and Jim Cramer of TheStreet.com and CNBC’s frenetic Mad Money show. Greenberg says his subpoena sought all unpublished communications, including e-mails and phone records, between him and four organizations he had quoted and one he had never quoted.”
Read the entire piece here.
The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting Saturday that a union is attempting to recruit employees at Dow Jones subsidiary MarketWatch to join. Dow Jones is opposing the move.
Reporter George Raine writes, “The number of staff members involved is small. About 210 of MarketWatch’s 300 employees at the company’s San Francisco headquarters and in bureaus around the country are considered union eligible. But labor sees an opening in a changed industry.
“For its part, MarketWatch’s owner, Dow Jones & Co., says a union isn’t necessary. The outcome of worker votes at different bureaus on whether to join the union is anyone’s guess.”
Other details from the story: “The union seeking to represent the Internet company’s staff members is the Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees, which bargains for 1,600 Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones workers. It also represents 200 employees at Factiva, an information service that Dow Jones co-owns with Reuters.
“The union maintained that all MarketWatch employees in cities already covered by its contract with Dow Jones should have been immediately included after the acquisition. Those cities include San Francisco, Washington, New York, Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Chicago. Dow Jones resisted, arguing that MarketWatch employees should choose whether to be represented by the union.
“The company and Publishers’ Employees negotiated an agreement that allows staff in separate bureaus to decide whether they want union representation.”
Read the story here.
MarketWatch’s Jon Friedman believes that people in New York and Washington will read the book being planned by former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan. But he wonders about the rest of the country, noting that writing about economic policy is typically a recipe for a snore fest.
Friedman writes, “I also remember how my eyes glazed over during Greenspan’s deathly dull speeches when I watched them on CNBC. His monotonous voice droned on and on and on and, yes, on some more. Even if his words had value, Greenspan’s delivery was so unappealing that I turned the channel before too long.
“If Greenspan’s writing style turns out to be anything like his public speaking style since he became Fed chairman in 1987, the book could be a real snoozer.
“It will be a chore for Greenspan, his ghost writer and publicity machine to make his proclamations seem interesting on paper.”
Later, Friedman adds, “But will he play in Peoria? I kind of doubt it. I’m not an elitist but I don’t envision anyone outside of hard-core finance professionals in the heartland snapping up the book, too. But will there be enough buyers to justify a publisher’s gargantuan investment?
“The New York Post estimated that Greenspan’s book will fetch about $9 million, which would mean it gets the second-biggest advance in nonfiction history. Only Bill Clinton’s ‘My Story’ had a higher advance, somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million.”
Read Friedman’s column here.
He left out one group that might be interested in reading the book: All of those economics reporters in the country. Now that’s a fun group at parties.
The Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial in Wednesday’s newspaper criticizing the SEC’s recent action to subpoena three journalists, including two — Marketwatch’s Herb Greenberg and Dow Jones Newswires’ Carol Remond — who work for the Journal’s parent company Dow Jones.
The Journal writes: “As long as journalists at Dow Jones are honestly reporting what they learn–and are on nobody else’s payroll–they are doing their jobs and serving the cause of efficient financial markets.
“The SEC’s subpoena flurry betrays an all too eager desire to manage and control financial information. It’s part of the mentality that a few years ago produced Regulation FD, which bars publicly traded companies from sharing certain information with research analysts before it is broadcast to the public.”
Later, the paper writes, “The irony here is that many financial reporters and columnists have benefited by receiving the leaks of those emails from the SEC and Mr. Spitzer’s office, spun of course to make a target company look bad. These journalists are learning how it feels to be on the receiving end of such blunderbuss discovery. At least they have the First Amendment to protect them, not to mention the airwaves or barrels of ink to defend themselves publicly. The average Wall Street trader has no such recourse.”
And then this parting shot: “Perhaps it’s too much to ask of our brethren in the financial press that they show greater skepticism toward the leaks and accusations of the SEC staff that are their daily bread. But it’s not too much to expect that Mr. Cox and his fellow Commissioners rein in their staff and return due process, rather than headlines, to the center of SEC enforcement.”
Read the editorial here.
CNBC commentator Charles Gasparino, who is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, wrote a commentary for Newsweek magazine on the recent actions of the SEC to subpoena business reporters as part of its investigation into an investment firm. Publicly, the SEC has backed off enforcing the subpoenas.
Gasparino, however, concludes that is not the case from talking to sources within the SEC about the public back-tracking from Chairman Christopher Cox on Monday.
Gasparino writes: “Cox didn’t rule out ever calling reporters in as witnesses, and putting them through the paces that other SEC subjects are put through, meaning they must not only answer questions, but also hand over documents, e-mails and possibly most damning for any journalistâ€”their sources. In fact, my own sources at the SEC tell me that [Marketwatch columnist Herb] Greenberg and the other journalists involved in the Overstock.com story may still be called in to testify about the case. Cox, they say, wants the testimony of journalists to be taken only rarely, and only as a last resort.”
“To be honest, I am not all that comforted by Cox’s go-slow approach. In public, Cox appeared to rebuke Thomsen’s decision to subpoena journalists, but my sources at the commission say he acted much differently privately. One said he called both Thomsen, and the SEC officials leading the Overstock investigation in the commission’s San Francisco bureau and gave them his ‘unflinching’ support. Cox, these people say, wasn’t so much concerned about sending subpoenas to journalists, rather, he didn’t like the public perception that the SEC was somehow trying to curtail the free flow of information about stocks, something it has vigorously defended in the past. In other words, under certain circumstances, Cox might not have a problem hauling a bunch of journalists down to SEC headquarters and having them answer questions and possibly hand over their sources.”
Later, he concludes: “SEC may be on firmer ground than we journalists may think. Remember last summer when The New York Times’ Judith Miller was thrown in jail for not revealing her sources in the Valerie Plame CIA leak case? Public opinion wasn’t on the side of Miller as she languished in jail before finally announcing that her source had given her permission to reveal his name before walking free. And I bet, if Linda Thomsen and the SEC chose to pursue journalists in the Overstock case, public opinion would come out the same way.”
Read Gasparino’s column here.
Former BusinessWeek writer Gary Weiss comments about Gasparino on his blog. He writes: “But with whom are the subpoeanaed journalists (Herb Greenberg, Carol Remond and Jim Cramer) ‘consorting’? ‘Malefactors’? Or stock analysts dedicated to rooting out overvalued and manipulated companies? What’s out of kilter here is that the SEC is investigating people who are indeed on the same side as the agency– that is, on the occasions when it deigns to pursue stock fraud.
“Meanwhile, the bad guys — the stock touters promoting the fictitious ‘stock counterfeiting conspiracy’ — are the ones cheering on the feds.
“This is not the first time that the anti-shorting crowd has screamed ‘stock manipulation’ and tried to push the feds into engaging in a wild goose chase. A good example came in the mid-1990s, and involved a company called Solv-Ex that also blamed shorts for its crummy stock performance. The company’s top officials pressed hard for SEC action.”