Tag Archives: Reporting tips

Chuck Jaffe

Jaffe: Biz journalists need to use data with personal examples


Business journalists need to be able to decipher complicated data and be able to explain what that data means through the use of personal examples, a senior Marketwatch columnist said Wednesday night.

“Data driven reporting is quantitative and unemotional,” said Chuck Jaffe, who primarily writes about mutual funds. “Bringing it home gets the story out of data and into people. It doesn’t take long to find people who are affected.”

Jaffe was the keynote speaker Wednesday at the McGraw Hill Financial Data Awards Dinner in New York. The event was held by the International Center for Journalists, which offered an online financial data course this past fall. Journalists who took the course and wrote stories with data were honored at the dinner.

Jaffe said he still keeps a list of consumers who have contacted him about specific topics, and he relies on that list for examples when he is writing. He noted that a woman called him Wednesday to discuss gold who will likely end up in a future column.

“The more something [I write} is personal to someone, the more engaged they are,” said Jaffe, who recently used Reddit to find Bitcoin traders and shared those contacts with other Marketwatch journalists.

It’s often hard for business journalists to find the data that they need to tell a story, and when they do the data often does not tell the story that the journalist thought it would tell, said Jaffe.

“When the numbers come back, and they’re not what you thought, you have to ask, why not?” said Jaffe. And if the company or agency generating the numbers doesn’t know why the numbers are what they are, the reporter should dig deeper.

“Too many reporters are stopped by the word no,” said Jaffe. “The great thing about being a columnist is that I don’t have to be nice to the people I deal with.”

Jaffe provide other advice to the journalists at the dinner, including:

  • Scams and frauds are often repeating themselves. Reporters should look for those. “There’s nothing new in scam world,” said Jaffe.
  • Writing about investors who like or dislike a stock should dig deeper and explain the methodology for how that investor reached that conclusion.
  • Don’t forget what’s important in life, added Jaffe. Money managers who complain to him that he’s ignoring an angle in a column often don’t understand what’s important to consumers.

Jaffe worked as a business journalist at the St. Petersburg Times, Allentown Morning Call and Boston Globe before joining Marketwatch. He is a past president of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.


Lisa Kassenaar

Behind the Bloomberg News Women’s Project


Lisa Kassenaar is a veteran reporter and editor for Bloomberg News and the driving force behind the Bloomberg News Women’s Project, an initiative to ensure women are better represented in the news.

Bloomberg In Depth recently spoke with Lisa to discuss the origins of the project and the extent of her involvement.

Here is an excerpt:

Q: Where did this idea come from? How did the Bloomberg News Women’s Project come to be?

LK: In 2010, Bloomberg News began a project to infuse all of our journalism with more women – as sources and voices, and as newsmakers in business, markets, politics and government. We know that women haven’t been running things – just 4 percent of S&P 500 CEOs are female – but we also know that women are half the people, and an underreported influence on the evolving global economic story.

Q: How did you get involved?

LK: I was a senior writer at Bloomberg Markets and had been covering Wall Street firms during the financial crisis. As that period waned, we talked about how few women had been part of the story. Editor-in-chief Matt Winkler asked me to figure out how to address it, and we started by deciding that we should not create a “women’s team.” We wanted all of our reporters and editors to see the world a little differently and to find and report on women from the perspective of their own beats.

Read more here.

Monty Hagler

Talking crisis strategy when dealing with business journalists


Monty Hagler is president and chief executive officer of RLF Communications in Greensboro, N.C. Hagler has worked on both the agency and the corporate side of communications for Trone, Capstrat and First Union, now Wells Fargo.

In an email interview with Talking Biz News, Hagler discusses forming a strategy for dealing with a crisis as well as long-term communications planning. What follows is an edited transcript.

Talking Biz News: What are some of the factors you consider when advising a client on how to respond to a crisis? 

Monty Hagler: The first objective is to determine the nature of the issue and the audiences that it impacts. Crises come in many forms, including reputational, organizational, natural disaster or external, which is beyond an organization’s control. We advise clients to assemble a cross-functional team of senior executives, quickly review and discuss the information that is available, determine what additional information needs to be gleaned and prioritize the audiences that need to be brought up to speed. The key is to move quickly and communicate proactively when possible, without creating more problems or areas for question.

TBN: What is the most important consideration when putting together a strategic plan? 

MH: A strategic plan must always work backwards from the desired end result. We frequently ask clients to define what success looks like in a year, in three years, in five years. If clients can articulate a clear vision for what success in any given arena will look like (and we frequently participate in this exercise to help get everyone on the same page), then a strategic communications plan will flow from the vision. It’s also an important exercise for determining the resources that should go into accomplishing objectives.

TBN: What’s the first step in releasing or responding to bad news? 

MH: The first step is to make sure you truly understand what the bad news is and what caused it. Organizations frequently respond to bad news when they only have part of the story, and that makes the situation more complicated. It’s also important to understand exactly how the news is going to impact the organization and where communication efforts need to take top priority.

TBN: Are there times when not telling your side of the story is advantageous?

MH: Absolutely. We frequently see situations where clients will not be able to influence or mitigate the first wave of negative stories on an issue. This can be for a variety of reasons, but generally because the news media has formulated a point of view and is focused on telling the story from that perspective.

Our advice is to provide a brief statement addressing the issue, let the story come out and then assess if the story will continue to gain traction if we do not provide more fuel for the media fire. In many cases, the issue dies after one news cycle. In that case, the organization can then focus on communicating directly with key audiences that need to know the full picture, but without generating additional negative stories.

TBN: What’s your advice for those interested in working in crisis communications?

MH: Read, read, read. Get a subscription to The Wall Street Journal (I have a digital subscription but still prefer to read the print edition that’s waiting for me every morning in the office) and follow how companies are handling a vast array of issues. Read the article to identify all of the different stakeholders that are involved and visualize how you would handle communications if you were in charge. The key is to follow that crisis and its impact on the company through to the end — not just when it is a front-page story.

Alex Sherman

Working the M&A beat at Bloomberg


Alex Sherman is a reporter at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters. He started at Bloomberg in 2008 as an intern out of graduate school and has since worked in a variety of roles and covered a number of beats. Now, he covers mergers and acquisitions in the technology, media and telecom sectors.

He spoke with Bloomberg public relations professional Lauren Meller about his job.

Here is an excerpt:

You’re also working on getting your MBA at New York University. How relevant are your studies to the reporting you do now for Bloomberg?

It’s such a nice thing; it really adds to my reporting. As I covered pay-TV, I was taking these media and entertainment classes that were being taught by people who were running the companies I was covering. And as I’ve switched over to the M&A beat, there are also plenty of classes on mergers and acquisitions and valuation of companies. So it’s been very useful.

How does the media and telecom deals beat compare to other related subjects, like reporting on general trends or developments in technology?

It’s very intense. It’s extremely competitive. I would say it’s probably the most competitive beat at Bloomberg. We’re trying to break stories before the competition – and before the company issues a press release. The idea is we want to move markets. We want people to get their money’s worth from the Bloomberg Terminal by having us break these stories. It’s all hands on deck.

There’s a lot of collaboration between the company news teams and the deals teams. So if I’m covering tech, media and telecom deals, I’m working very closely with all the company news reporters in tech and all the company news reporters in media and telecom. It’s me trying to get a good sense of what all these companies do and what they’re looking for because, obviously, in the entire world of media and telecom, there are a lot of companies. So I rely on the company reporters to help me.

Read more here.



Naked Capitalism blogger files public records lawsuit against Calpers


Susan Webber, who operates the Naked Capitalism blog about financial and economics news writing under the pseudonym Yves Smith, has filed a lawsuit against the California Public Employees’ Retirement Systems for failing to respond to a public records request.

Webber argues that Calpers gave the information she is requesting about its investments and financial performance to three Oxford academics a year ago.

She writes, “I contacted a California attorney, Timothy Y. Fong, who sent a letter on January 30, 2014 to CalPERS Deputy General Counsel Gina Ratto which stated that if the information was not forthcoming, I was prepared to petition for a writ of mandamus and seek an award of attorney fees and costs (which is provided for under PRA).

“Galli promptly sent Fong a letter dated January 27, 2014, which had been sent certified mail. The key section:

The information provided to the authors of the article you referenced was not provided by CalPERS staff. After an extensive search, staff has determined we do not have anything to produce in response to your request.

“This is patently false as well as brazen. Notice what CalPERS is doing: they are trying to throw the researchers under the bus by stating that CalPERS staff did not provide the information. That raises the specter that the academics got it via some other route, say a former employee who had kept all this data or (horrors!) a hacker. The insinuation that CalPERS has not provided the data raises questions as to whether the data the academics used was accurate and complete.

“I e-mailed the authors of the paper and the lead author, Tim Jenkinson, wrote back. He said that he had indeed obtained the non-public information directly from CalPERS in 2009. In a second e-mail, he reconfirmed that not only he, but one of his fellow authors, and one of the other authors, Ruediger Stucke, had dealt directly with CalPERS staff.

“But aside from the flat-out dishonesty (the search was either not extensive or CalPERS misrepresented its results), consider the weasel-wording in the letter: ‘the information….was not provided by CalPERS staff.’ But that was not what I had asked for. I had requested information provided by CalPERS. It is possible that the data was conveyed directly from a third-party data repository such as LP Capital to Jenkinson et al. But that is irrelevant as far as my request is concerned. It is well-settled California law that actions taken by agents within the scope of their agency are imputed to the principal. Thus, even if as a matter of form, the data was provided directly by LP Capital or another CalPERS data repository to Jenkinson and Stucke, it would still be disclosable under the PRA.”

Read more here. The link also contains a copy of the Naked Capitalism lawsuit.

Wall Street Journal

Immersive storytelling at The Wall Street Journal


John Crowley, digital editor The Wall Street Journal, shared his tips for immersive storytelling at a recent digital journalism conference.

Abigail Edge of journalism.co.uk writes, “He also noted that although WSJ London does not have the same resources as the outlet’s New York office, you do not need ‘a cast of thousands’ to produce engaging immersive content.

“Just six people worked on the Golden Dawn project. And it was a great success, with a bounce rate of just 14 per cent compared to 72 per cent for a typical WSJ article.

“For The Wall Street Journal, it was also a way to cover the rise of Golden Dawn, which had won 7 per cent per cent of the popular vote in Greece and taken 20 seats in the Greek government.

“‘We would not have had this information without Marcus drilling down and working with Jovi to visualise this data in this way,’ explained Crowley.

“He also highlighted The Crossing interactive, which used video and audio slideshows to tell the story of a African migrant who had risked his life to travel by boat from Eritrea to Lampedusa in the Italian Pelagie Islands.”

Read more here.

No comment

What “no comment” means when covering M&A


Dan Primack of Fortune.com writes about the semantics of “no comment” from a company CEO who may or may not be involved in negotiating a merger or acquisition.

Primack writes, “I don’t begrudge anyone their opinion (including about me), but I do feel that there may be a fundamental misunderstanding about what ‘no comment’ usually means to reporters.

“My argument was largely that Marco, assuming he didn’t want to confirm the report, should have simply said ‘no comment’ (assuming he picked up the phone in the first place). That way he neither violates NDA nor lies.  But some of you argued that a CEO’s ‘no comment’ is de facto confirmation. A non-denial, as it were.

“For those who feel this way, please know that you are mistaken. ‘No comment’ is exactly that, no comment. Neither confirmation nor denial. In fact, it’s only real use to a reporter is that it lets us know our inquiry was received. Any reporter who bases stories on his or her hunch as to the deeper meaning of ‘no comment’ will soon be out of a job for printing all sorts of inaccurate stuff.

“A few readers also emailed to sympathize with Marco, with one asking ‘what else could he do to kill the story?’

“The answer here is ‘probably nothing.’ Once a reporter calls a CEO about something like this, it means the leak has already occurred. And the reporter likely trusts the original source(s). Perhaps you can bribe the reporter with a ‘better’ story if they hold the scoop, but that’s only if you actually have something of superior value.”

Read more here.


Winkler: Data has helped make Bloomberg News successful


Bloomberg News is successful partly because it uses data to tell stories that no one else covers, said editor in chief Matthew Winkler in a speech Wednesday at Stanford University.

Edward Ngai of the Stanford Daily writes, “In a brief question and answer period, Winkler touched briefly on some of the pressing issues facing business journalism and the industry as a whole. Asked about the way Western media should respond to the expulsion of journalists from China, including those from Bloomberg, Winkler demurred from answering directly but acknowledged that media organizations sometimes have to work in inhospitable political circumstances.

“‘We’re not, in any location, going in with the sole purpose of challenging the government or authority,’ he said. ‘We’re not going to be the ones to change the world that way. We’re going to change the world by illuminating events and reporting on issues.’

“That style of journalism paid dividends for Bloomberg News just this past week, with old-school journalism leading to the firm breaking and then leading coverage of Satya Nadella’s rise to Microsoft CEO.

“Winkler noted, however, that there is more to Bloomberg journalism than diligence and accuracy.

“‘[It] comes back to someone who is very familiar, very prepared, used to using data,’ he said.”

Read more here.


WSJ wins ruling related to phone hacking case


The Wall Street Journal has won a ruling allowing it to fully report on the Rebekah Brooks phone-hacking trial without having to sign a document that it will abide by reporting restrictions imposed by the judge.

Lisa O’Carroll of The Guardian writes, “This ruling raises the prospect of the New York-based financial newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, reporting differently in the US and Asia in its print editions to its European edition, available in the UK, and the subsequent risk of this being picked up by the internet.

“The Wall Street Journal successfully challenged what it deemed an ‘illogical’ Crown Prosecution Service request to give written agreement to comply with reporting restrictions applying to UK media in exchange for access to prosecution material.

“The request has been made to all foreign media and those who have signed have been given access to CCTV footage, maps, financial statements, transcripts of police interviews with witnesses and defendants, photos of property seized and witness statements shown to the jury in the Old Bailey trial.”

Read more here.

Forbes Snapchat

Snapchat CEO and Forbes clash over cover story


The 23-year-old CEO of Snapchat criticized journalists on Twitter Monday morning, claiming that some details in a recent Forbes cover story about his startup were misreported, but Forbes responded hours later with a transcript from Spiegel’s interview with the story’s author, reporter J.J. Colao, essentially proving that Spiegel misled the publication during its reporting.

Kurt Wagner of Mashable writes, “The details in question were included in the story’s lead, and depicted an email exchange between Spiegel and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In the story, Zuckerberg emailed Spiegel in late 2012 asking for a meeting to discuss the new startup. Spiegel’s response: ‘I’m happy to meet … if you come to me.’

“At least that’s what Spiegel told Forbes.

“Few people can pull off a demand like that, especially when speaking with the multibillionaire CEO of the world’s largest social network. And it turns out Spiegel is not, actually, one of those people.

“After a Business Insider reporter called Spiegel ‘arrogant’ after reading the Forbes article, Spiegel responded on Twitter by publishing the actual email chain between him and Zuckerberg from November 2012. The emails confirmed that Spiegel did not, in fact, set the terms for the meeting as originally described by Forbes. Instead, Zuckerberg simply had plans to be in Los Angeles a few weeks later, and the meeting was established during his trip.

“At first, it looked as if Forbes goofed — until the publication released a transcript of its interview, in which Spiegel ‘fabricated a story full of swagger,’ according to Forbes editor Randall Lane.”

Read more here.