Tag Archives: Reporting tips
Votesch writes, “CNBC has taken it upon themselves (though they certainly are not alone in this) to report operating earnings instead of reported earnings. Reported earnings are what has been used in the past and are what you would be comparing to if you wanted to perform any historical research and yet CNBC didn’t even bother to mention that they were using operating earnings.
“Bloomberg takes this same approach, reporting the P/E ratio of the S&P 500 as 14 or 15 when in fact it is well over 100.”
Later, he concludes, “In my opinion, CNBC and Bloomberg are shilling the market and the consequences have been, and will be, devastating as the stock market finds a way to return to a reasonable value regardless of what Bloomberg and CNBC can convince the public of. By the way, none of this could happen without the public accepting it. But I also blame you if you don’t do the research that any investor should be doing. In the past decade and over the coming years, you, if you are one of those accepting such obviously bad data, have and will get burned again and again and each time it happens I suggest you look in the mirror when you are looking for someone to blame.”
Read more here.
There’s been quite a Tweet-off on Thursday between Wall Street Journal deputy managing editor Alan Murray, New York Times Sunday business editor Tim O’Brien and new media expert Jeff Jarvis, who teaches at the City University of New York journalism program, about the proper usage of Twitter in reporting stories.
The issue has come up after the Journal issued guidelines to its reporters asking them to practice common sense when using Twitter. Naturally, the conversation Thursday has been occurring via tweets.
Jarvis began by stating: Somebody at The Wall Street Journal should tell Sherman to stop the Wayback Machine before it’s too late.
Murray replied: We’re encouraging people to use Twitter and Facebook. Just encouraging them to use some common sense when they do.
Jarvis then replied: Yes but isn’t the 1 rule: Don’t be stupid? Telling them not to discuss ongoing stories cuts off collaboration. Nose/spite/face
Jarvis again: Wouldn’t the better memo have been to brainstorm all the new ways to do journalism via Twitter & Facebook — openly?
O’Brien then entered the fray: Come on! You guys know why they needed a memo. There are all sorts of understandable procedural and legal issues
Now Murray: Point on story in progress is simple: Not a good idea for Woodward to tweet he’s going to meet source in garage.
Jarvis: but they tell them not to discuss stories! That’s the rule. You can say it’s legal cya. But wait till they fire over it
Back to O’Brien: jeff — it’s not about being opposed to collaboration. that misses the point, i think. it’s about procedural and legal stuff
O’Brien again: you can’t be open about every part of every process inside any organization. stifles deliberation and debate. you miss the point
And finally, Jarvis: And my common sense learned online says openness & collaboration improve reporting and journalism. My rule.
Journalism needs to do a better job of covering innovation, argues David Nordfors, director of the VINNOVA Research Center of Innovation Journalism atÂ Stanford University, in an interview on EurActiv.
Here is an excerpt:
Are traditional newsrooms equipped to cover innovation?Â
Journalism is no different to other professions and organisations in society. Large organisations tend to separate reality into different sections. So in media, there is usually somebody who takes care of science reporting and another guy who looks after business reporting. If we have that kind of partitioning, then the science journalist tries to avoid business, because it’s not his beat, and the business journalist ignores science.Â
That works well in a world where science and business are separated, but today, where innovation is becoming a driving force in the economy, these things are closely linked. We have to either partition things differently or find ways of working together to write innovation stories.Â
One example would be medical research. Those stories used to be about ground-breaking research on new medicines. Nowadays, so much of the money is in the pharma industry that they are affecting the direction of basic research, making it very difficult to separate those issues. If you want to understand what is happening in basic research, you have to know what the pharma companies are doing. And if you want to know about the pharmaceutical industry, you actually have to understand a little about the rules governing how they have new medicines accepted. That brings you into politics, and leads you into issues like intellectual property management. So you try to decide which elements are most important for the story you want to tell.Â
Read more here.
TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE
The task of writing a book about a business news event by a journalist takes an ability to collect and gather facts that are often useless in daily business journalism, said three book authors Sunday.
“You learn things that I donâ€™t think I can sell to Larry [Ingrassia, New York Times business editor] as a daily story,” said Diana Henriques, a New York Times business reporter currently working on a book about Bernie Madoff. “Iâ€™m learning things about personality conflicts, stages of chronology that were poorly understand in the beginning.”
The discussion about business news book writing occurred at the annual Society of Business Editors and Writers conference, being held in Denver.
Dave Kansas, a former editor of the Money & Investing section of The Wall Street Journal and the author of the recent “The Wall Street Journal Guide to the End of Wall Street as We Know It,” said that daily business journalism and book business journalism accomplish different things for readers.
“The coverage in the heat of the battle is where daily newspaper as the best,” said Kansas, whereas book writing isÂ ”more in the chronicling the lead-up period. What really struck me was how the failure of Long Term Capital in 1998 was such a microcosm of what would happen in 2007 and 2008. But it was so quickly tossed aside.”
William Cohan, author of a recent book about the Bear Steans downfall, noted that books about business news events help put them in perspective.
“Iâ€™m barely a reporter at all,” said Cohan. “I donâ€™t work on a daily paper, and I donâ€™t cover a beat.”
Henriques and Cohan both noted that they have felt no pressure from editors to recreate scenes of conversations in their books, as some business news book have done.
TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE
Alexandra Berzon began working for the Las Vegas Sun as a business reporter in 2007. She has also worked as a reporter for technology magazine Red Herring, the Anchorage Daily News and the San Antonio Express-News.
Berzon was the primary reporter for the Las Vegas Sunâ€™s construction deaths on the Strip series, which was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
Berzon, 29, received an undergraduate degree in urban studies from Vassar College in 2001. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism in 2006.
As a student at Berkeley, Berzon reported for Salon.com, NPRâ€™s Living on Earth, and American Public Mediaâ€™s American Radio Works. Her radio work dealt with a community of South Pacific islanders who had emigrated to Auckland, New Zealand, because of fears of sea level rise from global warming. The broadcasts were part of a multi-part series that won the George Polk Award for Radio Reporting in 2007.
Berzonâ€™s stories on construction safety at the Sun were awarded the 2008 Story of the Year, News Feature of the Year and First Amendment awards by the Nevada Press Association.
She grew up in Berkeley, Calif., where her parents are lawyers and her mother is a justice on the U.S. Ninth Circuit.
Talking Biz News caught up with Berzon on Thursday, three days after she received the Pulitzer, as she was on her way to Washington, D.C. to receive anotherÂ award for her work in covering the construction deaths from the Scripps-Howard Foundation.
What follows is an edited transcript.
Q. How did you first get interested in journalism?
I started in college. I went to Vassar. My freshman year, my first day being there, I went with somebody there to a meeting at the college newspaper, and I felt like it was the perfect place to be. I got really involved really fast. We had a weekly paper. My second year I was news editor, and that was my first feeling about writing and having an impact and people will respond. I wrote a series of articles about faculty diversity. It was about looking at different angles why Vassar had low numbers of faculties of color. There were protests and policies were changed. Iâ€™m sure I would be embarrassed by the stories now, but I was very encouraged. I didnâ€™t know how to become a journalist, though, because it was a liberal arts college.
After college, I did non-profit work in Los Angeles for a while, but I decided that this is what I wanted to do. So I went to Berkeley for graduate school. I did do an internship in college at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, an alternative weekly.
Q. What was so attractive about business journalism to you?
Business journalism was just something I fell into. Iâ€™ve done so many different kinds of reporting. When I was in graduate school, I did a lot of environmental reporting. I did take one business reporting class, taught by a great professor named Marcia Parker. She turned me onto Red Herring, a business technology publication. That seemed very interesting to me at the time. I thought that would be something I could do there.
I did pretty quickly realize that I would rather do business reporting not for a business audience but a more mainstream audience.
Q. How did what your parents do influence your career choice?
I definitely grew up in a household where lots of different ideas were discussed and different topics. Public service was also very strong in my family.
Q. What was so attractive about going to work for the Sun?
The Sun was great. I had decided that after freelancing for a while, there was a lot of opportunity to stay in business publications, and that was definitely something I was considering. But I was trying to get into a broader audience and give me more time to spend on stories. The Sun is a section inside the Review-Journal. Itâ€™s a very unusual set-up. So that means we donâ€™t do the quick-hit daily stories. I wanted to do investigative reporting, and I could do that at the Sun. Thatâ€™s hard to come by to have someone pay you to do that type of coverage.
In business reporting, that is so important. But in a lot of business reporting, itâ€™s more of hereâ€™s what happened, the quick nugget. I wanted to do deeper analysis that would take more than a few hours or a day. It took a lot to get me to move in Las Vegas, but that was worth it. There are so many great stories to tell in Las Vegas. And there are great editors, people who care about doing great journalism.
Q. Tell me how the topic of covering the construction deaths on the Strip came up.
Actually some folks in the newsroom had been talking about it before I started at the Sun. There would be a story here and there about a worker dying on the Strip. And they wanted to know what was going on. So when I came in for an interview, they said to me that this would be something that they would like for me to work on. And that is what attracted me. It seemed fascinating and important to tell that story.
Q. How did you start digging into the story?
I began by talking to lots of health and safety people around the country, familiarizing myself with the issues and OSHA. Thereâ€™s a federal and the state OSHA. And then getting OSHA documents and finding the family members and talking to unions and contractors. That ended up being harder and more difficult that I anticipated. There were a lot of forces here who werenâ€™t interested in having that story being told.
Q. How did you overcome hurdles?
Perseverance. The state OSHA documents had a lot in them. When I requested them initially, there was a missing link that they were overturning citations and withdrawing them after issuing them. No one had looked at those yet. The story of OSHAâ€™s response was a whole another piece because they were withdrawing the citations. There was a another document that they werenâ€™t giving me about that.
I thought the unions would help me find the family members, but they didnâ€™t. And I found a lot of workers, going to bars and places where construction workers would hang out about the working conditions on the site.
The family members ended up being key. They were able to tell the human stories behind the deaths. I had the documents and OSHA, and I needed to talk to experts to decipher the documents. But the family members opened up and told a much richer story. A lot of them have been in Las Vegas construction for generations. There was one person whose brother in law had died, and he had been a contractor himself and had gone through the same process with OSHA and had the citations withdrawn. But he also had the perspective of being a family member.
Q. In terms of public records, where did you go to find stuff?
I went to the federal government OSHA to get them to set up some database programs for me to find various data points for me. We did end up paying for that. We had to pay a small amount. Theyâ€™re not that easy to deal with.
There were a lot of state OSHA records request, asking them for numbers. I wanted to know how many willful citations state OSHA had issued, which is the most sever type of violation. They have to report that to the feds. Somehow they couldnâ€™t come up with that. I had a fairly hilarious e-mail exchange, and I could only communicate them through e-mail, that they couldnâ€™t do this. So it goes to the fed OSHA office in San Francisco. Finally, it goes back to the state, and they say, â€œThat would be $25,000.â€ It was kind of crazy. Finally, fed OSHA got them to come up with the numbers.
Q. Who was the hardest to get to talk?
Thereâ€™s so many. The general contractor was always difficult to deal with. And Nevada OSHA. They just were not very good at talking and explaining their perspective, which I think would have been a good thing for them to do.
Q. When did the first story run, and when did you start getting feedback?
It was a pretty quick response, especially among the workers, and the contactors and the union. The really amazing moment was in the beginning of June when the union decided to stage a big walkout of about 10,000 workers over safety. A worker had died the day before. That was the last person who died. They wanted to show that they were concerned about this. It was a complete 180 for them. Their public comments in the past were always how the contractors were great and werenâ€™t doing anything wrong. This was a pervasive comment in Las Vegas. And now you had workers standing outside holding signs. It was fairly dramatic. That was definitely the turning point.
Q. Are you still on the story?
Iâ€™m doing environment and energy reporting right now, which is something that Iâ€™ve always been interested in, but I am still following up with construction worker safety. Thereâ€™s still a lot going on, and I am going to follow up.
Q. Have you come down yet from the emotional high?
Iâ€™m still totally overwhelmed and totally shocked. It was not something that I expected. It will take a bit more to settle in. Itâ€™s a great feeling.
The career of Los Angeles Times real estate reporter Annette Haddad was remembered Thursday in a story in the paper. Haddad died Wednesday at 46 from cancer.
Jon Thurber writes, “Versatile and engaged, Haddad performed many editing functions in Business over the next nine years, including assignment editor for the airline, tourism, retailing and agriculture beats.
“In reporting on residential real estate, she focused her coverage from a financial perspective looking at market trends, housing economics and home-building companies.
“She loved her assignment, her husband said.
“‘After a long week of work, she thought nothing of spending her weekend covering open houses and loved talking to actual buyers,’ Doggett said.”
Read more here.
Adam Davidson, international business and economics correspondent for National Public Radio, talks with Zachary Seward of the Neiman Journalism Lab about how he and colleague Alex Blumberg cover business news differently than the rest of the media world.
Here’s an excerpt:
Davidson: I mean, Iâ€™ve been thinking, I wanna do like a story or something. I feel like the voice of business journalism, in particular, needs to change. I mean, probably the voice of all journalism, maybe. â€˜Cause itâ€™s very similar â€” I was in Iraq for a long time, and it was very similar there, where the more certain someone was, the more you knew they were wrong. My wife used to joke â€” she was in Iraq with me â€” and she used to joke that you can tell how long someone has been in Iraq, a reporter, by how certain they are about things. The more certain they are, the less time theyâ€™ve been in Iraq. And the same with this financial crisis. Nobody saw it coming. Even the people who saw bits and pieces of it, did not see the whole thing. And nobody, I donâ€™t think a single person, had the background to understand all the financial instruments, all the interconnections. The world just doesnâ€™t work that way. These were, you know, very specialized areas of finance that suddenly became linked by this global chain.
So, the voice â€” I feel like the voice of business journalism is sort of, itâ€™s an authoritative voice of God. “Today, the stock market rose 3.8% on news of unemployment rising and anticipation of the Fed cutting its interest rates.” And, you know, I know before I was a business journalist, as a consumer, I didnâ€™t know much about business, and thereâ€™s a guy in a suit, who seems like he knows what heâ€™s talking about, and heâ€™s saying things with a very strong, authoritative voice, and what this crisis taught us is all those people were missing the most fundamental things. Those people â€” Like, itâ€™s almost absurd! Like you could do like a skit about how silly it was. And there is no voice anymore. There is no authority. I mean, there are better ideas and worse ideas; there are people who are closer to the truth and further away from the truth. But there is â€” I donâ€™t wanna say itâ€™s all up in the air, everyone believe whatever you want. I think people can believe some dangerous and stupid things. But there is no authority. Itâ€™s a process. Itâ€™s a constant process. I change my mind hourly on this crisis, and I fundamentally revise my thinking all of the time. And everybody does. I mean, the smart academics I talk to, the smart business people I talk to â€” everyone is trying to figure this out, to begin with. And I would like to find a way â€” I think weâ€™re starting to find a way to represent that.
Read more here.
TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE
The Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, in conjunction with msnbc.com, has launched a system for business journalists called BankTracker that examines banks to determine which ones are financially secure and which ones are in danger.
The analysis is based on reports every bank is required to file each quarter with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the federal agency that protects deposits and is part of the bank regulatory system.
The American Bankers Association and others in the industry asked msnbc.com and the Investigative Reporting Workshop to refrain from publishing a list of banks and their “troubled asset ratios.”
Wendell Cochran, senior editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop and a journalism professor at American, notes the FDIC data provides the best public glimpse into the operations of a bank. Cochran is a former business journalist.
“In many ways, this is an extension of work I began doing 25 years ago when I was a business writer at the Des Moines Register,” Cochran told Talking Biz News. “Banking data was my initial foray into computer-assisted reporting. Each year we published agate tables — and how many in your audience will remember those? — of every bank in the state.
“When the state was going through a major agricultural recession, leading to bank failures, I created this ‘troubled asset ratio’ as a way of judging bank health. Later, while I was the national business correspondent at Gannett News Service, we did projects about the S&Ls and banks. Again, we listed every bank and S&L in the country and included this ratio.
“So, it was natural to me when the banking crisis broke out last fall to begin planning a similar project, this time taking advantage of the interactive nature of the Web.”
The service discovered, among other findings, that:
- 163 banks had more troubled assets (nonperforming loans and foreclosed property) on their books at the end of 2008 than they had capital and loan loss reserves, meaning that potentially the bank could not cover the losses on loans and other assets it has been absorbing. A year ago, 23 banks had a troubled asset ratio of greater than 100 percent.
- There are great variations among banks. Many smaller, community banks that avoided dealing in the riskiest types of mortgage lending continue to weather the storm relatively well. Meanwhile, for banks that got deeply involved in subprime lending or that are in states where the real estate collapse is most pronounced, the stress levels are high.
The system can be found here.
Scott Sexton, a columnist for the Winston-Salem Journal, writes Tuesday about the difficulty one of the paper’s reporters had in getting the exact number of employees work at a Dell plant in the area after layoffs were announced.
Sexton writes, “In the days after the announcement of layoffs, finding out how many people worked at Dell was nearly impossible. Media outlets reported that the plant employed 1,150. Mayor Allen Joines, the head cheerleader for the Dell deal, said that 1,400 people worked there. So which is it?
“Ask a simple question, and sometimes you get an idiotic answer.
“‘Which is the correct number for Dell employees at the Forsyth plant?’ Richard Craver, a business reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal, asked a corporate spokesmen in an e-mail Friday.
“‘We are no longer providing specific site-employment totals,’ replied Dell flack David Frink.
“Pressed a second time, Frink shot this back: ‘We are not engaging in additional dialogue on this subject.’”
Read more here.
David Sharos of The Wheaton Sun in suburban Chicago profiles Fox Business Network reporter Sandra Smith and discovers that her superiors think she bas become a more fierce reporter since she joined the network.
Sharos writes, “Smith’s bosses — such as Ray Hennessey, director for business news and an editorial/managing editor for foxbusiness.com, have taken note of Smith’s passion for her work, her energy and her tenacious efforts to deliver a story.
“‘Sandra’s enthusiasm is what really grabbed folks here — I wish we could bottle it,’ Hennessey said. ‘You could see that she threw herself into the stories she was covering and she was one of those reporters who infects colleagues with that same enthusiasm. She has a varied background. Most of her career was as a trader, not a reporter, so she had contacts in the business and came with a knowledge set that’s tough to find.’
“Hennessey also noted that Smith ‘has become more of a dogged reporter than she was when she first walked in the door.’
“‘She digs more and thinks about stories differently,’ he said. ‘She is more aggressive. People underestimate the learning curve from trader to professional reporter, and it’s often a steep climb. But she’s done it well and doesn’t seem out of breath.’”
Read more here.