Tag Archives: Reporting tips
Los Angeles Times syndicated personal finance columnist Kathy Kristof, Arizona State University economist Stephen Happel and Ohio University Williams College of Business dean Ali Malekzadeh talk Friday about current economic coverage.
The panel was held at the annual Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference, which began Friday at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State.
Dean Starkman of the Columbia Journalism Review reviews New York Times business reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin‘s new book, “Too Big to Fail,” and uses it to explore different business reporting strategies.
Starkman writes, “Sorkin’s book helps draw a bright line between deal journalism and the work of accountability-oriented reporters. In the former, the reporter-source relationship is more transactional, with a focus on securing insider access; the latter maintain greater distance from their subjects and rely for their material on financial filings, lawsuits, whistleblowers, short sellers, nonprofit groups, and dissidents of all stripes—not insiders, but outsiders. As it happens, their sources were right about this crisis, while Sorkin’s insiders were part of the problem.”
Later, he adds, “Of course, there is more than one approach to business reporting. Take, for example, Bloomberg’s Mark Pittman, a noted investigator who wrote muckraking exposés about Goldman’s issuance of defective CDOs and the like. Pittman, who died unexpectedly last November, was known in some circles as ‘the man who sued the Fed,’ the reporter behind a Bloomberg LP suit to pry loose details about the central bank’s trillion-dollar emergency lending programs.
“While Pittman’s adversarial style paid major dividends, it should be obvious that his approach would not gain him the kind of telepathic rapport that Sorkin seems to have developed with the Fed chairman (‘.?.?.?the towering white peaks of the Tetons offered a majestic view, but one that no longer took Ben Bernanke’s breath away the way it once had.’)
“Readers should be aware of the differences in reporting styles and understand them for what they are: a division of labor. Neither will give you the full picture; one aims to tell you what the players said, while the other tells you what they did.”
Read more here.
The president of the largest real estate firm in New Orleans was fired after giving data about the discrepancy between the assessment values and home prices in the area to The Times-Picayune newspaper, writes business reporter Rebecca Mowbray of the paper.
Mowbray reports, “Sterbcow said that he had no regrets about pushing for fairness in assessments. ‘I feel very proud about my efforts, and am very proud to have helped the Times-Picayune. The message from my agents was to try to fix the situation,’ he said.
“Sterbcow has worked in the local real estate industry for over 30 years, and had been president of Latter & Blum since 1995. He is widely viewed as an expert on the New Orleans area real estate market and even got a call from the White House right after Hurricane Katrina asking for his help in estimating the cost of damage done by the storm and levee breaches. Sterbcow is an advocate for the New Orleans area nationally, and frequently travels to Washington to press the city’s case in housing, lending and recovery issues.
“Under his leadership, Latter & Blum developed enviable real estate data and analytical abilities. The firm also acquired a number of other real estate companies to expand to Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Alexandria and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“The local real estate community was stunned by news of Sterbcow’s abrupt departure Tuesday.”
Read more here.
Los Angeles Times staff writer Zohreen Adamjee interviewed the paper’s agriculture business reporter P.J. Huffstutter about how she got her story about the problems California farmers face turning cow manure into electricity.
“You are leaving everything tied to Los Angeles behind,” said Huffstutter. “It is fields of green as far as the eyes can see…This is farming on a very large scale.”
Huffstutter has personal experience with farms. She previously covered the
country’s heartland as the paper’s Midwest bureau chief. And although Huffstutter is a southern California native, she split her childhood between her family’s home in Seal Beach, Calif., and her grandparents’ farm in Sibley, Iowa. Her father also runs a farm.
Having cows as sources, particularly for a story about their manure, proved to be a hurdle that few business journalists have to overcome, she said in the interview. “It was one of those moments where I deeply regretted not having my rubber boots,” said Huffstutter. “The cows, they eat a lot, and they poop a lot.”
Huffstutter said that the story developed from calls she received from dairymen in central California, which she then visited.
The biggest hurdle for the story, Huffstutter said, was getting the cows to moo for an audio slide show that accompanied the print story. Apparently, cows only moo when they’re upset. “I ended up spending a lot of time trying to get reportings on cows mooing,” said Huffstutter.
Tom Jackson, a business reporter at the Sandusky Register in Ohio, writes about the conflict of interest he now has in covering a major news story.
Jackson writes, “As the business reporter for the Register, I’ve been tasked with covering Cedar Fair and its attempted acquisition by Apollo Global Management.
“But I have a possible conflict of interest to disclose: I now have an equity stake in the company.
“When Cedar Fair filed its definite proxy statement on Feb. 10 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it announced a March 16 special meeting to vote on the proposed merger and said only unitholders of record as of Feb. 12 will be admitted.
“My boss ordered me to buy one unit, so there would be no question I could get in to cover the meeting.
“My unit allows me one possible vote on the merger, although I have less of a voice than, say, Geoffrey Raynor of Fort Worth, Texas, who as of Feb. 12 controlled 10,021,418 units, about 18 percent of the total.”
Read more here. The paper is asking readers how Jackson should vote.
Allen Wastler, the managing editor of CNBC.com, notes that one of its TV correspondents reported earlier this week a nice story about the Whistler resort, a venue for many Olympic events under threat of foreclosure, that had been previously reported by one of the business news site’s Web reporters.
Wastler writes, “Except for the benefit of a televised interview, the two stories are virtually the same. But the later one actually performed better for us … drawing more reader interest and getting picked up by some of our syndication partners.
“That’s somewhat counter to the general sense of the news business, where being first with an interesting story usually means being the most widely read or viewed. (Indeed, ‘I reported that hours/days/months ago’ is a common boast among top-notch reporters … or reporters looking to get an editor off a ‘chase this’ assignment).
“But a month ago people weren’t so Olympic aware. Now with the skiers, sleds and skaters flying through the prime-time airwaves each night, the foreclosure news is a little bit more interesting to the public at large. Hence a little more click-interest in the headline.
“Does that mean I’m not encouraging reporters to break it first? No way. But it does point up the importance of revisiting material when it’s relevant.”
Read more here.
A Reuters reporter in China found out the hard way how seriously some Apple suppliers take security.
James Pomfret and Kelvin Soh write, “Tipped by a worker outside the Longhua complex that a nearby Foxconn plant was manufacturing parts for Apple too, our correspondent hopped in a taxi for a visit to the facility in Guanlan, which makes products for a range of companies.
“As he stood on the public road taking photos of the front gate and security checkpoint, a guard shouted. The reporter continued snapping photos before jumping into a waiting taxi. The guard blocked the vehicle and ordered the driver to stop, threatening to strip him of his taxi license.
“The correspondent got out and insisted he was within his rights as he was on the main road. The guard grabbed his arm. A second guard ran over, and with a crowd of Foxconn workers watching, they tried dragging him into the factory.
“The reporter asked to be let go. When that didn’t happen, he jerked himself free and started walking off. The older guard kicked him in the leg, while the second threatened to hit him again if he moved. A few minutes later, a Foxconn security car came along but the reporter refused to board it. He called the police instead.”
Read more here.
Los Angeles Times business editor John Corrigan talks about the paper’s investigation of the problems with Toyota cars. The Times, according to some critics, has been ahead of other media in covering this story.
Mike Swift of the San Jose Mercury News writes that some of the country’s largest tech companies have fought off freedom of information requests by the paper for information about their workforce.
Swift writes, “Google, the company that wants to make the world’s information accessible, says the race and gender of its work force is a trade secret that cannot be released.
“So do Apple, Yahoo, Oracle and Applied Materials. These five companies waged an 18-month Freedom of Information battle with the Mercury News, convincing federal regulators who collect the data that its release would cause ‘commercial harm’ by potentially revealing the companies’ business strategy to competitors. A sixth company, Hewlett-Packard, fought the release and lost.
“But many of their industry peers see the issue differently. The Mercury News initially set out to obtain race and gender data on the valley’s 15 largest companies, and nine — including Intel, Cisco Systems, eBay, AMD, Sanmina and Sun Microsystems — agreed to allow the U.S. Department of Labor to provide it.
“‘There’s nothing to hide, in our view,’ said Chuck Mulloy, a spokesman for Intel, which contacted the Mercury News to share its employment data after learning of the newspaper’s federal FOIA request filed in early 2008. ‘We just felt that we’re very proud of the (diversity) programs we have in place and the efforts we put forth, and we don’t have any trouble sharing it.’”
Read more here to see what the Mercury News found in the data.
Tim Arango of the New York Times looks Monday at how some media organizations continue to fight, despite the cost, for government records believed public.
Arango writes, “On appeals, The A.P., which last year hired a new in-house lawyer, Karen Kaiser, will send documents, sometimes just a letter, that often resemble full legal briefs to agencies being tight with information. ‘We give them a taste of what a lawsuit looks like,’ Mr. Tomlin said.
“Last year, according to Ms. Kaiser, The A.P. appealed over 40 denied F.O.I.A. requests, and 28 have been resolved, 24 of them successfully. ‘The decision was made to be more aggressive because we believed it was the only way to force agencies to comply with the law,’ she said.
“In one case last year, The A.P. sought appointment calendars and schedules for the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, as well as correspondence between Mr. Geithner and Wall Street chief executives.
“After seven months of back-and-forth discussions, Ms. Kaiser drafted a complaint that she was prepared to file in federal court in New York. With the threat of a lawsuit, the Treasury Department released the documents.
“Another case involved data from the Transportation Department that The A.P. had requested about the cash-for-clunkers program. After four months, The A.P. filed an appeal, and the department relented. The data was released — 13,000 pages’ worth — on the Web.”
Read more here.