Tag Archives: Reporting tips
The Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism has a new live chat about business story ideas Monday through Thursday on its Web site.
On this page, the folks at the Reynolds Center kick off a discussion about the business story of the day and then offer a place for you to share questions, tips and ideas.
Drop by from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern time to get help finding sources, surfacing new angles on perennial stories or localizing national news. You can share the obstacles you’re encountering or the successes you’re having in real time, and get help from others.
Recent hot topics have been localizing the Toyota recalls, finding fresh biz angles for Valentine’s Day and analyzing the business impact of the Mid-Atlantic snowstorms.
You can find archives of recent chats here.
The NYTPicker site notes that the Andrew Martin article in the Sunday business section of the New York Times failed to conduct a basic background check on its topic — a businessman who provides loans to small businesses.
That background check would have discovered an arrest for accessing his former employer’s computer system and deleting purchase orders.
NYTPicker writes, “Martin’s story makes no mention of the arrest — or even of any significant information about Eitelberg before 2004, when he founded Hartsko. Martin reports only that Eitelberg worked ‘for years on the financial side of the garment industry, following in the footsteps of his father.’
“Eitelberg told Martin that many of the businesses he worked for ‘struggled to stay afloat and had to seek purchase-order financing’ and that he ‘had an epiphany one day that he was in the wrong business.’
“Interestingly, the crime that Eitelberg was charged with would have given him a leg up in creating his current business — in that he was alleged to have taken purchase orders from his former employer’s computer. But all Martin says about the Hartsko’s start is that he began ‘with a loan from several investors and a $1 million credit line from a bank.’
“The nature of Hartsko’s business, as one of its current clients puts it, is roughly akin to ‘loan sharking.’”
Read more here.
Dan Froomkin, the deputy editor of the Nieman Watchdog Project, has seven economics-related story ideas that business journalists should be working on now because they’re bigger issues than current stories have implied.
Here is one of them:
No. 4: Then what? This time, we donâ€™t have the tools to get out of a recession
The recognized way of dealing with a recession is to lower interest rates in order to stimulate the economy. But the Federal Reserve canâ€™t lower the rate to below zero, so thatâ€™s out.
The government can pour vast amounts of money into the economy, either through a stimulus or a massive bailout — or, as the case may be, both.
But next time around, that money might not be there.Â Not only could the political will be lacking, butÂ there is an upper limit to just how much money the country can borrow and spend at one time without it doing more harm than good.
Read the rest of them here.
Lauria writes, “On Friday morning’s ‘Squawk on the Street,’ anchor Bob Pisani said GE was expecting ‘flattish growth’ for 2010.
“Unless Pisani was attempting to coin a new oxymoron, there is no such thing as flattish growth. A company’s earnings outlook can be down, flat, or up. There’s no such thing as a flattish decline, either.
“When it comes to GE’s earnings, which have declined for several quarters in a row, CNBC’s anchors are well-versed in such linguistic gymnastics. When GE famously shocked Wall Street by missing its quarterly earnings expectations last year, the network’s anchors repeatedly used such euphemisms as ‘essentially in-line’ or ‘basically flat’ or ‘slightly below projections’ to soften the blow of the miss.
“Here’s a short lesson on earnings reporting: An outlook can be down, flat or up, and results can be missed, made or exceeded. Synonyms are acceptable.”
Read more here.
Former New York Post and Fortune business writer Roddy Boyd writes on The Big Money site about his struggles to produce aggressive business journalism about Overstock.com in the wake of its aggressive tactics to counteract his stories.
Boyd writes, “Too often, though, critics underestimate the difficulty and the cost of doing aggressive business journalism that companies donâ€™t like. There is an ugly truth to doing investigative reporting on a companyâ€™s financial state of affairs: It is far from a precise science. A curious business reporter can frame the gap between a companyâ€™s otherwise decent profits and weak cash-flow generation but canâ€™t responsibly go much further than laying out some accounting considerations. The vastly more worrisome issues that a company chooses not to disclose can be kept safely from the publicâ€™s view for decades.
“Then there is the push-back. Corporations have everything to lose from bad press: credit-rating downgrades, regulatory investigations, lost business, and, above all, a possibility of stock-price declines. So as often as not, they fight a tooth-and-nail battle with investigative reporters and editors to tone down, delay, or even kill looming bad press. Outside public relations and law firms can turn an extraordinary amount of heat on increasingly over-matched editors and lawyers on the reporterâ€™s side of the fence.
“The most extreme form of this behavior comes from Overstock.com, a Salt Lake City-based Internet retailer that is in the news almost as frequently for the outrageous pronouncements of Patrick Byrne, its founder and chief executive, as it is for selling retailers’ surplus inventories. Byrne is best-known for his quest to eradicate naked short-selling, a violation in which a trader fails to borrow stock adequately prior to selling it short. He believes that a far-reaching conspiracy of reporters, hedge-fund managers, and regulators are in league to abet naked shorting.”
Read more here.
Former Seattle Post-Intelligener business reporter Andrea James, now a junior stock analyst, writes on her personal blog about what it was like one year ago when she and the paper were scooped on the story that the paper was for sale and could close by a local TV station.
James writes, “Reporter Dan Richman and I could not confirm the TV report that evening. At one point after several unsuccessful calls, I slammed down the phone and said, ‘Linda Byron better have a damn good source!’
“Boeing reporter James Wallace responded, ‘No. No, she better have a f*cking lousy source!’
“I have to hand it to King-5: It was a great scoop. Some people in the newsroom said it was humiliating that we found out externally â€” imagine being scooped on our own demise!
“Strangely, I did not share that sense of indignity. I tried to summon outrage, but for me the whole situation was just ironic.
“I felt like Iâ€™d had plenty of personal scoops. Also, even though the business of media was one of many topics on my ever-enlarging-as-the-staff-was-shrinking beat, a P-I closure wasnâ€™t on my radar.”
Read more here.
Bloomberg editor in chief Matthew Winkler sent out a memo to the staff showing examples of improper — and proper sourcing and reminded reporters to be more vigilent in getting more precise comments from sources, according to the memo obtained by Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan.
The memo states, “‘Abu Dhabi may go after some pieces in exchange for bailout money, say analysts. While many analysts fear that Citi in particular isn’t ready to fly solo, the White House gave its blessing.’
“((Not all analysts are created equal. Some are more insightful or accurate. Providing names and credentials would make their points more credible.))
“‘More broadly, governance experts worry the new board is overreaching.’
“((While this sentence sets up the story, no governance experts are quoted as worrying.))
“‘Pandit’s hoping to hash out a plan in the next week or so, say people familiar with the situation.’
“((Adding the number of people and how they are aware of the plans would make this more credible. The most accurate people are those taking part in the action.))
“These quotes add little that would require anonymity and would gain credibility by adding the person’s name and credentials:
“‘We were dark for a very long time,’ says a senior executive who is helping find a new CMO.
“‘Why would I buy AOL?’ asks a large media investor. ‘It would largely be a bet on Tim, given what he was able to do at Google.’
“These attributions meet our standards:
“The board batted the proposal back, say three people familiar with the meeting.
“One of the three private equity directors asked if GM could buy an engine from someone else, say two people with knowledge of the meeting.”
Read more here.
John Martellaro, a former Apple senior marketing manager, writes on the Mac Observer site about how the company uses the business media for its own gains.
Martellaro writes, “The way it works is that a senior exec will come in and say, ‘We need to release this specific information. John, do you have a trusted friend at a major outlet? If so, call him/her and have a conversation. Idly mention this information and suggest that if it were published, that would be nice. No e-mails!’
“The communication is always done in person or on the phone. Never via e-mail. That’s so that if there’s ever any dispute about what transpired, there’s no paper trail to contradict either party’s version of the story. Both sides can maintain plausible deniability and simply claim a misunderstanding. That protects Apple and the publication.
“In the case of yesterday’s story, Walt Mossberg was bypassed so that Mr. Mossberg would remain above the fray, above reproach. Also, two journalists at the WSJ were involved. That way, each one could point the finger at the other and claim, ‘I thought he told me to run with this story! Sorry.’
“Finally, the story was posted online late Monday, eastern time, so no one could ever suggest there was any attempt to manipulate the stock market.”
Read more here.
Fox Business Network‘s Neil Cavuto talkes with NewsPro’s Elizabeth Jensen about how he got into business journalism and other parts of his career.
Here is an excerpt:
NewsPro: Viewer interest in business television tends to go up with the market, and down with it as well; consumer viewers just donâ€™t want to be reminded of their losses. By that measure, Fox Business Network launched at maybe the worst possible time, given the financial crisis of the last year, and the ratings that have been released have been quite low. How have you had to adjust expectations or recalibrate the networkâ€™s programming strategy?
Cavuto: If you live and die by the markets you will probably tie your success to the markets. My goal here [working in concert with Kevin Magee and Roger Ailes] was, we wanted to step back a bit, to understand there is a difference between markets and market moving. You donâ€™t have to lead every broadcast with a tick in the Dowâ€¦ I think one of the things we aim to do here is to unleash people from the view that everything wraps around Wall Street. Weâ€™ve covered relentlessly the financial crisis. â€¦ Weâ€™re about green, following peopleâ€™s money, not about being red or blue. Once exposed to it, people like it. I think we are managing to do something with business that has never been done, to make it fun and engaging.
Read more here.
Banking analyst Richard Bove plans to restrict his appearances on business news channels such as CNBC and Fox Business Network and limit journalist access to his research reports, writes Brendan Conway of Dow Jones Newswires.
Conway writes, “Selected reports will be available to the media on a case-by-case basis. But the full research reports will no longer be readily available to reporters and other non-clients, Bove said Monday.
“In addition, the analyst’s frequent television appearances on CNBC, Fox Business Network and elsewhere will also be suspended for at least the rest of the year after this evening, Bove told Dow Jones Newswires.
“‘The information is getting to [people] who are not paying,’ Bove, of Rochdale Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires by phone Monday. ‘It’s weakening our whole approach to how we want to price the product.’
“Broad distribution is being ended for at least the rest of 2009 and is under review for afterward, so that ‘paying customers will recognize they are getting a unique product,’ Bove said.”
Read more here.