Tag Archives: Reporting tips
by Chris Roush
CNBC reporter Kayla Tausche says her most effective tool in reporting about Wall Street is to text her major sources.
“Email is great, but many times people don’t want to leave a paper trail,” said Tausche in a talk Monday morning. “Texting has been the single-most important thing to my reporting.”
Tausche spoke Monday at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is a 2008 graduate of the School, where she studied business journalism. She worked at a mergers and acquisitions newsletter run by The Financial Times before joining CNBC in 2011.
Tausche said she also sends between 30 and 40 emails to traders daily to ask them what stocks they are looking at. She also said that she once called a source 20 times before he agreed to talk to her off the record.
“I’m doing exactly what I want to do,” said Tausche. “I have my dream job.”
Tausche also told the audience of about 60 that her role models are CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo, CNN anchor Erin Burnett and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan.
“Maria Bartiromo is the major name in the business,” said Tausche. “Anyone would do well to have a piece of what she has accomplished.”
She called business journalism “still, at the end of the day, a human story,” and also said that a Goldman Sachs executive gave an interview to Bloomberg Television are promising Tausche that his interview with her was exclusive.
“They didn’t love where our interview was going,” noted Tausche, adding that the interview was about veterans working on Wall Street, but that she also asked questions about the economy and Goldman Sachs’s business. “Things like that happen. People are not always going to be nice to you.”
by Chris Roush
An anonymous former Goldman Sachs banker has posted an item on Business Insider on how to spot a clueless financial journalist.
The ex-banker writes, “Here’s a hint for anyone who follows financial news but who has never worked in the industry: Markets never move in response to a rating agency change.
“Markets move in anticipation of news, months or weeks ahead of a change in credit quality. Often the ratings agencies observe a market move which prompts a query on their part, and possibly the rating agencies often have an inkling of the change in credit quality on their own.
“But the ratings agency review process itself also takes days or weeks. Which, in the continuous feedback loop of world markets, may itself prompt a market response.
“Markets are forward-looking, anticipating credit quality changes, as well as ratings agency changes. Markets never respond to credit ratings changes.
“Want to spot a journalist who doesn’t know what he’s talking about?
“Look at the one ascribing a market move to a rating agency change.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Ken Tingley of The Glen Falls Post-Star in New York writes about his paper’s business reporter, Jamie Munks, has started a new feature focusing on local, small businesses.
Tingley writes, “The premise is to tell our readers about local businesses they don’t know about, if they have unique products or a business model that others might learn from.
“The first story profiled a business owner in Warrensburg who relocated her business to Queensbury. Unfortunately, she didn’t get the traffic she wanted and moved back to Warrensburg.
“I thought it was a great story because it was the rare business story that talked about the struggle of owning a small business. We rarely get business owners who will be candid about the struggle. Too often, business owners are not willing to tell their story to us, for fear it will hurt their business.
“I think the struggle is what makes the story interesting and I believe consumers would also find it compelling.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Lindsay Riddell, a reporter for the San Francisco Business Times, writes about how about.me founder Larry Conrad has taken a personal interest in improving her page on the site.
Riddell writes, “The photo on my about.me page is a picture of me interviewing Tesla Motors Chairman Elon Musk, taken by venture capitalist and Tesla investor Steve Jurvetson. Conrad suggested I increase the opaqueness of the background to my profile text, so it would better stand out on top of the background picture. And he suggested I move that profile text lower so it didn’t get lost in the image.
“In addition to the tags already linked to my page, he suggested I also add links to my three most recent Business Times stories.
“While a link to my about.me page already appeared in my Twitter profile, he also suggested I put it in my email signature (I’m still trying to figure out how to make it a hyperlink – Entourage makes it incredibly tough).
“Since I’ve heeded Conrad’s suggestions, and talked about my about.me page in the Business Times, and since Conrad tweeted my page to his 24,000 or so Twitter followers, I’ve had 54 more views. Nothing to write home about, but also not nothing. If only Mark Zuckerberg and Biz Stone were so committed to my self-marketing.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Matthew Boesler of Business Insider interviewed Bloomberg News correspondent Elisa Martinuzzi about her recent expose that uncovered a scandal within Monte dei Paschi – the world’s oldest bank and one of Italy’s biggest.
Here is an excerpt:
How were you able to piece this story together?
EM: Though the last stretch involved pulling an all-nighter, with editors from London, to New York to Hong Kong shepherding the story out, it didn’t exactly come together in a day.
The story took six months to piece together, starting with a tip-off I got from a source. After scouring the public accounts of Monte Paschi, and seeing just a vague reference to a deal dubbed Santorini, I suspected there may have been failures in disclosure. That became apparent in November when the company said it would seek more money from the Italian government because of structured deals gone bad. Having then established through other sources that the tip-off was accurate, the next challenge was finding independent experts who could validate the thesis, as well as understanding the complex deal well-enough myself so I could explain it to our readers.
That was possibly the hardest part, because once you start reaching out to more and more sources the clock is ticking.
With my London colleague Nicholas Dunbar, we cast the net wide, from Australia to San Diego. The good news was all the experts we spoke to concurred in their analysis. We had nailed it.
by Liz Hester
The game is now in the history books, but the talk for many on Monday morning won’t be the plays. It will be about the commercials. At $4 million for 30 seconds, the trick is to get your money’s worth.
Businessweek did a piece on how some advertisers are trying to generate Super Bowl buzz without paying for it. Here’s an excerpt:
One creative way of getting an ad out on the cheap: Run a quirky, low-budget spot in a small market and watch it go viral. (Old Milwaukee beer pioneered this trick last year with an ad, featuring comedian Will Ferrell, that ran during a local ad block in North Platte, Neb.) According to Adweek, Old Spice (PG) will run a Super Bowl ad, in which wolves crash a party and hawks interrupt a poker game, exclusively in Juneau, Alaska. (The spot is already online.) The deodorant company says it chose Alaska because the state has the highest wolf population in the country. Because of the rise of small market ads like these, CBS said local ad sales at network-owned stations have hit a new record this year, with some markets charging up to $1 million per ad.
Many advertisers are turning to the web to try and generate buzz for their commercials. Here’s a story from Bloomberg:
The stakes are high for the championship football game’s advertising sponsors, who spent as much as $133,333 a second for a half-minute of airtime, a record sum marketers say is justified by the expected repeat viewings and buzz on the Web. Internet companies are taking on the role of referee, measuring viewers’ votes, searches and sentiments in an attempt to declare a winner among the Super Bowl sponsors.
The game, played in New Orleans and aired on CBS Corp. (CBS)’s network, is drawing major marketers like Coca-Cola Co. and Volkswagen AG (VOW) as well as lesser-known brands like Wonderful Pistachios and Gildan Activewear. BlackBerry (RIMM), struggling to rehabilitate its faltering brand, is advertising for the first time in the Super Bowl, promoting the long-awaited Z10 smartphone ahead of its U.S. release in March.
Many advertisers started streaming their Super Bowl spots ahead of the game to draw a bigger audience, both online and on television. Ads released before the Super Bowl typically generate more than 9.1 million online views on average, compared with 1.3 million for those appearing on the Web the day of the game, according to Lucas Watson, vice president of advertising at YouTube, owned by Google Inc. (GOOG)
And then there are the ads we’re still talking about. Mashable put together this list of the 10 best Super Bowl ads of all time. Coming in at number 1:
Who could forget the iconic Coke ad when Mean Joe Green tossed his jersey to a fan who gave him a coke to the Star Wars-themed Volkswagen ad from 2011 that quickly became a viral sensation?
It remains to be seen whether any ads from this year’s big game will rank among these classics, but there are already some promising contenders, including Hyundai’s playful 60-second spot featuring The Flaming Lips, Audi’s prom ad and Samsung’s commercial with Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd.
Then there are the companies that asked consumers to create their spots. This is from the Wall Street Journal
Rather than relying solely on traditional ad creators, many marketers have asked consumers to play a part in creating or choosing this year’s big-game commercials.
German car maker Audi posted three versions of its ad on YouTube and let consumers select which ending should air, while Ford Motor‘s Lincoln brand started a Twitter campaign that asked people to tweet their most memorable road-trip stories. It then had late-night talk-show host Jimmy Fallon select five of the tweets, which were used to create its spot.
Coca-Cola also let consumers vote on how its big game ad ends, while rival PepsiCo include hundreds of consumer-submitted photos in one of its commercials. About 100,000 photos were submitted as part of a contest Pepsi conducted.
When dozens of ads fight for attention, getting consumers involved “is an extremely efficient way to amplify your marketing,” said Paul Chibe, Anheuser-Busch’s U.S. marketing chief. The brewer is asking the public to name the baby Clydesdale that appears in its Super Bowl ad by sending their picks via Twitter and Facebook.
But it still remains to be seen if the ads actual change consumer-buying patterns. They definitely raise brand awareness, but will it translate into more sales? That’s what the coverage of the ads needed to focus on.
by Chris Roush
Bloomberg TV anchor Francine Lacqua, who is based in London, gave an interview about Davos and whether the event really matters for women to The Jane Dough. She talked about her reporting experience as a business journalist.
Sarah Devlin writes, “Bloomberg TV anchor Francine Lacqua, who has covered Davos on her show ‘On the Move’ for several years, noted that the conference presented an opportunity to revisit the question of quotas for executive boards, as one way of bringing the gender ratio at the top economic tier into balance. EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding, who originally proposed the idea of quotas, was able to revisit the question of their efficacy with Lacqua at the WEF.
“In addition to more discussion of women’s issues, Lacqua noted that her time as a financial reporter has revealed the importance of addressing widespread youth unemployment, which has been an enormous problem in the United States and abroad, affecting both young women and men over the past few years. This issue was also brought to the fore at the WEF.
“Ultimately, did Lacqua see Davos as an effective tool for change, or a glorified networking event? Definitely not the latter, she said; Davos has consistently been a forum ‘for the exchange of ideas.’ While change for women may be slow, their interests are gaining increasing representation on the global stage. It’s certainly a start.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Carter Lavin writes, tongue firmly in cheek, on Clean Technica about how business journalists should write about the solar industry.
Lavin writes, “The solar industry is convoluted and relatively esoteric, so when good business reporters write about the business, it’s not a surprise that they don’t get everything correct, but it is a shame. These articles all tend to point out and ignore the same facts — which is why they have all been wrong about the future of solar power. These articles are rarely factually inaccurate, but they often lack context, mislead with incorrect data usage, or do not account for many of the more powerful factors at play.
“In fact, these articles are so formulaic, common, and wrong that I decided to save everyone a lot of time and teach you how to make one. So here is how to write a hit piece on the solar industry.
- Start off with pointing out some of the industry’s success. Maybe you point to the rapidly growing employment in solar, the plummeting costs of systems, or solar’s widening geographic appeal.
- Transition (often with a weather pun) about dark days ahead, clouds on the horizon, or a storm’s a brewing.
DO: Say that the industry is reliant of government support and point out some federal government support the industry receives, like the solar investment tax credit. Then say that it looks like they will not get extended because of whatever the political issue de jure is. Past examples have been the recession, the debt ceiling, the election, and the fiscal “cliff.”
Read more here.
by Liz Hester
Writing about earnings should be one of the most straightforward business stories. But for larger multinational firms it can sometimes be a bit more difficult. Take for example Ford’s fourth-quarter results, which came out on Tuesday.
Here’s how the Wall Street Journal presented the earnings:
Ford Motor Co. posted fourth quarter net income of a $1.6 billion on another strong performance in North America, but the second-largest U.S. auto maker forecast a wider, $2 billion operating loss in Europe this year.
The Dearborn, Mich.-based company forecast that its total 2013 operating results will be about the same as 2012′s $7.96 billion. Ford said it would lean heavily on its home region to supply this year’s profits amid depending woes in Europe, investments in Asia and currency hits in South America.
“North America had spectacular results,” said Bob Shanks, the chief financial officer in an interview. But “clearly we have a lot of difficult times ahead of us” in Europe. “We do think it will probably bottom this year and start to go up.”
The New York Times had this to say about the full year results and the company’s recent performance.
For the full year, Ford said it earned $5.66 billion, a 5 percent drop from $5.97 billion in 2011, not including the tax-valuation changes that had increased the 2011 earnings to $20.2 billion.
Ford’s overall revenue in the fourth quarter was $36.5 billion, a 5 percent increase from $34.6 billion in the same period a year earlier. For all of 2012, revenue was $134.3 billion, a 1 percent decrease from $136.3 billion in 2011.
Despite the domestic results, the stock market appeared to focus on the European weakness, sending Ford’s stock down 4.2 percent.
The fourth-quarter results were a microcosm of Ford’s recent overall performance.
Healthy sales of new models in North America resulted in good profit margins in the region. The company introduced several new products, like the Ford Fusion midsize sedan, in the United States, where the overall industry grew by 13 percent last year.
That the overall auto market in the U.S. is expanding is interesting news, but not enough to keep Bloomberg from leading with the European recession news:
Ford Motor Co. (F), the second-largest U.S. automaker, said it expects to lose about $2 billion in Europe this year as a likely recession in the region continues to sap demand for cars.
Ford Europe lost $732 million in the fourth quarter and $1.75 billion for the full year, more than its previous forecast given in October of about $1.5 billion. The deficit will be worse in 2013 than Ford’s previous projection for a similar loss to a year earlier because a Europe-wide recession is likely this year, Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks told reporters today.
“We’re seeing weakness in the industry; certainly it will be lower than last year,” Shanks said during a briefing at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. “It’s just a very tough economic environment in Europe. We have a lot of difficult times in front of us.”
The entire top of the Bloomberg story talks about the results in Europe and the poor economic outlook. There’s no mention of the U.S. or of better sales there until much lower down in the story.
There was some other news in the WSJ story that could also give investors pause:
Ford ended 2012 with a world-wide underfunded pension obligation of $18.7 billion, compared with around $15 billion at the end of 2011, despite $3.4 billion in cash contributions to the pensions in 2012.
Mr. Shanks said the company is planning to increase its cash contributions to pensions and expects the pension obligation to be shored up by the middle of the decade. The widening pension disparity came because of the extremely low interest rates available on government bonds in the U.S. and Europe.
Ford soon will pay profit-sharing checks of about $8,300 to its 45,000 hourly workers in the U.S. represented by the United Auto Workers union. Ford pays the profit-sharing based on the pretax operating profit generated by the North American division.
That’s another way that cash will need to be allocated, giving Ford less to use for developing new products. No one would argue that funding the pension plan isn’t imperative, just that it will eat into resources that might otherwise be available.
Combined with weak outlook and drop in sales from a large region, Ford’s earnings will likely keep investors guessing as to where the auto market is heading.
Editor’s note: Here is the latest missive from Frankie Flack, our anonymous New York-based PR executive.
In July of last year Jeremy Peters of The New York Times penned a piece titled “Latest Word on the Trail? I Take It Back” that struck like a sudden earthquake in the journalism and public relations field.
Peters deftly put on paper the all-too-common recipe for making news in our modern era and major media organizations quickly changed their tastes. Specifically, Peters laid out how “quote approval,” the process in which PR can review quotes prior to publication, had become so pervasive it was just an accepted reality of doing business. The AP, New York Times, National Journal and others all put out statements clarifying the appropriate use of this practice.
As someone who frequently requests quote approval and knows many others who do the same, I can say firsthand the impact was immediate, but perhaps not dramatic. A few times I was told “I just can’t do that anymore,” and even more frequently I was asked “is it really necessary?”
Six months later I can say those concerns have largely passed.
There are undoubtedly many sides to this debate, but in my opinion quote approval is a necessary evil of business journalism. I am sure that this practice is overused and in some cases outright abused, but in many ways it offers critical benefits.
I want to be specific about business journalism here not only because it is what I know, but also because I believe quote approval is used differently versus other topics, especially politics. Most of all, business does not require media for survival while good press is the lifeblood of politics. This creates sharply different motivations for how sources view and try to use the press.
Quote approval is beneficial almost entirely because business, particularly finance, often requires a sophisticated understanding of complex topics. Furthermore, this language is almost intentionally confusing. Gillian Tett of The Financial Times has theorized, I believe correctly, that the complex language of finance is purposefully exclusionary. Using quote approval allows both the journalist and PR person to ensure that quotes are captured accurately.
Certainly reporters and editors who know the space can argue against this, but unfortunately the wall of financial language can even block the most experienced. In fact, just this week, an editor at a trade newsletter was working on a story and interviewed a client of mine about a technical trading product. It was clear she knew this space well, far better than me. However, during follow-up we found out a critical concept on how the product works was misunderstood.
Arguably more importantly, quote approval is a necessary evil now because it is the only way to get good sources to talk. There is no question, lawyers, bankers, fund managers and other key sources have become accustomed to the practice. Jack Shafer probably made this point best in his column for Reuters in which he looked at the mismatch of resources. Too many journalists chasing too few sources. As someone who has represented major players and marginal ones, I can say that the lesser known source does not enjoy the same privileges.
The reason this happens is mostly because these sources are generally wary of the press and feel more comfortable speaking openly if they feel like they have a safety net. For example, lawyers are trained to be precise with their language to an unmatched degree. The idea of words hitting paper without proper review would keep them up at night. Furthermore, as mentioned above, business does not require media coverage, so the incentives are skewed in any media/source relationship. To be blunt, good sources typically have far less to gain from a reporter then the reporter does from the source.
These are two key reasons why quote approval needs to exist in business journalism, but it does not provide blanket approval. I believe that quote approval exists for accuracy and should not be allowed when the core intent of the quote is altered after the fact.
PR people need to be able to manage their clients expectations both in setting ground-rules and when editing a quote. I often tell clients that they can check the quote for facts but are not allowed to wordsmith.
As mentioned above, the reason quote approval works in business journalism is largely for accuracy.
Journalists should also be clear about the rules and not be afraid to enforce them. Don’t give us the space to abuse the practice, because I guarantee the line will only continue to be pushed.