Tag Archives: Reporting tips
Getting access to analyst reports to use in business journalism articles can often be a problem for reporters. The analysts don’t want to put you on their mailing list, or they don’t want to e-mail them to you.
Here are some suggestions on how to correct this reporting issue:
Getting analyst reports can be a hit-and-miss proposition. Sometimes, you develop a relationship with an analyst, and they will send them to you in the mail, or increasingly, by e-mail.
Here are some tips on getting on analyst mailing lists:
1. Call up his office and talk to his secretary or his junior analyst and ask to be put on the e-mail list or the mailing list. Tell them that you will call less and quote the reports more if you can get them.
2. Develop a relationship with someone in the company’s PR or investor relations department who gets these reports on a daily basis. Ask them to share them with you.
3. Look at subscribing to a service such as multex.com that provides analyst reports from all of the big brokerage houses online. Sometimes, these reports can be cheap, like $5 or $25 to read, on a servicelike this. But don’t pay for it yourself. See if your newspaper will foot the bill.
As to point No. 3, I found this nice online discussion tonight on where to find analyst reports. It recommends Thomson, which can be seen here. It also suggests Investext on Dialog, which can be seen here.
In addition, if you have a Bloomberg terminal in your newsroom, you can access many analyst reports off of the machine. It depends on what type of service your paper is paying for.
I’m open to hearing/posting any other tips that reporters and editors might have about accessing analyst reports — fully understanding that the relationship between reporters and sell-side analysts is not what it was 10 years ago and that the inherent conflicts in these reports should now be fully disclosed in any story. Please share.
Do you cover the local, regional or national economy for your media outlet but aren’t really sure about what you’re doing? If that’s the case, then I ran across this cool resource:
The Center for Economic and Policy Research sends out a weekly newsletter via e-mail called Economics Reporting Review. In it, Dean Baker of CEPR evaluates the economic reporting in the New York Times and Washington Post, citing both the good and the bad. This is its most popular e-newsletter. Baker’s bio can be found here.
An example from the newsletter:
OUTSTANDING STORIES OF THE WEEK
“The Law Rides Into the Valley,” by David Streitfeld in the Washington Post, April 22,
2001, page A1.
This article reports on a series of investigations — and prosecutions — of illegal
activity in Silicon Valley firms. The article notes that there were numerous instances
in which executives at high-tech companies used questionable accounting practices,
engaged in insider trading and even outride fraud.
“Lifting the Curtain on the Real Costs of Making AIDS Drugs,” by Melody Petersen in
the New York Times, April 24, 2001, page C1.
This article examines evidence on the cost of producing AIDS drugs. It points out
that the entrance of generic producers from developing nations has shown that many
of these drugs can be profitably manufactured for 5 percent or less of their market
price in the United States.
“Salomon Faces Complaints Over Options At WorldCom,” by Gretchen Morgensen in
the New York Times, April 24, 2001, page C1.
This article reports on the investment advice that consultants at Salomon Smith
Barney gave employees at WorldCom. According to the article, the consultants gave
advice about dealing with options that benefited WorldCom to the detriment of its
employees. Such practices may have been commonplace at firms that relied on
options as large portion of employee compensation.
I’ve always felt that one of the best ways to learn how to write better business and economics stories is to read and learn from the best. To sign up for this newsletter, go here.
If we can’t make fun of ourselves, then who can we make fun of? It’s a saying that I’ve always believed in, and one of my biggest criticisms about the field of business journalism is that we often take ourselves way too seriously.
We are not perfect, and sometimes our mistakes can be embarrassing. And funny.
That’s why I was amused to see business reporting sufficiently represented in Regret The Error’s list of top errors and corrections in the media for 2005. You can see the entire list here.
For those of you too busy to read the list, hands down the best business reporting error of the year occurred on Nov. 1 in a Reuters story about a beef recall. The lead reads: “Quaker Made Meats Inc. on Tuesday said it would voluntarily recall 94,000 pounds of frozen ground beef panties that may be contaminated with E.coli.”
Note to self: Never confuse undergarments with beef when writing about a recall.
I was on the Power Reporting web site earlier today looking for something when I ran across Bill Dedmon‘s series in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1988 about how banks would not lend money in this supposed city Too Busy to Hate to consumers who lived in predominantly minority neighborhoods. The series was called the Color of Money, and at one time I had a reprint of it.
The series, which ran the first week in May in 1988, won a Pulitzer Prize the next year. For someone like me, who was just getting started in business journalism at that time, Dedmon’s series was a real eye-opener, and it showed the possibilities of computerized reporting for business topics. It was also, at least in my opinion, the beginning of the paper’s more aggressive tone in business coverage.
Sixteen years later, I found myself reading these stories and reveling once again in the simplicity of the writing and the forcefulness of the facts that caused a huge firestorm of backlash against the banking industry not only in Atlanta but all across the country.
Read the series and see for yourself.
One of the interesting discussions at the American Press Institute business editors’ seminar that I attended earlier this week was how the same story could be written in different ways but still have an angle that was of interest to readers.
The discussion leader was John Edwards III, no relation to the vice presidential candidate and current UNC professor. This one is actually an editor at the Wall Street Journal, and he used as his example how his paper had covered the story of gas prices in the past three months from various angles.
For example, a Sept. 24 front-page story in the Journal focused on how Hurricane Rita was affecting oil and gas supplies and why hurricanes were having a bigger impact on prices than before. “The cheap gas prices of the 1990s promopted oil producers to cut costs, limit investment on explorationa nd production and consolidate through mergers,” noted part of the story.
On Nov. 9, the Journal was looking at the story from a different angle — allegations of price gouging. “Over the years, federal investigators have regularly looked into complaints about gas prices and never brought a charge,” it stated.
On Oct. 25, a story in the Journal noted that the oil companies were reporting record profits, but also downplaying their results to avoid public and regulatory backlash.
On Oct. 4, the gas price story took another turn when the Journal wrote a story on D1 about the decline in sales of SUVs related to the higher gas prices.
And finally, on Sept. 24, the Journal ran a story titled “Take a Hike” about how higher gas prices have resulted in a lifestyle change for some people. “Fast-paced lifestyles — and rising gas prices — have prompted more people to take quick half-days off instead of long, leisurely vacations. Outdoor-equipment makers say some of this is reflected in growing sales of day-trip-related gear.”
What’s the point here? That business stories, particularly major stories, should be looked at from all angles, particularly those that have appeal a broad audience.
The Nieman Watchdog Project has a great list of questions for energy reporters to ask if they’re covering a power company that is thinking about filing to build a nuclear plant.
The list can be found here.
The Watchdog Project uses North Carolina’s own Duke Power as its example. The School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill, is currently planning a one-day workshop for energy reporters on how to better cover the industry. The workshop is tentatively planned for Feb. 17, 2006. I will post more details when I get them.
Ironically, Duke Power is underwriting the workshop.
The CJR Daily blog has an excellent analysis of how some business media didn’t just take what Microsoft was spoonfeeding them in covering the debut of the new Xbox 360 game console. You can read it here.
If I can add in my own unscientific 2 cents, it would be this: I have two boys, ages 13 and 9. They are serious gamers, and my house includes every game console known to man, including the Sega Dreamcast that came out before they were BORN! However, neither of my kids has expressed an interest in getting the new Xbox 360. From what they have seen, they don’t think that it’s much better than the Xbox they already have.
Right now, they’re sitting up in their hotel room playing their PlayStation 2. What they’re really waiting for is the PS3 due out in 2006.
Here is a compilation of day after Thanksgiving shopping stories that I found online this evening:
1. CNN.com’s headline focused on the bargains that retailers were already offering in its story here.
2. The CBS News story online also focused on the bargains as well as estimates from some of the largest retailers that crowds this year were bigger than last year’s official first day of shoppinin its story here.
3. Fox News currently is using the same story as CNN on its home page. See here.
4. The New York Times already has a staff-written story on its Web site. I like the focus about how worried retailers opened earlier than normal this year and that Kmart was actually open on Thanksgiving. Its story is here.
My wife was out this morning at 6 a.m. It’s a tradition for her. Since we are on a vacation, the boys and I got out later, and I was able to get one present bought for her without her noticing.
Anybody find any unique shopping stories in their local media? If so, let me know.
Remember my tips for covering retailing during Christmas in a unique way.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know I am currently reading The Empty Tank, which argues that the oil and gas industry have been feeding the general public a lie about how much energy reserves there are in the country.
I happen to have an old college drinking buddy who went on to get his PhD in geology from the University of Chicago — one of the best programs in the country. In addition, he’s spent the last decade working on nuclear energy projects. So I contacted him today to see what he had to say about this book and what he’s read in the media about the industry coverage. His comments, I think, warrant sharing with a wider audience because he has some strong views on the topic that should be a warning signal to business journalists who are following companies in this industry.
Here is what my friend, who shall remain nameless because of his current position in the industry, had to say:
“I am familiar with the book but have not read it. I think there is some truth to what is said. I am not sure the oil companies are feeding us a line but we will ‘run out’ of oil and gas. Depending on what assumptions you make, you hear later to end of this century. Regardless, it is going to get progressively more difficult to get it out of the ground as we deplete the ‘easy to get’ reserves and have to go to secondary and tertiary recovery.
“Going a bit further, I tend to look at the problem a bit more broadly. If you look at worldwide energy demand projections (with developing countries like China and India and their demand), we need to throw everything we have at the problem. Interestingly, coal reserves in the US are projected to last 300-400 years. As you know, when we talk about any fossil fuel, greenhouse gas emissions are an important consideration.
“Then you bring in energy security – i.e more reliance on domestic energy sources.
“All this leads me to say that we need clean coal, nuclear, solar, biomass, wind (what little it can provide) and others to meet our demand, provide energy security, and minimize GHG emissions.
“A bit more then you asked, but this is something I think about alot these days. Mostly from the nuclear power side but starting to think about it more broadly.
“So, back to your question, oil and gas will run out. There is still alot, but it is a finite resource and comes with a set of problems. We need to diversify and quickly. I have heard this referred to as needing to avoid the “energy train wreck.” This is no longer the supply crisis of the 70s — demand will be almost unimaginable. We need a comprehensive energy policy. What Congress did this year is only one tiny step.
“Off of soapbox. Always happy to discuss further. As you can see, I have some enthusiasm on this topic.”
If I was covering the energy industry today, I’d start asking tougher questions of the oil and gas companies. And I’d start paying attention to more of the alternative energy sources and whether they are being developed.