Tag Archives: SABEW

Money Under 30

Blogging and business journalism


Financial blogging is like gambling: You can never predict when it’s going to take off.

But a handful of different strategies — keeping it personal, having a strong social media presence and being consistent — can help propel one financial blog to be more successful than another.

A panel of financial bloggers spoke about creating and finding an audience for their own websites Saturday afternoon as part of this weekend’s Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference at Arizona State University.

In the dry area of financial writing, the ultimate goal is to make the topics approachable for anyone, said David Weliver, the founding editor of MoneyUnder30.com.

His blog, which he said has a six-figure net income, aims to provide financial advice for young people struggling with questions like whether to focus on paying off student loans or starting to invest.

“When I started Money Under 30, I knew it was going to be a blog for young adults by young adults,” said Weliver, who is now 33. “It wasn’t going to be someone with a lot of experience, as I saw a lot of mainstream financial experts, because you get the feeling that they’re your mom and dad scolding you.

“I wanted it to be more of a conversation.”

Jonathan Blum, who created The Digital Skeptic and owns Blumsday, said a successful blog is one that feels personal and connects with readers.

“You can tell remarkable stories if you’re willing to really produce the output and focus in on very particular topics,” he said. “And then you really have to be a human being. It’s really about being alive. You’ve got to be there for these readers.”

In the midst of running the different aspects of the blog, journalists need to remember not to neglect their writing — their area of expertise — said Will Chen, co-founder of Wise Bread. His site, which averages more than 2.25 million monthly page views, is the largest independently owned personal finance blog.

“The true value you as journalists bring to the table is you are expert curators of information, and that’s valuable to people,” he said, adding that it’s worthwhile to hire other people to focus on administration or advertising.

But even when everything is done right, there’s still some magic involved in creating a blog that succeeds, Weliver said.

“You’ve still gotta hit the jackpot to create an idea that really takes off.”

Megan Cassella is a UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication student attending the SABEW conference on a Talking Biz News scholarship.

Quartz tablet

Making business journalism that doesn’t taste like medicine


Delivering informative news and not making it taste like medicine is one of the key challenges of business journalism.

On Saturday afternoon, Kevin Delaney, Quartz editor in chief and co-founder, and NPR’s Planet Money’s Caitlin Kenney discussed different ways to innovate business journalism and make it compelling for readers.

Reynolds Visiting Professor of Business Journalism at Arizona State University Susan Lisovicz moderated the panel discussion, which is part of the annual Society of American Business Editors and Writers, being held this weekend at ASU.

Kenney showed clips from Planet Money’s T-Shirt Project, where the NPR team followed the making of a cotton t-shirt through four continents and a global economy.

Planet Money hoped to raise $50,000 for the project. Instead, the team raised $600,000 — which Kenney said motivated her to fulfill the high expectations from readers.

“People were so excited about the project because they had helped support it, and they really felt like they were part of it too,” she said.

The story of the t-shirt was told through audio, video and graphics — an “inherently visual” medium that drew readers in.

Delaney also said that making stories visual, through charts or graphics, is key to sticking out in the streams of news content.

News consumption is increasing, but fewer than 40 percent of Americans have a regular news habit, Delaney said. Instead, readers wade in and out of the streams.

Headlines are another way to make stories stick out to readers. Delaney said he has reporters write their headlines before they write their story.

“It brings a focus to the reporting and writing of the article,” he said.

Quartz caters to the business elite, and Delaney said he doesn’t allow throat clearing or sports analogies — respect the readers’ time, he said.

And instead of beats, Quartz reporters have what are called “obsessions.”

“We want people to write about stuff that’s important but also interesting,” Delaney said. “A lot of that stuff falls between beats.”

Nowadays, there are more forms of innovative journalism and more competition, but Delaney said he welcomes it.

“It is the readers who will ultimately decide if we’re successful or not,” he said.

Maddy Will is a UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication student attending the SABEW conference on a Talking Biz News scholarship

Factory Man

Daily writing is a sprint, but book writing is a marathon


For journalists used to the sprint of daily newswriting, writing a book can seem like a brutal marathon, a panel of journalists said Friday.

“Your body’s wrecked, your mind’s wrecked, you think, ‘why did I ever do this?’ A couple of days later, you say, ‘I want to do another one,’” said John Wasik, the author of 14 books, including the recent “Keynes’s Way to Wealth.”

Wasik joined Beth Macy, a reporter at The Roanoke (Va.) Times, and Thomas Lee, business editor and columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, in a panel discussion at the annual Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference, being held Friday and Saturday at Arizona State University.

Macy wrote a book called “Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town” coming out in July.
“My agent sold it as ‘Moneyball’ with furniture,” she said.

Lee’s book, which will be published this fall, tells the story of Target and Best Buy’s transformation to the digital age, called “Rebuilding Empires.”

He said he originally pitched the book as the story of the death of Best Buy’s empire, but his agent said that was too depressing. Ultimately, the story of Best Buy’s rebuilding turned out to be more counter-intuitive and went past the sound bites, Lee said.

Writing a book can be more satisfying than daily journalism, Wasik said. Expanding a story and creating a narrative is rewarding — but a lot of work, the panelists agreed.

“It’s a lot of time commitment —you don’t do it out of a sense that this is another hobby,” Wasik said. “This is a real commitment.”

Wasik said journalists should consider a few points when selling a book to publishers: what’s the pitch, why they’re qualified to write it and who will buy it. Working with the publishers to create a marketing plan for the book is key, they said.

It’s hard for journalists who are still working at their publication to make the time to write a book, the panelists said.

“You really, really, really have to want it,” Macy said.

Lee agreed: “It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.”

But Wasik said writing a book is worth it in the end.

“If you have a burning idea, put it together, think of it as something people need to read,” he said. “It’s the reason to exist.”

Maddy Will is a senior business journalism student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication attending the SABEW conference on a Talking Biz News scholarship

Michael Lewis

Lewis, SABEW winner, finds stories in markets


Everything is a market to best-selling author Michael Lewis.

From the story of football player Michael Oher in “The Blind Side” to the drafting process of the Oakland A’s in “Moneyball,” Lewis said he writes about markets, not business.

Lewis answered questions from “Wizard of Lies” author Diana Henriques on Friday afternoon at the annual Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference, which is being held this weekend at Arizona State University. Lewis received SABEW’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.

His next book, “Flash Boys,” is coming out Monday — but the plot has been embargoed until a “60 Minutes” special Sunday night. The story will be centered around high-frequency trading, a subject Lewis came across when he was writing an article about a computer programmer who was jailed for stealing code from Goldman Sachs.

The popular novel-turned-film “Moneyball” also evolved from an article, but Lewis realized he had to make it a book the first time he saw the Oakland A’s players naked.

He told the team’s general manager Billy Beane and other officials that he saw the players naked and that it was unappealing — the players didn’t look like professional athletes.

But that was the point, the team’s officials said. When they draft players, they look for people who don’t look like the typical baseball player, because the handsome players with the good bodies are typically overvalued.

The book gathered traction in the business world.

“A lot of business is boring,” Lewis said. “Even people who do it don’t really know how to make it interesting to their families, and if they can find a sports analogy, then it solves the boringness.”

Lewis said he won’t write a sequel to “Moneyball,” but he had the idea for another baseball book while writing “Moneyball” that never materialized. It would have been called “Underdogs,” and it would have followed the players who go through the minor leagues.

“It was cursed by ‘Moneyball,’” he said. “’Moneyball’ was so loud, I couldn’t hear myself think.”

Through his books, Lewis has made financial journalism cool, said outgoing SABEW President Kevin Hall.

The trick, Lewis said, is to tell a story well and be passionate.

“If I was a boss, if I sensed genuine enthusiasm and passion for an unrelated piece of work, I’d say go do it,” Lewis said. “The reader picks up on what the writer is enthusiastic about. You can’t fake it.”

Maddy Will is a senior business journalism student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication attending the SABEW conference on a Talking Biz News scholarship


Personal finance should be biggest biz desk beat


With roots and connections to every niche of business journalism, covering personal finance should be the biggest beat in the business, a panel of top journalists in the field said Friday morning.

But a misunderstood lack of variation in subject matter — on the surface — makes it seem repetitive and less relevant than other beats, they said.

“If you cover personal finance, you know there’s only about 14 stories out there,” said Liz Weston, a syndicated columnist on the topic. “We just keep changing the anecdotes.”

The panelists, moderated by MSN Money’s managing editor Marty Wolk, spoke Friday morning about the intricacies of the beat, why it interests them and why it’s important to the reader. The panel was at the annual Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference, being held Friday and Saturday at Arizona State University.

Interest in personal finance stories has been increasing, Wolk said, particularly as baby boomers near retirement age and realize that they’ll need to figure out how to pay health care costs and living expenses without a working income.

He said the task beat writers face is covering every scheme out there that separates people from their money.

“You need to define it more broadly,” he said. “You need to think about all the different ways that people spend their money, invest their money, and have their money at risk, even without really knowing it.”

CBS News writer and syndicated personal finance columnist Kathy Kristof said stories come from understanding and showing how broader policy changes and larger events affect individual readers.

“Each of us has a different story to tell,” she said, using the Affordable Care Act as an example of something that’s simultaneously helping some people and hurting others.

“The same event can affect your readers in a number of different ways, so if you know that, and you can dig into it, and you can know your beat so well that you can take that spectrum and explain how and why and what they can do about it… That, to me, is what personal finance is really all about.”

Cassella is a UNC-Chapel Hill business journalism student attending the SABEW conference on a Talking Biz News scholarship.


Six seek SABEW board slots


Society of American Business Editors and Writers members meeting at the annual spring conference from March 27 to March 29 will elect six members for the organization’s 22-person board of governors

The election will be contested by three incumbents and three newcomers.   Three incumbents have chosen not to run for three-year terms.

Candidates include Glenn Hall, MarketWatch (incumbent); Mark Hamrick, Bankrate.com; Mary Jane Pardue, Missouri State University (incumbent); Jim Pensiero, The Wall Street Journal; Karey Van Hall, Reuters; and Allen Wastler, CNBC.com (incumbent)

Incumbents Beth Hunt of American City Business Journals, Mark Tatge of DePauw University and Dawn Wotapka of The Wall Street Journal will not run.

The election will be conducted at the spring conference at the Cronkite School at Arizona State University Downtown.  All individual members present will be eligible to vote, along with a single representative from each SABEW’s 221 institutional members.  SABEW conducted online elections for the board in 2011-13.

Kevin G. Hall, SABEW president, said that electronic voting did result in slightly more voter participation.  “But it was more costly,” he said.  “The change is part of our effort to hold down costs wherever we can.”

Mary Jane Pardue

Business editors: Most journalism graduates unprepared to cover business, economics


More than half of business editors surveyed find graduating journalism students unprepared to cover business news, according to research from a Missouri State University professor published in Journalism and Mass Communication Educator.

The survey queried more than 240 business editors across the country, and received 73 responses. Of those that responded, 50.8 percent said that graduating seniors were “moderately unprepared” while another 6.2 percent said they were “extremely unprepared.”

The results, however, are better than those from a similar survey a decade earlier. When a similar survey was done in 2002, 64 percent said students were “moderately unprepared” while 16.1 percent responded that they were “extremely unprepared.”

The research also found that more than three out of every five business editors would be willing to pay a higher salary for a business reporter right out of journalism school if he or she had training in accounting or financial reporting. That is in line with what was found in the 2002 survey.

In 2002, about tone third said they would pay $501 to $1,000 more, but that number rose to 41.7 percent in 2012.

The research was done by Mary Jane Pardue, a journalism professor at Missouri State who is also on the board of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. It was published in the Spring 2014 issue of Journalism and Mass Communication Educator.

Pardue wrote that the study “shows that there is a continuing need for better-training business journalists and in some cases a willingness on the part of editors to pay more for journalists with special skills.”

She added that the research presents a question to journalism schools: Why haven’t they improved training for students to understand numbers?

“While few journalism students select business reporting as an area of focus, perhaps because of their ‘fear’ of using numbers, it can be argued that every beat a journalist covers has a business, financial, or economic component,” concluded Pardue. “Hence the call comes again for academia to recognize that there continues to be profound inadequacy in journalism education at a time when learning basics such as handling numbers in a story is more critical than ever.”


SABEW names Best in Business winners


The Society of American Business Editors and Writers announced honorees in its 19th Best in Business competition, which honors excellence in business journalism across all news platforms.

The 150 honored works represent all corners of financial news, from the Albany (NY) Business Review to Fortune magazine and National Public Radio, from CNBC to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Wall Street Journal.

Bloomberg News and its related media outlets, including Bloomberg Markets, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Bloomberg TV, led with 13 honors; The New York Times had eight, Reuters had seven, American Banker had six, and the Los Angeles Times and ProPublica had five each.

“We congratulate the winners, and more broadly, contest entrants, for submissions that really highlighted the strength of American business reporting. With so many strong entries, picking a winner was a tough proposition for many judges,” said Kevin G. Hall, SABEW president and chief economics correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers.

For the first time, the contest singled out a winner in each category.  “Based on feedback from members, we altered the contest this year to reduce the number of finalists in favor of a single winner in most categories,” Hall said. “This represents a big change for the organization, and we intend to engage the membership to determine whether we should continue down this road or modify the contest further.” The judges also chose to name one or two finalists in many categories, as warranted by the quality of entries.

Awards will be presented during ceremonies Saturday, March 29, at the Sheraton Phoenix Hotel, the closing event of SABEW’s 51th annual conference. The conference will be March 27-29 at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in downtown Phoenix, and features headliners author Michael Lewis, Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney, and GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons.

More than 200 working journalists and academics served as judges, sifting through a record 1,123 entries from 181 news outlets across 72 categories. “I’d like to extend a special thank-you to all our volunteer judges, who gave hundreds of hours of their time to make this the best and highest-quality contest it could be,” said Joanna Ossinger of Bloomberg News, who served as judging coordinator. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

The honored work reflected the challenges as well as the progress in the world economy in 2013.  A sampling of winners included ProPublica’s investigation into continued problems in the payday lending industry, and GlobalPost’s series on the emergence of the newly democratic Myanmar, where child labor remains a critical issue. Several publications earned recognition for “why it happened reporting,” from the Detroit Free Press series on why Detroit went broke to the Globe and Mail’s examination of corporate and government oversight failures that led to the derailment of an oil train and resulting fire that killed 47 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

View the full list here.


SABEW opposes Arizona legislation discriminating against gays


Editor’s note: Brewer vetoed the legislation Wednesday evening.

The following letter was sent by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers to the Arizona governor, Jan Brewer:

When the Society of American Business Editors and Writers moved to Arizona in 2009, we expected a warm and welcoming environment. In general, that is what we have experienced, but we have been dismayed in recent days by news that the state’s Legislature has passed, and you are considering, a measure that would allow businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians.

Such a law is offensive on its face, likely unconstitutional and would stand squarely against our association bylaws, which call for equal consideration to all people regardless of race, religion, national origin and sexual orientation, among other factors.

As news of this proposal has circulated nationally, many of our members have contacted our board and staff to express their outrage, especially since we are planning our annual conference in Phoenix at the end of March. This will be our second Arizona conference since 2010, and between the conferences and other business our association has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Arizona economy in the five years since we moved to Phoenix.

Passage of a state law discriminating against gays would make us feel less welcome in our adopted home state, and certainly deter us from considering future conferences there. Please do the right thing  and veto State Bill 1062.


Warren Watson

SABEW Executive Director

Supported by

Kevin G. Hall

SABEW President


Marty Wolk

SABEW Incoming President


SABEW’s Best in Business sets entry record


The Society of American Business Editors and Writers‘ Best in Business competition has again attracted a record number of entries  — 1,123.

“SABEW is absolutely thrilled with the record number of entries. The number slightly improved on last year’s record (1,120), set during our 50th anniversary when publicity was greater,” said Kevin G. Hall, the group’s 2013-2014 president, who works for McClatchy.

Winners of the contest, the largest of its kind, will be announced soon, with the presentation of awards at SABEW’s 51st annual conference March 29 at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University in Phoenix.

The competition was created in 1995 to recognize the best work in business journalism.  This year’s contest included entries from 181 companies, institutions and individuals, one of the highest totals ever.

“The submissions represent a wonderfully diverse group of publications and people. We’re looking forward to starting the judging process and selecting the very best from all the great business-journalism work done in 2013,” said Joanna Ossinger of Bloomberg News, who chairs the Best in Business Awards committee.

Some other highlights from the entry period:

  • Bloomberg had the most entries – 71.  Second-highest total was The New York Times (31), followed by CNN Money (30) and The Associated Press (26).
  • The contest included 39 student entries from five universities.
  • New to the contest were the New Yorker, BBC, LinkedIn and various local radio stations and specialty websites.

The BIB awards will be given out during a dinner at the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix Hotel on the final night of the conference.