Tag Archives: Writing tips
John Drescher, the executive editor of The (Raleigh) News & Observer, writes Sunday about business reporter Sue Stock, whose weekly column about how much money she has saved from using coupons has become a local sensation.
Stock, who saved more than $4,600 last year using coupons,Â recently drew a crowd of 300 people to a talk she gave at a local movie theater.
Drescher writes, “Stock, a business reporter, is our self-described ‘Coupon Queen.’ Since telling our readers in November 2005 about her coupon obsession, many of our readers have become obsessed with her advice.
“Her Taking Stock blog at newsobserver.com (check out her database of coupons) is one of our top-drawing blogs, consistently ranking just behind the ACC Now and Under the Dome blogs in readership.
“So when our circulation staff put together the event featuring Stock a few weeks ago, I wasn’t surprised that I had to drive around for five minutes to find a parking spot. Stock Mania had swept through Mission Valley.
“It started with the 2005 article in which she revealed her passion.”
Read more here.
Among the changes in the 2008 Associated Press stylebook, used on business news desks around the country, are new entries for products like the iPhone and technology news terms such as “podcasting” and “text messaging.”
“Anti-spyware” and “high-definition” are also new busines terms in the book.
The entry for “company names” has grown to 3 1/2 pages, listing the formal names of the top 100 U.S. companies and 50 major non-U.S. firms. The new “cable networks” and “movie studios” entries list the leading entities in those media — from A&E to the Weather Channel and from Columbia TriStar to The Weinstein Co. — as well as their owners.
The revised Business Guidelines section contains new primers on covering bankruptcy and mergers and acquisitions, and interpreting proxy statements.
Andrea James, a business reporter at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, has launched a blog called Andrea on Amazon about online retailing, and in a blast e-mail introducing the blog, she notes how the content will be different — and similar — to what she writes in the print paper.
James writes, “In the past year especially, the Seattle P-I has gotten serious about the Web — we’re now among the top 20 newspapers in the nation in terms of Web visitors, according to the Nielson Ratings.
“My deadlines have shortened from 6 p.m. daily to about five minutes ago, no matter what time it is. Luckily, thanks to a stint at Bloomberg News in London, I’m at ease with this fast form of journalism. It’s exciting!”
Later, she concludes: “Though the blog lets me have fun with my coverage, and write more informally, the old journalism standards still apply: accuracy, timeliness and newsworthiness are kings.”
Stacy Hanna of the Battle Creek Enquirer in Michigan writes Tuesday about the lessons she has learned as a business reporter during the past four years.
Hanna writes, “I learned to keep a good calculator in reach at all times and to find a colleague who can accurately (if not happily) check my math â€” percentages in particular. This is easier said than done in a newsroom.
“I learned to make friends with the gatekeepers at companies such as Kellogg and Denso. They not only offer great day-to-day insight, but generally can find you 15 minutes of their boss’ time, even where it doesn’t exist.
“I learned to spend as much face-to-face time with small-business owners as possible. They are the real risk-takers. It takes a lot more guts to put your own livelihood on the line than that of your shareholders, in my opinion.”
Read more here.
Brian O’Connor, the personal finance editor of the Detroit News, has won third place in humor writing in the large newspaper category from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, according to a short story on the paper’s Web site.
The story stated, “O’Connor, whose column runs Saturdays and Tuesdays in The News’ business section, was cited for a column explaining the causes of the global credit crunch; another on the financial advantages — and perils — of marriage; and a third that somehow related personal finance to a series of events involving his wife’s Swedish relatives, auto registration, Cinco de Mayo and a New York attic filled with bat guano.
“The judge was Ruth Butler, a columnist and editor at the Grand Rapids Press. In her comments, Butler wrote that O’Connor, ‘makes finance fun. You’re smiling and before you know it a potentially dry subject has become informative and entertaining.’
“Other winners in the category — humor writing for newspapers with more than 100,000 circulation — were Bill Ervolino of The Record in Hackensack, N.J., who took second place; and Lynn Yaeger of The Village Voice in New York, who won first place.”
Read more here.
Marketwatch media columnist Jon Friedman writes Friday about New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera, a Pulitzer finalist whose columns are well-reported and often take a contrarian viewpoint.
Friedman writes, “There are four stages to a typical Nocera column, as he sees it: ‘I do the reporting. I challenge people. I present a back-story. And I want to provoke you.’
“Nocera has no use for columnists who are afraid to offend their subjects.
“‘What is the point of writing a column if you are just telling people what they already know?’ he asked.
“Giving opinions comes easily to Nocera. He is accustomed to being heard, especially given the fact that he’s the oldest of nine children.
“Nocera also excels at writing about business in a conversational way. While some journalists act like extensions of Wall Street, making points with rampant use of jargon and convoluted language, that’s not true of Nocera. For example, his June 7 column led with this sentence to describe a lawyer: ‘Some guys just don’t know when to shut up. William S. Lerach is one of those guys.’”
Read more here.
Allen Wastler, the managing editor of CNBC.com, writes Thursday that he often uses movies to explain complicated business journalism topics.
I like hisÂ use of commodity trading using the Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd movie “Trading Places” because I have used the same when teaching about commodities markets.
Wastler writes, “In financial journalism, you often have to explain complicated concepts simply. It can be hard. That’s why I like movies.
“When someone asks me to explain what a ‘bank run’ is, I often refer to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and the bank panic that killed George’s honeymoon plans. That’s come in handy for all the recent Bear Stearns and Lehman Bros. coverage. People quickly go ‘Oh , yeah.’ Then, with images of panicked people and George’s heart-felt talk about the money being in homes, not bank vaults, you can go ahead and dive deeper.
“In fact, clips from the scene are often used by TV news to get into bank run stories, since it quickly conveys the emotional sense of what’s going on. (And if bankers were more like Jimmy Stewart, maybe there wouldn’t be so much Wall Street roadkill, but that’s another post).
“A colleague recently pointed out that ‘Mary Poppins’ also has a good bank run scene. I also like Mary Poppins for its overall explanation of how banking works.”
Read more here.
Allen Wastler, the managing editor of CNBC.com, notes that business news stories last week about the trouble banks are having with their mortgages likely chased away readers by using the acronym LIBOR.
Wastler writes, “But it is a complicated term. It’s an acronym that, when placed in a headline, signals to readers ‘Hey, this may be a hard story to read and understand.’ We may as well put a sparkly graphic in the lead signalling ‘Run Away … Run Away … Run Away …’
“There are other words and terms like that too. Amortization. Yield Curve. Mezzanine Finance. Data is not a good headline word either, although it gets used a lot because it is short and can fit into tight spaces.
“Of course, some words have the reverse effect. See our Eliot Spitzer coverage for some examples.
“Journalism professors will say that it is up to the reporter and editor to come up with a way to tell the important story simply, without the jargon that chases typical readers off. Business journalism is a tough coverage area to do that in, but we try, honest.”
Read more here.
Well-known business journalist Richard Behar‘s opus in the June issue of Fast Company about China’s growing economic influence in Africa is long, really long.
So long that it’s the longest article ever published by the magazine at 18,700 words. It’s broken up into six parts — and 24 pages — to make it more palatable.
Editor Robert Safian writes in the issue that Behar was the first American journalist to enter Equatorial Guinea in three years. “He went into the forests of Mozambique, trailed bribe-paying loggers, accosted unsavory wheeler-dealers, and brought back a potentially deadly parasite to boot.” (Behar, who used to work at Fortune,Â actually leads the article discussingÂ how he almost died from the illness.)
Safian added, “It’s the kind of article that people like me go into this business to help create. You’ll never look at the world the same way again.”
Read more here. The previous record holder for Fast Company? “Fantastic Voyage” by Charles Fishman in the February 2000 issue ran 10,000 words.
Marketwatch media columnist Jon Friedman takes a look Friday at CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason, who weaves stories about business and finance in the tradition of Charles Kuralt.
Friedman writes, “Mason, who has been reporting for CBS since the 1980s, said he ‘raised his hand’ a decade ago to volunteer for the business beat, but he never expected to stay on it for quite so long.
“‘If you had told me I would be covering business for 10 years, I would’ve told you were absolutely insane,’ he said. ‘When I was a kid, it was something my brother, a banker, and my father, who started the Japan Fund, did. I was more interested in covering global crises.’
“His biggest career regret is being unable to report from the New York Stock Exchange in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He recalled that an NYSE official told him, ‘If you can get here, we’ll let you in, but good luck.’”
Read more here.