Tag Archives: Writing tips
The Financial Times had a recent article examining CNBC’s attempt to run a business news show in 100 countries. It ran in the Los Angeles Times this morning.
The Times wrote: “The show, called ‘Global Players With Sabine Christiansen,’ is one of several new formats CNBC is testing to shake off its dry image as a real-time stock-exchange channel. The network, part of the NBC-Universal empire controlled by General Electric Co., recently hired the former Walt Disney Co. chief executive to anchor ‘Conversations With Michael Eisner,’ which will start airing in two months.
“To call Christiansen â€” a flight attendant-turned-journalist who anchored the nation’s top news program for a decade up to 1997 â€” a national icon is an understatement. ‘Sabine Christiansen,’ her weekly one-hour program on the ARD public channel, has topped audience ratings in talk-show-mad Germany for seven years and spawned countless imitations.
“Each week, 4 million to 8 million viewers tune in to watch politicians, businessmen and pundits cross swords on topics as diverse as worries about bird flu and the intricacies of the latest welfare state reform.
“Most of the German political class has sat under the trademark blue cupola of her Berlin studio. So have Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, Tony Blair and Condoleezza Rice.
“Such is the institutional status of Christiansen that Wolfgang Thierse, then-president of the German parliament, once grumpily complained that ‘there is more politics being done under the blue cupola these days than in the Bundestag.’
“The journalist and businesswoman, whose marital travails regularly make the front page of the tabloid Bild Zeitung, has attracted her share of criticism, mainly for her cushy, nonconfrontational style.”
Read the entire piece here.
Yvette Kantrow, the executive editor of TheDeal.com and one of the sharpest analyzers of business media coverage, took Columbia Journalism Review to task in her weekly column. Seems the self-appointed media watchdog was too critical of Barron’s recent critical piece on Google for Kantrow’s taste.
Kantrow writes: “If stories about the market, or a particular stock, must be “ironclad” and “unambiguous,” as CJR deems they must, any journalist now writing about stocks (or bonds or soybean futures or anything else bought and sold on an open exchange) should just unplug their computers, throw away their Rolodexes and retreat to that cute little bookstore in Vermont right now.
“For nothing about a market is certain; just because a stock trades at one price today doesn’t mean it will trade at that price a year from now, a month from now, even a day from now. There is no such thing as an ‘ironclad’ story when writing about the market, unless of course, you’re simply reporting what’s already happened. Once you get into predicting how a stock (or a company, for that matter) will perform tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that, uncertainty is inescapable.
“That’s not to say, of course, that financial reporters should feel free to carelessly produce uninformed stories fueled by reckless speculation. But that’s hardly what [Barron's writer Jacqueline] Doherty did. Right off the bat â€” the second paragraph, to be exact â€” she acknowledges that ‘there are those who disagree’ with her bearish thesis and expect Google to go as high as $2,000 a share. She then engages in what she admits is a ‘less than scientific’ exercise in which she shaves 20% off of an ‘uber-bull’s’ 2006 revenue estimates for Google; trims his projected expenses; makes a few other assumptions about compensation and cash and concludes that Google would be worth $188 a share, not its recent $360.”
Later, Kantrow added, “Does CJR really want financial reporting that does nothing but repeat or reinforce the conventional wisdom? Barron’s, interestingly enough, caught similar flak in March 2000 when it ran its infamous â€” or should we upgrade it to famous? â€” burn-rate story that claimed that scores of new-economy darlings were quickly heading for bankruptcy. Other journalists, Web companies and investors severely chastised the magazine for causing Internet stocks to fall with an analysis they viewed as deeply flawed. But when the tech-heavy Nasdaq crashed one month later, the piece was hailed as visionary for being one of the first to take sky-high Internet valuations to task.”
Read Kantrow’s entire column on the issue here.
That’s the theory being floated at the Search Engine Journal — yes there is such an online publication.
The SEJ reports: “The Google Finance channel or complementary search listings must be highlighting either blog or news stories related to stock ticker symbols. Iâ€™m also guessing that Google Finance Groups threads and possibly even Adwords or Google Local Maps may be included.
“Adding more to my theory that Google is soon launching their Finance Channel or Google Finance, the referrals come from computers tracked back to Google.com, IP addresses 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52 & 184.108.40.206 (UK?) which seem to all be Google related in some form.
“When asked about the launch of Google Finance, a Google spokesperson told the Search Engine Journal: ‘Weâ€™re always exploring opportunities to expand our offerings, but donâ€™t have anything to announce at this time.’
“Given what Iâ€™ve found this morning, Iâ€™ll go out on a limb and say that Google Finance is about to launch or is going through some heavy testing.”
What does this mean for business journalism? Another potential outlet for business coverage — and another potential competitor.
Herb Greenberg, the well-known columnist for Marketwatch.com, reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission has subpoenaed his phone records and e-mails in relation to its investigation into Gradient Analytics.
“It would be one thing if I were trading stocks or options (I don’t own any or short any — never have since I started writing this column for the San Francisco Chronicle in 1988); or if I was getting paid by someone involved in these stocks (I’m not); or if I was coordinating the publication of my stories with sources (not doing that either).”
Greenberg and Marketwatch’s parent, Dow Jones, have objected to the subpoeanas. He later writes, “If my unpublished communications aren’t safe from government eyes, then the tools of every business reporter in this country become fair game for any company that doesn’t like scrutiny and chooses to play the ‘conspiracy’ card. If that happens, sorry to say — dear readers — you will be on your own when it comes to policing public companies.”
Former BusinessWeek reporter Gary Weiss calls the whole naked short selling issue â€” and Greenbergâ€™s subpoena â€” pure â€œhysteriaâ€? on his blog. Weiss writes: â€œAn innocent guy who used to be a paper-pusher on Wall Street gets grilled over a non-scandal, and a tough reporter who is the bane of cruddy companies gets an SEC subpoena. If that isnâ€™t hysteria, I donâ€™t know what is.â€?
Read Greenbergâ€™s column here.
Minneapolis Star Tribune workplace reporter H. J. Cummins begins a story in this morning’s paper with this information: “Two weeks ago, our business editor got walloped by the flu, and an assigning editor soon joined him on the sick list. Then last week the bug got our deputy business editor, keeping him home for two days. The reporter across the aisle from me got sick Thursday. And by the end of the day I knew the virus had me, too; I missed work on Friday. This week, our assistant design director called in sick.”
I like the lead. It lets readers know that newspapers are prone to the same problems as other workplaces.
Just remind me never to work at the Star Tribune, or shake hands with one of their employees. I wouldn’t want to get the germs.
Read the entire piece here.
Former BusinessWeek investigative reporter Gary Weiss believes that many in the business media are too soft on Wall Street, and those that are aggressive get attacked.
Weiss writes on his blog: “The media are far too soft on the Street and particularly the bad guys — the ones with their hands in your pocket, whether they are fee-happy, secretive hedge funds or the ubiquitous small-cap fraudsters. Unfortunately the bad guys have a way of fighting back against the few tough financial reporters. And I mean fight dirty.”
Later, he notes, “One leading target of the naked shorting loons is Tim Mullaney of Business Week. Tim hasn’t written about naked shorting. His crime is that he planned to do a piece on Overstock Inc., whose CEO, Patrick Byrne, is a godlike figure among these crazies because he has adopted their cause. Some of Tim’s questions upset Byrne, and the smear machinery swung into motion, with the obvious intent of getting BW to lay off.
“Enter ‘Bob O’Brien,’ the pseudonym of a creep who runs anti-naked shorting cult websites. Cringing behind a phony name to stave off process servers, ‘O’Brien’ has repeatedly smeared Tim on the Internet, using a tactic straight out of Joe McCarthy. He learned that Tim once worked at the Baltimore Sun, so he twisted that into a smear to give the impression that Tim left the Sun under a cloud. ‘Ask Tim why he left Baltimore,’ O’Brien has asked repeatedly in Internet postings.
“I did. Tim’s response: He left the Sun to take a university position at a 40% raise.”
Read the entire post here.
Now’s a good time to make plans to attend SABEW’s annual conference. It will be held Sunday, April 30, to Tuesday, May 2, in Minneapolis-St. Paul, which is at its northern best in the spring.
Among the topics:
*How to solve thorny convergence issues;
*How to cover health care as a business;
*Proven methods to deepen your reporting and sharpen your writing;
*Tips on dealing with the chronic bugaboo of “resource challenges.”
As usual, there’ll be a panel of winners of the “Best in Business” awards to explain How They Did It. And perhaps best of all, there will be plenty of time to see old friends, meet new ones, and perhaps make that crucial contact that could boost your career.
For those members seeking additional training while in the Twin Cities, SABEW is planning to co-sponsor a pair of intense, day-long boot camps. One will be for editors, the other for reporters. Both will be held Saturday, April 29, the day before the annual conference officially begins.
The venues: The elegant Hyatt Regency Minneapolis Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. The Best in Business awards presentation will be held at the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul.
Remember, the earlier the better for air fares. And the early bird discount at the Hyatt Regency ends March 28, after which rates go up.
Call 800-233-1234 or 612-370-1234 for hotel reservations.
Michael Lewis, the acclaimed author of Liar’s Poker and Moneyball, writes a column for Bloomberg News. In his most-recent column, he took up the issue of New York real estate developer Donald Trump’s lawsuit against New York Times business writer Timothy O’Brien for defaming him by allegedly underreporting his networth in the new book TrumpNation.
Lewis writes, “In short, Donald Trump is saying that he is a success because people believe he is a success. He may even believe it. But is it true? The producers of “The Apprentice” greeted the news of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts’ Chapter 11 filing with indifference — they sensed, rightly, that the people buying Donald Trump’s fantasy didn’t care much about the underlying reality. It seems more likely that Trump will remain a success so long as he can persuade himself that he is a success, which is a different thing.
“Tim O’Brien hasn’t sold many books, but he may have done something even more remarkable: caused Donald Trump, for just a moment, to wonder about himself.”
Read the entire column here.
Although many large metropolitan newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News, Houston Chronicle and Denver Post have business reporters or columnists blogging, I’ve discovered that some smaller papers are also getting into the act.
At The Herald in Everett, Wash., just north of Seattle, they have had two business-related blogs for the past two years, according to business editor Mike Benbow, who e-mailed me today. Their technology writer, Eric Fetters, has one on the bio-tech industry, largely on companies that he covers. Bryan Corliss, the paper’s Boeing reporter, has one on aerospace.
Said Benbow: “Working for a 50,000 circulation newspaper, I was a bit concerned when we started about how much time the blog would take from my reporters’ ‘real jobs.’ The truth is, it’s well worth it. Both reporters say that putting in blog entries on items they will also write stories about helps them shape their leads and focus on what’s news, what’s plain fun and what’s trivia. In some cases it has also given them increased credibility with analysts who cover their companies and also are careful readers of their blogs.
“Our aerospace blog is routinely among the most-read elements of our web site, largely due to the fact that Boeing builds its 777, 767 and 747 jets in Everett and has thousands of employees here, many who typically hit Heraldnet on their lunch hour,” added Benbow. “In addition to credibility with analysts, the blog has helped us gain sources from the rank and file inside the plant that we never would have met.”
I find myself fighting with my colleagues on the journalism faculty about the fact that we need to start teaching more about blogs, but I’ve gotten some resistance to the idea. When small papers like the Everett Herald start blogging, you realize that this is not a fad that will die out. Blogs are a way to reach an audience that typically does not read the newspaper in a way that brings some of the personal touch back to the media.
Paul Maidment, editor of Forbes.com and executive editor of Forbes, had some ideas as to why the field of business journalism missed the Enron scandal before it exploded, and they come from two academics who have studied the relationship between the business media and the market.
In a column last week, Maidment wrote, “It is no secret that there are many pressures on journalists that lead to a built-in bias in the press. Those pressures from proprietors and advertisers are well documented. But Dyck and Zingales say the business press faces a third pressure particular to their calling that is more distorting than the other two–that there is a systemic quid pro quo bias between journalists and their sources, whereby journalists receive private information in exchange for a positive spin on companiesâ€™ news.”
Maidment is referring to a paper by two economists, Alexander Dyck now at the University of Toronto and Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago, that argues that market forces drive the business media to behave they way that they do.
Added Maidment: “In the case of Enron, Zingales says that while there was sufficient accounting transparency, what was lacking were the incentives for uncovering negative information about a company. And he and his co-author offer evidence that these incentives diminish during stock market bubbles.
“Their argument is as follows: The primary point of information collection about listed companies is financial market speculators. The main way to profit from negative information is to short the stock. During periods of stock market euphoria, short positions are highly dangerous. Hence, during bubbles short-sellers will be few and far between, and thus the search for negative information light.”
Interesting conclusions. It makes me want to get a copy of this paper. If I can find it online, I will post the link.