American History of Business Journalism

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In: Awards 27 Apr 2015 0 comments

Here are the 2014 BIB winners and finalists. Winners were announced at the 2014 BIB awards ceremony at SABEW’s spring conference in Chicago, April 25.



Finalist- Amanda Levin, The Deal, for “Unsolicited bid puts Cleco on the block.”


Winner- Dan Mangan,, for Affordable Care Act subsidies ruling coverage.


Winner- Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica, for “The Trade.”


Winner- Walt Mossberg, Re/code, for his technology columns.


Finalist- Rob Hotakainen, Takaaki Iwabu, Patrick Davison, Danny Dougherty, Tish Wells, Cheryl Diaz Meyer, McClatchy Washington Bureau, for “US exporters eye Japan.”

Winner- Matt Drange, Susanne Rust, Andrew Donohue, The Guardian US, The Center for Investigative Reporting, for “Toxic Trail.”


Finalist- Elizabeth Gannes, Re/code, for “I want it and I want it now: The machine behind instant gratification.”

Winner- Heesun Wee, Kevin Krim, Jeff Nash,, for “How millennials are shaking North Korea’s regime.”


Winner- Eleanor Bell, Daniel Wagner, Center for Public Integrity, for “Time is Money.”


Finalist- Nellie Bowles, Re/code, for “Downtown Las Vegas is the great American techtopia.”

Winner- Lawrence Delevingne, Kevin Krim, Jeff Nash,, for “The life and death of a master of the universe.”


Winner- The Deal Staff, The Deal


Winner- Quartz Staff, Quartz


Finalist- Paul Kiel, Chris Arnold, ProPublica, National Public Radio for “The long life of debt.”

Winner- Greg Gordon, Lydia Mulvaney, Deb Gruver, Paul Hampton, Tish Wells, Danny Dougherty, McClatchy Washington Bureau, for “Motorola’s lock on emergency communications equipment.”


Finalist- Adam Feuerstein, TheStreet, for “Galena’s good reviews.”

Winner- David Sirota, International Business Times, for “Public Money, Private Profits.”


Finalist- Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica, for Chesapeake Energy coverage.

Finalist- Bruce Henderson, The Charlotte Observer, for energy coverage.

Winner- Jeffrey Ball, Fortune, for “Mexico Black Gold.”


Finalist- Ann Marsh, Scott Wenger, Kamrhan Farwell, Financial Planning for ”Could financial planning help stem the rate of military suicides?”

Finalist- Allan Sloan, Fortune, for “Positively Un-American.”

Winner- Chloe Sorvino, May Jeong, Geoff Dyer, Victor Mallet, Financial Times, for “The Cost of War.”


Finalist- Rita Price, Ben Sutherly, The Columbus Dispatch, for “Home-care Crisis.”

Finalist- Shannon Pettypiece, Jordan Robertson, Bloomberg News, for “Health Secrets for Sale.”

Finalist- Nikhil Deogun, Meg Tirrell, Jodi Gralnick, CNBC, for “Desperate Measures.”

Winner- Beth Daley, Shan Wang, Samantha Costanzo, New England Center for Investigative Reporting, for “Unregulated Tests.”


Finalist- Gregor Aisch, Wilson Andrews, Jeremy Ashkenas, Matthew Bloch, Mike Bostock, Shan Carter, Haeyoun Park, Alicia Parlapiano, Archie Tse, The New York Times, for a collection of economic tools and visualizations.

Finalist- Editorial Staff, Crain’s New York Business, for ”The 200 Most-Connected New Yorkers.”

Winner- Donnelle Eller, Sharyn Jackson, Christopher Gannon, Des Moines Register, for “Harvest of Change.”



Winner- Michael J. de la Merced, Neil Gough, Andrew Jacobs, Karl Russell, The New York Times, for Alibaba coverage.


Winner- John Gapper, Financial Times, for his columns.


Finalist- Peter Spiegel, Financial Times, for “How the Euro was saved.”

Winner- International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Center for Public Integrity, for “Offshore Secrets.”


Finalist- The Wall Street Journal Staff, The Wall Street Journal, for “Kowloon Walled City.”

Winner- Lily Kuo, Quartz, for “The true implications of China’s North-South Water Transfer Project.”


Finalist- Patricia Kowsmann, Margot Patrick, David Enrich, The Wall Street Journal, for “Fall of Espirito Santo.”

Winner- Stephen Grey and team, Reuters, for “Comrade Capitalism.”



Winner- Reynolds Holding, Reuters’ Breakingviews, for his columns.


Winner- Duff Wilson, Deborah Nelson, Bill Tarrant, Alister Doyle, Ryan McNeill, Reuters, for “Water’s Edge.”


Winner- Jeff Plungis, David Voreacos, Bloomberg News, for “Death on the Highway.”


Winner- Michael Riley, Ben Elgin, Dune Lawrence, Carol Matlack, Patrick G. Lee, David Voreacos, Jeff Plungis, Martin Keohan, Mary Childs, Alexis Leondis, Charles Stein, Bloomberg News


Winner- Michael Riley, Ben Elgin, Dune Lawrence, Carol Matlack, Jordan Robertson, Bloomberg News, for “Cyber Wars.”


Finalist- Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Michael Corkery, The New York Times, for “Driven into Debt.”

Finalist- Margaret Collins, Carol Hymowitz, Richard Rubin, Bloomberg News, for “The 401(k) Mirage.”

Winner- Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, for “Surviving Detroit’s bankruptcy.”



Winner-  Robert Snell, Chad Livengood, David Shepardson, Detroit News, for “Bankruptcy breakthrough: Detroit reaches settlement in dispute with its fiercest holdout creditor.”


Winner- Matthew Garrahan, Tim Bradshaw, Financial Times, for Apple Beat scoop and analysis.


Winner- Shalini Ramachandran, Dana Cimilluca, Brent Kendall, Gautham Nagesh, Rani Molla, Dana Mattioli, Martin Peers, The Wall Street Journal, for Comcast-Time Warner deal coverage.


Winner- Daniel Howes, Detroit News, for his columns.


Finalist- Gillian Tett, Financial Times, for her columns.

Winner- David Nicklaus, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for his columns.


Winner- Eduardo Porter, The New York Times, for his columns.


Finalist- Hugh Bailey, Connecticut Post, for “Ruins Reborn.”

Finalist- Jeff Adelson, Rebekah Allen, Mark Ballard, Gordon Russell, Richard Thompson, The Advocate, for “Giving away Louisiana.”

Winner- Daniel Howes, Chad Livengood, David Shepardson, Gary Heinlein, Christine Ferretti, Brian J. O’Connor, Detroit News, for “Bankruptcy and Beyond.”


Finalist- Adam Belz, Star Tribune, for “Left Behind.”

Finalist- Jay Greene, Susan Jouflas, Kelly Shea, Mark Watanabe, The Seattle Times, for “Amazon’s European Culture Clash.”

Winner- Lillian Thomas, Sean D. Hamill, Kevin Crowe, Allan James Vestal, Guy Boulton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for “Poor Health.”


Finalist- Jennifer Levitz, Jon Kamp, Tom Burton, The Wall Street Journal, for “Deadly Medicine.”

Winner- Matt Richtel, Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times, for “The New Smoke.”


Winner- Sarah Kleiner Varble, The Virginian-Pilot, for “Then the walls closed in.”


Winner- Adam Belz, Star Tribune, for “Left Behind.”


Winner- Nathan Bomey, John Gallagher, Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press, for “How Detroit was Reborn.”


Finalist- Paul Delean, Lynn Moore, François Shalom, Mick Côté, Steve Faguy, Jeff Heinrich, Tracey Lindeman, Susan Semenak, The Gazette (Montreal Quebec)

Winner- Lynn Hicks, Donnelle Eller, Patt Johnson, Joel Aschbrenner, Matthew Patane, Marco Santana, Charles Flesher, The Des Moines Register


Winner- Business News Staff, Star Tribune


Winner- The Wall Street Journal staff, The Wall Street Journal


Finalist- Josh Salman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, for “Selling Hope.”

Winner- John Russell, Steve Berta, The Indianapolis Star, for “Pets at Risk.”


Finalist- Mike Wereschagin, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, for “The Invisible Threat.”

Winner- Christine Willmsen, Lewis Kamb, Justin Mayo, Garland Potts, Mark Nowlin, Marcus Yam, Mark Harrison, Jim Neff, The Seattle Times, for “Loaded with lead: How gun ranges poison workers and shooters.”



Finalist- Richard Marosi, Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times, for “Product of Mexico.”

Winner- Danielle Ivory, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Hiroko Tabuchi, Bill Vlasic, Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times, for “Fatal Flaws.”



Winner- Vitaliy Katsenelson, Institutional Investor, for his columns.


Winner- Peter Coy, Bloomberg Businessweek, for his columns.


Finalist- Frances Denmark, Institutional Investor, for “Life, Death & the Numbers.”

Winner- Margarida Correia, Lee Conrad, Bank Investment Consultant, for “Dementia.”


Finalist- Janet Bodnar, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, for “Starting out/Guide to your money: How millennials can get ahead.”

Winner- Allan Sloan, Fortune, for “Positively Un-American.”


Finalist- Hiten Samtani, The Real Deal, for “Doubling down on the Prince of Darkness.”

Winner- Aaron Timms, Institutional Investor, for “The race to topple Bloomberg.”


Finalist- Gary Rivlin, The New York Times Magazine/ The Investigative Fund, for “The cold, hard lessons of Mobile Home U.”

Finalist- Parmy Olson, Forbes, for “Calling the American Dream.”

Winner- Tom Foster, Will Bourne, Inc., for “Along came Lolly.”


Winner- Paul Jackson, Jacob Gaffney, HousingWire


Winner- Josh Tyrangiel, Bloomberg Businessweek


Winner- David Beal, Sarah Lutman, Twin Cities Business, for “Whose legacy is it?”


Winner- Ann Marsh, Scott Wenger, Kamrhan Farwell, Financial Planning, for “Could financial planning help stem the rate of military suicides?”



Finalist- J.K. Wall, Indianapolis Business Journal, for “IU Health Merging Hospitals.”

Winner- Albert Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, for “Poor families use ‘supervouchers’ to rent in city’s priciest buildings.”


Finalist- Joe Cahill, Crain’s Chicago Business, for his columns.

Winner- Mike Hendricks, The Business Review (Albany,NY), for his columns.


Finalist- Dennis Domrzalski, Dan Mayfield, Tina Orem, Rachel Sams, Damon Scott, Rachel Baca, Chan Avery, Randy Siner, Albuquerque Business First, for “Reinventing our City.”

Finalist- E.J. Schultz, Advertising Age, for “Whatever happened to the ad war on drugs?”

Winner- Bill King, David Bourne, Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, for “Soccer’s Growing Reach.”


Finalist- Kate Kaye, Advertising Age, for “A Data Lab Rat in the Big City: Why trackers couldn’t trap this city dweller.”

Finalist- Bill King, Tom Stinson, Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, for “Man of Steel.”

Winner- Mike Hendricks, The Business Review (Albany,NY), for “The other side of Mohawk Harbor.”


Finalist- Matthew Kish, Malia Spencer, Wendy Culverwell, Elizabeth Hayes, Jon Bell, Mason Walker, Andy Giegerich, Brandon Sawyer, Craig Spencer, Cathy Cheney, Steve Burton, Erik Siemers, Suzanne Stevens, Portland Business Journal

Finalist- Staff, Advertising Age

Winner- Greg Andrews and staff, Indianapolis Business Journal


Winner- Eric Martin, TradeWinds, for “Service Charge Included.”



Winner- Nikhil Deogun, Mitch Weitzner, Phil LeBeau, Mary Noonan Robichaux, Wally Griffith, Deborah Camiel, Rich Gardella, Meghan Lisson, Jeff Pohlman, Meghan Reeder, James Segelstein, Michael Beyman, Christie Gripenburg, Patrick Ahearn, Rich Korn, Allison E. Stedman, Howard Ellis, Michael Sheehan, Steve Trevisan, Gary Vandenbergh, CNBC, for “Failure to Recall: Investigating GM.”


Winner- Nikhil Deogun, Mitch Weitzner, Harry Smith, Mary Noonan Robichaux, Na Eng, Meghan Lisson, James Segelstein, Christie Gripenburg, Patrick Ahearn, Allison E. Stedman, Kelly Laudien, Richard Korn, CNBC, for “Marijuana in America: Colorado’s Pot Rush.”


Finalist- Alison Fitzgerald, Jared Bennett, Center for Public Integrity, for “Florida’s Foreclosure Crisis.”

Finalist- Daniel J. Sernovitz, Washington Business Journal, for coverage of Washington, D.C. real estate.

Winner- Sarah Kleiner Varble, The Virginian-Pilot, for “Then the walls closed in.”


Finalist- Ruth Simon, Tom McGinty, Angus Loten, Ianthe Jeanne Dugan, The Wall Street Journal, for “The imbalance in small-business lending.”

Winner-Tiffany Hsu, Chris Kirkham, Los Angeles Times, for coverage of California small business.


Winner- Scot Mayerowitz, Associated Press


Finalist- Jennifer Surane, University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill for “General Cable getting cheaper beckons activists: Real M&A.” Published by Bloomberg News.

Finalist- Jonathan LaMantia, University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill for “Manhattan condos at half price reshape New York’s Harlem.” Published by Bloomberg News.

Winner- Brittany Elena Morris, Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication for “NAFTA is an empty basket for southern Mexico farmers.” Published by the Arizona Daily Star.


Finalist- Samantha M. Sabin, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, for “Sugar Baby.”

Winner- Daniel Bauman, Webster University, for “The costs and benefits of an elite college chess game.


Finalist- Alex Kantrowitz, Advertising Age, for “Digital ad fraud.”

Finalist- The Wall Street Journal Staff, The Wall Street Journal, for “Open Sesame: Peering inside Alibaba.”

Winner- Jennifer Gollan, Matt Smith, Adithya Sambamurthy, Michael Schiller, Amy Pyle, Robert Salladay, The Center for Investigative Reporting, for “Techsploitation.”

In: Stories 17 May 2014 0 comments

By Maddy Will

Sam Walton, who founded the largest company in the history of the world, devotes the very first pages of his autobiography to his distrust of the press.

The relationship between companies and the business journalists who cover them has always been somewhat contentious. Tight-lipped executives deliberate over how much information to disclose to the reporters who are digging to expose any wrongdoings or financial mishaps. When journalists up the ante and decide to write a book about a company, relationships can become even tenser.

Many companies decline to cooperate altogether, forcing journalists to obtain information in other ways. Other companies grant limited access, with a list of stipulations attached. When companies do cooperate, journalists have to balance their input with writing the truth.

“I think that cooperation is a hard thing,” said Yukari Iwatani Kane, author of the recent book “Haunted Empire: Apple after Steve Jobs.” “A book is really long, you only have so much control, and it’s risky for companies. As a writer, it’s risky as well — you absolutely want a company’s cooperation, if they’re going to give it to you, the answer is always yes. But if you end up with the company’s line, it’s not going to be an interesting book.”

“Some of the best journalism has been without the company’s cooperation,” she said. “As a journalist, that’s what everyone aspires to — to tell the truth about something that’s not apparent.”

Writing an unbiased truth

Haunted Empire hc cHaunted Empire,” which was published this March, examines Apple post-Steve Jobs and the challenges his successor Tim Cook faces at the company’s helm.

“It’s a story about what happened to an empire when it loses its emperor,” said Kane, who was once an Apple beat reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

Soon after it was published, Cook decried the book as “nonsense,” saying, “It fails to capture Apple, Steve, or anyone else in the company.”

But Apple refused to cooperate with Kane the entire time she was writing the book — something she said was not much different from when she was a beat reporter at the Journal. When it was time to fact-check, she initially ran two questions by the company to test the waters: what kind of tree is in front of Apple’s main building, cherry or apple? And what did Yo-Yo Ma play at Steve Jobs’ memorial service?

Apple declined to answer the second question. Officials said they would get back to Kane on the first question, but they never did.

“I figured if they couldn’t help me with basic fact-checking, there was no point. They weren’t going to help me with deeper fact-checking,” she said. “I made the decision to instead run things by my sources, (many of whom) were primary.”

Kane said she didn’t expect Apple to like the book, but she was surprised when Cook made the public statement criticizing “Haunted Empire,” because Apple traditionally doesn’t comment on books about the company.

She stands by her book, saying that it’s fair, balanced and neutral. She had talked to former and some current Apple employees to get the sense of the company’s culture. And after the book was published, Kane said she received email from some “surprising people” who praised the book and its accuracy.

Not having easy access to Apple forced her to be more resourceful in her reporting, and more skeptical of the official company line, she said.

“When you don’t get the cooperation, you work that much harder to … get what the truth is. The truth won’t be colored by the company’s perspective,” she said. “When you’re talking to a company officially, they do have a vested interest in making themselves look as good as possible. When you don’t have that official view with those colored lenses, I think it lets you see things more clearly for what they are.”

Before Kane’s book was released, Adam Lashinsky wrote “Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired – and Secretive – Company Really Works,” a story about the company’s strategies, innovation and transition into new leadership post-Jobs.

He did receive help from Apple with fact checking, but he was not granted any interviews with company management.

“Through their lack of cooperation, they ceded total control to me,” he said. “I drove the agenda, I chose what I wanted to write about without any influence from them. There’s a downside to access — there are pros and cons.”

Still, Charles Fishman, author of “The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World’s Most Powerful Company Really Works – And How It’s Transforming the American Economy,” said he trusts that he can avoid being unduly influenced by the company line.

“I will always take cooperation, I will always take access, I don’t fear being bought out,” he said.

Unintended benefits

Wal-Mart — following in the legacy of Sam Walton, who famously distrusted the press — didn’t cooperate with Fishman when he was writing his book in the early 2000s.

“That was in the DNA of Wal-Mart,” Fishman said.

Walton believed that talking to the press was a waste of time because when an employee was talking to a reporter, he wasn’t doing anything for the business. He also feared that competitors would see what the company had said to reporters, potentially giving away strategies.

Fishman said Wal-Mart now grants more media access than it did when he was writing his book. After his book was published, Wal-Mart officials, pleased with his fairness, reached out to Fishman and invited him to the company headquarters. He wrote follow-up chapters to his book with Wal-Mart’s cooperation.

Wal-Mart EffectBut there were some unintended benefits to the company’s initial lack of cooperation, he said.

“The fact that they wouldn’t cooperate forced me to be hugely resourceful and energetic in finding people who would talk,” he said. “That resistance meant I ended up talking to people who I probably wouldn’t have talked to otherwise.”

He said it taught him an important lesson as a journalist — you can report anything if you’re determined enough. Writing about a person or a company without access to that subject challenges the journalist to find the information and the details elsewhere.

When Amey Stone, executive editor of CBS MoneyWatch, co-wrote “King of Capital: Sandy Weill and the Making of Citigroup”in 2002, she had just 20 minutes with Weill himself.

“We had really written the whole book by the time they gave us access to him,” she said. “It was very strategic when it got down to that point.”

While hearing directly from Weill enriched the book by peppering it with direct quotes and anecdotes, she said she was prepared to publish the book without his input. In the course of her reporting, she had gone through decades of past interviews with Weill.

“I think the surprising thing is, when you actually do it, you can learn a lot about people without having talked to them,” she said. “Some of the most interesting books have been written without (the subject’s) cooperation.”

Accuracy with no access

A major downside that comes with a lack of cooperation from companies is the fear of getting something wrong.

Fishman sent Wal-Mart 10 pages of fact-checking questions after he was done writing. Some were routine questions, while some were more substantive. Wal-Mart didn’t answer any.

Fishman then hired a fact-checker to re-interview people and check every fact.

“If I got something wrong, Wal-Mart would say, ‘how right is the rest of the book?’” he said. “I didn’t want to give them the chance to pick out three tiny errors … and say the whole book is wrong.”

Last fall, Bloomberg Businessweek writer Brad Stone published “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.” Stone spoke with several Amazon executives, but not Bezos himself.

Bezos’ wife, MacKenzie Bezos, gave the book a one-star review on She opened her review pointing out a small error in the book — Stone got the date wrong of when Bezos read a certain book.

“Everywhere I can fact check from personal knowledge, I find way too many inaccuracies, and unfortunately that casts doubt over every episode in the book,” she wrote.

In a piece for Fortune magazine, Lashinsky wrote that MacKenzie Bezos used that one fact error as an opening to criticize the book, when in reality, she didn’t like the book because it painted Amazon and Bezos in an uncomfortable light. The company and its founder are portrayed as ruthless and willing to bypass laws to offer customers lower prices.

In an interview, Lashinsky said the situation with MacKenzie Bezos and Stone was unique, but those kinds of tensions between company officials and journalists are not uncommon.

“The press exists to inform and entertain their readers, and of course, to tell the truth,” he said. “Companies have only one goal — it’s not to tell stories and tell the truth and expose weaknesses, it’s to sell products and make money.”

Sometimes, companies grant access with the stipulation that they be able to see the book before it’s published.

Thomas Lee, who is the author of the upcoming “Rebuilding Empires: How Best Buy and Other Retailers are Transforming and Competing in the Digital Age of Retailing,” enjoyed deep access to Best Buy — on the condition that he submit his manuscript to the company before it’s published for fact-checking.

“That would never happen, nor should it, in a newspaper world. You don’t submit your stories beforehand,” he said. “In this case, I had more freedom to work, and it really satisfied them and they gave me tons and tons of access.”

Lee, who is still working on the manuscript, said he expects Best Buy to not like some of the content and ask for changes, but he won’t guarantee any. He said he expects a lot of negotiation with the company.

“They invested a shitload of time and access with me. It got to be at some point where they were volunteering things to me that I didn’t even ask for,” he said. “We’ll fight over (changes), but (the book is) going to happen and I think they want it to. I don’t think there’s any one thing that’s going to sink it. We’ll fight over it, and eventually, we’ll get through it.”

The companies’ strategy

Some of companies’ hesitation in participating in book projects stems from wanting to keep a competitive advantage and not release company secrets or strategies, said Paul Friga, associate professor at the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC-Chapel Hill, who also wrote “The McKinsey Mind” and “The McKinsey Engagement.”

Also, the book-writing process is long, and executives often balk at devoting so much time to something that doesn’t directly benefit business, he said.

But there are some pros for the company to participate, Friga said — a book written about the company is free publicity.

And of course, cooperation gives the companies a chance to add their perspective to the story.

“I would say there are two things moving in the direction of more access: the understanding that you get to shape the stories, and the sense that if there’s bad news, it’s going to come out,” Fishman said. “You really are better off talking. Whatever you’re doing wrong, someone’s going to tell that story eventually.

“If the NSA can’t protect its most secret secrets from employees, what chance does Wal-Mart or Target or any of these companies actually stand?”

Nowadays, companies like Wal-Mart might give more access to business journalists, but there’s often a catch. Some companies are now requiring public relations staff to be present during interviews with executives, Fishman said.

“That’s just kind of chilling all the way around. That’s not the kind of story I want to write. I don’t want to write a story where someone’s following me around and eyeing who’s talking to me,” he said. “That chills the sense of vividness that you want in a story.”

Business journalists say they have come to expect the pushback from the companies, or the silence. It’s part of the culture between companies and journalists. Some say it shows that journalists’ work is relevant.

“I think the worst thing that could ever happen to you as a journalist is, someone just doesn’t give a shit about what you write about them,” Lee said. “If they don’t care, that means you have zero impact on them.”

Will is a senior business journalism major at UNC-Chapel Hill. She will intern this summer at Education Week and interned last summer with Reuters in New York.

In: Stories 17 May 2014 0 comments

By Nick Shchetko

The announcement arrived on Sept. 19, 2013, but barely took the tech media industry by surprise. Rumors about a potential breakup of the long-term relationship between The Wall Street Journal’s owner, News Corp., and one of the most popular technology blogs, AllThingsD, had surfaced months in advance.

The breakup meant that the whole AllThingsD team, led by tech journalism superstars Walter Mossberg and Kara Swisher, would be leaving the Journal in pursuit of a new venture. The move became the first link in a chain of several important announcements in technology journalism in the past year.

The tech news business has grown in significance over the years, along with the tech industry.

The information technology became so pervasive nowadays that literally no other industry can remain unaffected by the dramatic changes it facilitates. The influence of tech companies is huge, so as their value. The three out of five U.S. largest stocks by market capitalization are technology businesses: Apple, Google and Microsoft. Of these, Apple is the world’s most valuable company. With capitalization of roughly $510 billion, it leaves behind energy titans, industry giants and huge banks. The total value of technology stocks, $370 trillion, trumps everyone else but the financial sector. The next closest industry – raw materials – is roughly two times smaller.

In the informational era, it comes as no surprise that the media is at the forefront of both the changes technology brings and the coverage of these changes.

“Every technology company is a media company, and therefore every media company should be invested in or understand technology,” said David Cohn, the chief content officer at Circa, a mobile news startup.

During the last couple of years a number of large media companies beefed up their tech coverage by expanding tech beat desks or launching new ventures aimed at this market.

“Tech is part of most things, or will be soon, so journalists need to understand what that means,” said Dan Gillmor, a digital media expert.

“I don’t think a “tech reporter” is necessary for all niches. However, all journalists should have some training in learning how to use new tools,” said Gillmor, who teaches Digital Media Literacy and Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Arizona State University.

While literally every media outlet reports on the technological matters these days, there is a several dozen of English-language publications, primarily U.S.-based, that set the tone.

A large publication can barely remain relevant to its readers without professional journalists who could analyze the newest announcements from technology companies and explain their meaning an importance to wider audiences. That’s why tech desks at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Bloomberg News and several other large publications are sizable, and their headcounts keep growing.

RecodeAnother group of media tone-setters is composed of a several dozen digitally native tech blogs that cover tech in all of its diversity. This group includes, most notably, TechCrunch, The Verge, Engadget, Ars Technica, CNET, Re/code (formerly AllThingsD), GigaOM and other similar outlets.

Finally, the picture of the general tech media landscape wouldn’t be complete without a vast number of personal blogs and relatively small shops that often focus on specific technology facets, such as search engines, digital security or company-specific news. These organizations or individuals often provide in-depth analysis and put news in the context of their field of interest.

This media landscape has been like that for about a decade, but recent trends in journalism have also affected tech media and introduced changes. The rise of the social media, most notably Twitter, transformed prominent journalists into media outlets of their own. “Writers with large followings are less tied to where they work at as a result. There’s more mobility,” said Gabe Rivera, founder of TechMeme, the site that aggregates the most important tech news from all across the web.

The big upheaval

In the beginning of 2014, several massive tech journalism projects started, and most of them revolved around journalist superstars.

Walt Mossberg, his business partner Kara Swisher and AllThingsD staff parted ways with the Journal to introduce Re/Code, a new tech news venture, launched in partnership with NBC. The Journal relaunched its own tech desk under WSJD brand and went on a hiring spree to expand its tech coverage. The latest talent acquisition Christopher Mims, a Quartz tech editor, will become the personal technology columnist to succeed Farhad Manjoo, who recently left the Journal for the New York Times.

The Times lost its tech talent, too. David Pogue, its personal technology columnist, joined Yahoo to start Yahoo Tech, heavily consumer-focused tech news site.

New media organizations that do not necessarily focus on tech, pay significant attention to the beat from day one., a new project of the renowned Washington Post’s journalist Ezra Klein, runs several high-caliber tech-related stories a day, tailored, however, not to industry professionals, but to the general public.

So does such variety mean the high – and growing – demand, or it just further fragments the market that may well be already overly saturated?

With regard to saturation, a media critic and New York University professor Jay Rosen said that one can “never sure of that” and suggests that maybe “the site we really want hasn’t been born yet.”

Gillmor points to the high “noise level” in tech journalism nowadays. “There’s been a surplus of tech journalism for some time, if what we mean by tech journalism is shallow reporting of small announcements and mini “scoops” about things that only a few people care about,” he said.

On the bright side, “we’re seeing deeper reporting than before, too, with some terrific journalism going on at Yahoo Tech, Re/Code and others,” Gillmor said.

The natural selection will eventually put the things in perspective. Tech media, often a preferred read of younger and more affluent audiences, enjoy close attention from advertisers.

“Are there more [tech] sites than the advertising market can support in the long run? Maybe, but if so we’ll find out soon enough when some disappear,” said Gillmor.

Paywall, or not to paywall

Advertising is not the only way of funding journalism these days. Jessica Lessin left the Wall Street Journal in the Summer of 2013 to found her own tech publication, The Information. The subscription-supported publication at $399 a year is more expensive than the Journal ($348). Lessin thinks that the price tag is justified: “We know the audience we want to go after – they’re professionals inside and outside of tech, an audience that pays for information that’s going to make them smarter and give them an edge and to be ahead of the curve,” she said in an interview.

“We know the audience we want to go after — they’re professionals inside and outside of tech, an audience that pays for information that’s going to make them smarter and give them an edge and to be ahead of the curve.”

It is “very much serving the business and industry, they’re like trying to be the Wall Street Journal … for the people in the know, the business leaders of the tech industry,” said Cohn.

“It is not there for consumers,” he added.

The question about the sustainability of the hard paywall strategy in the long run still lingers. But most of tech blogs and tech-specific publications remain free of charge for their readers. But publications may compile specific market research and analysis reports, based on carefully gathered and curated data that no one else provides, and charge a lot for the access to it. Business Insider’s BI Intelligence arm or Gigaom Research would be great examples of the approach.

And then there are conferences, of course

In the recent years, numerous tech websites went offline by hosting conferences that bring together thought leaders and executives from the tech industry. Tangible and intangible gains from these events turned out to be so significant that the large tech sites put a lot of time and effort into organizing and promoting these events. TechCrunch Disrupt, Wired Business Conference, Gigaom Structure, WSJDLive, Engadget Expand, Re/code’s Code Conference… – and that’s not nearly a full list.

Mossberg and SwisherThe trend was set by Mossberg and Swisher, though it probably was an exception that proved the rule. The wildly popular tech conference they started doing for the Wall Street Journal in 2003, D: All Things Digital Conference in 2003, eventually gave birth to AllThingsD project in 2007. Nowadays it generally goes in the opposite direction: big tech sites are giving birth to massive conferences.

“The economics of live are better than the economics of ads, so I would expect the conferences to continue,” said Rosen. “Now we have to make them good. First step: if you’re a sponsor, doesn’t mean you get to talk,” he said.

Cohn agrees that the tech media-run conferences are financially justified. He is also not opposed to the idea, but highlights that this business may raise some eyebrows: “conferences are for, usually, the tech industry itself. So they [tech sites] sort of hosting a tech industry conference and charging and making money and sort of doing the thing, and then the next day they turn around and cover the tech industry.”

“It’d be as if, you know, the politics editors at the New York Times or at Washington Post had a conference for politicians … it’s very different,” he said. “For some reason we accept that for technology journalism organizations, tech sites to organize tech conferences for the tech industry,” said Cohn.

“I’m not trying to imply that it’s not justified or that anything bad is necessarily happening as a result of it, but I do think it’s kind of interesting nuanced relationship,” Cohn said. He noted that even much small media-backed pitching conferences that bring together venture capitalists and startup founders “are great for that [startups getting their opportunity to pitch], so it’s good for them, and again, it’s good for the site that organizes those.”

Major conferences charge hefty fees for access. Mossberg and Swisher’s new conference, The Code Conference, that starts in late May, is now sold out (registration fee – $6,500). There are still some spots for the WSJDLive conference in late October, at $5,000. Both events feature panels and speeches from the top tech companies’ executives, such as Google, Alibaba, Twitter, Apple and more.

But will these revenue sources remain sustainable in the long run for the new outlets? May well be, at least for some of them.

“I do believe Re/Code will do just fine financially, because its revenues are based largely on conferences that made AllThingsD profitable in the past,” said Rivera.

The new tech ventures with huge organizations behind their backs, such as the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo, would definitely do fine, but for smaller independent media it may not be necessarily the case. In the long run, the ones that provide readers with what they want would win.

It’s hard to estimate audience size and financial situation of the most tech media outlets, but thanks to TechMeme’s Leaderboard it’s possible to roughly evaluate how many scoops they deliver. It certainly has its limitations, but that’s the best tool publicly available. If we look at the data from the last 7 years, the ranking of tech news sources by their “Techmeme presence” will look like this:

  1. TechCrunch – 139.49%[i]
  2. Re/Code (formerly AllThingsD) – 56.44%
  3. Engadget – 44.85%
  4. The Next Web – 39.90%
  5. The Verge – 39.22%
  6. CNET – 38.42%
  7. The New York Times – 37.62%
  8. The Wall Street Journal – 35,91%
  9. Reuters – 33,82%
  10. GigaOM – 31,92%

It is interesting that TechCrunch has been the clear leader since the very inception of the leaderboard in October 2007. AllThingsD started to gain momentum in late 2010; so has the Wall Street Journal. CNET’s performance, however, slightly degraded over the years.

The Verge, arrived in 2011, became an instant hit – it ranked high overall even though it was not in the game for as long as most of the other outlets on the Top-10. The same is true for The Next Web – the project materialized in 2009.

This year, the most prominent players were TechCrunch (the clear number one), Re/code, The Journal and The Verge – these resources dominated top positions of the leaderboard.

Among the fresh cohort of tech sites, the “old-new” Re/code is definitely going strong. “I think they’re doing fantastic,” Cohn said. “They’ve proven themselves obviously with AllThingsD, and they’re doing it again with Re/Code … I think they’re doing a great job.”

Setting new media outlets aside, what’s next for the tech journalism? The audiences’ interest in technology matters will likely continue to grow, fueling the demand for better and more diverse tech reporting. But in many ways the coverage is probably going to be more focused and less broad, unless we’re talking about bigger media outlets catering to general audiences.

“General tech coverage, or broad tech coverage, at a certain point has diminishing returns,” said Cohn. “I do think that the most successful tech sites are not gonna be generalists, there’s only so many general tech sites that you really have or need or can win, right, I do think there gonna be more specialists.”

On the other hand, as the technology continues to reach out into multiple industries, the whole meaning of “technology” would broaden, and mainstream media has to react.

“So should every media outlet have a tech reporter? To some degree, yes. Even if you’re the Chronicle of Higher Education, technology is impacting education, right?” said Cohn.

Rivera also notes that “more mainstream/established publications are hiring tech writers.” His company’s example perfectly illustrates the “evolution” of tech industry.

TechMeme started as a company focused on the issues mostly tech bloggers were concerned with, but the convergence eventually exposed it to larger audiences and broader coverage. “Lines were too blurry for us to address an area any narrower than what we cover now: both hardware and software, both web and native applications, both enterprise and consumer, both people and products, and both commercial aspects and core technologies”, said Rivera in an interview to Business Insider.

Still, it’ll be a challenge for tech media outlets to serve both the industry and the general audience. “That which serves the industry and that which serves the public are, I think, heading for a split. That is what I would watch for in tech journalism,” said Rosen.

Shchetko is a master’s student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication who will intern with the technology news desk of The Wall Street Journal in San Francisco this summer.