American History of Business Journalism

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In: Stories 17 May 2014 0 comments

By Alex Dixon

Cutting staff has been a common trend for newspapers during the last several years. And business desks at newspapers aren’t exempt.

In 2010, The Washington Post cut its standalone business section, so did The Miami Herald. More recently, in 2013, the Cleveland Plain Dealer did, too.

But some newspaper editors and reporters are bucking the trend, expanding business news coverage or even starting business news publications of their own.

The city or the publication?

Most mornings Greg Gilligan checks the Richmond Biz Sense site.

Richmond Biz SenseGilligan, the business editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is one of Richmond Biz Sense’s biggest competitors.

“I think competition is good. It keeps us on our toes,” Gilligan says. “We have far greater distribution both print and online. We scoop them a lot and they scoop us sometimes.”

And while both publications report on business news, each has found a niche to fill in the Richmond, Va. market.

Aaron Kremer, who founded Richmond Biz Sense in 2008, says his site mainly caters toward local business owners and employees.

“You want to reach 140,000, then you pitch (Richmond Times-Dispatch) your story,” Kremer says. “If you want to reach 15,000 movers and shakers, that’s us.”

Biz Sense doesn’t even bother with the big companies.

“We like local companies,” Kremer says. “We don’t report on big companies. There’s not much to say about them.”

Gilligan cites a “fairly significant business community” in Richmond, with headquarters of several Fortune 500 companies, for the Times-Dispatch expansion of business coverage.

In 2008, the Times-Dispatch had a business section tucked inside the metro section. In 2010, Gilligan was named the business editor. And in 2011, the paper brought back a standalone section Tuesday through Saturday with one full page of stock information.

In Houston, Texas, things aren’t much different.

When Nancy Barnes came in at the end of 2013 as editor of the Houston Chronicle, expanding business coverage was a main priority.

Laura Goldberg, business editor of the Chronicle, says the paper is currently filling positions for a banking and financial reporter, an investigative reporter to focus on energy companies, and a reporter to focus on big public companies.

Goldberg says there are a significant amount of Fortune 500 companies in Houston and an “appetite for business news among readers across all platforms.”

And the Chronicle certainly has competition in Houston as it expands, with the Houston Business Journal, various trade publications covering energy companies, and with Reuters, The New York Times, Bloomberg and AP with bases there.

Julie Doll, business editor of the Wichita Eagle, said the Wichita Business Journal is physically across the street. She said this provides “healthy competition” on breaking news and on how and what the Eagle covers.

But while some markets are saturated with business coverage, Kremer said not every area is fit for these outlets.

“There’s a bunch of factors,” he said. “First, you have to have a flow of interesting business news.”

For example, he said a market scope of specifically Chapel Hill, N.C., is too small for a business publication, whereas a business publication covering all of New York would be too big.

Bringing in Revenue

Doll says expansion of business sections has a high potential for probability.

In September 2006, the Eagle expanded from about a page to two pages every day and to an eight-page section on Thursdays.

“The business community has been real supportive of publications and news,” Doll said.

It traces back to the roots these Wichita, Kan., businesses had in advertising with papers she said, some back as far as 100 years.

And she said it’s about mutual support. For example, the Eagle posts a job section on its website to help Wichita businesses find employees.

Gilligan says that three-to-four days per week, the Times-Dispatch runs a two column, full-page ad to support the standalone section.

And while businesses’ print advertising may help support the business sections, Gilligan and Doll said the advertising does not influence the content in any way.

While Biz Sense has no revenue from print advertising, it has diversified its sources through online ads, emails, and even community events.

Biz Sense runs a Daily Newsfeed, which is a daily email sent out to 13,000 subscribers, which Kremer says brings in a lot of advertising revenue.

Biz Sense also hosts community events, such as “Kitchen Confidential,” a panel discussion with some of the most popular restaurateurs in Richmond.

Kremer said the events are lucrative.

Kremer said in a Talking Biz News article that this is where Biz Sense sees the biggest growth, in the form of selling sponsorship to these events.

“We use our news instincts to dream up topics we know will hook our audience,” Kremer said in the article. “Then we tell the story live on stage.”

Cutting Back

Gilligan said he thinks not prioritizing business coverage is foolhardy.

The two key things the public needs to know about are government and business, Gilligan said.

Kremer says the business beat is not a loved beat for daily papers.

“Sports and cops are the main strengths,” Kremer says. “Business is not their bread and butter.”

According to Show Me the Money by Chris Roush, just 38 percent of news executives say that business is a high priority in their newsrooms.

And when it comes time to prioritize, many newspapers aren’t looking at the business desks.

In an article by Mitch Leff, president of Leff & Associates Public Relations, he writes “The recession decimated media companies. Staffs were slashed…in many cities the once-separated business section has been folded into other sections.”

An article on Talking Biz News said that more than 250 business journalists lost their jobs due to media closings, layoffs or newsroom buyouts in the first six months of 2009.

Other Platforms

While the business cutbacks in 2009 may have been correlated with cutbacks in all newspaper sections, many papers are slow to refocus business coverage.

However, papers that once cut standalone sections are beginning to bring them back as the economy recovers.

The Baltimore Sun brought back its standalone section in 2010 and The Columbus Dispatch and Idaho Statesmen did in 2013.

In a column on the The Columbian’s site, former business editor Courtney Sherwood wrote, “With so much uncertainty about the economy, business news is as important as it has ever been.”

Even though the paper, based in Vancouver, Wash., has had to fold in the standalone section on most days, she wrote that the reporting quality is still the same.

And business coverage cutbacks in print may lead to more opportunities on other platforms.

The Columbian launched a blog called Strictly Business, with “details from reporters’ notebooks and thoughts about how national headlines may reflect on us here,” according to Sherwood.

In Savannah, The Savannah Morning News launched a tabloid with a separate website and Twitter feed, called Business in Savannah.

The publication features profiles of businesses and stories on business-related concerns as opposed to investigative pieces or breaking business news.

The Reader

For many publications, the average business-news reader isn’t the average newspaper reader.

Doll said Wichita has a community built on “entrepreneurship and small business,” and that the business news is structured more as a business-to-business section.

Kremer said local business people need what papers write and business desks don’t always write with that in mind.

Gilligan said the Times-Dispatch has kept one full page of stock information in order to cater to the readers who like to view this.

Gilligan said it’s a juggling act on determining business coverage on a local, national and international level but it is important to provide readers with local content. Around 70 percent of coverage is local at the Times-Dispatch, Gilligan said.

Kremer said he enjoys when he calls someone from a local business for coverage and they are already familiar with Biz Sense as a reader.

“People love to tell their stories, and they love to see themselves,” Kremer said.

Dixon is a business journalism student at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication

In: Stories 17 May 2014 0 comments

By Sarah Chaney

When Bloomberg LP bought the McGraw-Hill-owned BusinessWeek in 2009, the publication was flailing in turbulent waters.

Stephen Shephard, who left BusinessWeek as editor-in-chief in March 2005, said the magazine started falling off a cliff under Stephen Adler, who served as editor-in-chief from 2005 until the Bloomberg takeover in 2009.

“They started losing money for the first time since it started up,” Shephard said. “It went from one of the most powerful magazines around to a magazine hemorrhaging money, and they essentially gave it away to Bloomberg.”

Though the 2008 financial implosion had business consequences, Mark Vamos, a former senior editor at BusinessWeek, said it was the magazine’s editorial content that had hit rock bottom.

Many believe the magazine is still losing money, as well as compromising its former values in order to reach a younger age cohort, but current Bloomberg Businessweek editors say its editorial content, told through a prism of commercial activity, has improved.

The capabilities a financial media company has in churning out more illuminating and educational articles might counteract the numerous challenges of integrating the terminal and magazine.

“There’s more of the expectation that people have to be comfortable with financial information and continually work to mine the data that’s in there,” said Bloomberg Businessweek Director of Special Projects Cristina Lindblad.

“My Bloomberg colleagues are good at using and finding supporting data.”

Looking Back to See How It Looked Forward

Though it had added columnists such as Maria Bartiromo and Jack Welch to increase corporate coverage, BusinessWeek began to lose its hard-hitting stories during Adler’s term.

And while editorial content tried to find its footing, the business side of BusinessWeek decayed.

According to a Wall Street Journal article published in October 2009, BusinessWeek lost $43 million in 2008, including money allocated for rent and other infrastructure shared with McGraw-Hill.

Bloomberg agreed to pay nearly $5 million and take responsibility for more than $10 million in liabilities, according to the Journal article.

Joseph Weber, former reporter and chief of correspondents for BusinessWeek, speculated Bloomberg was attracted by this financial bargain.

“The Bloomberg folks thought there was a logical fit there,” he said. “It made a lot of sense to have Bloomberg reporting network feeding the magazine. There was a lot of synergy there.”

Bloomberg’s management team knew the magazine needed to change, and Josh Tyrangiel, current editor of the magazine, had ideas for how to push the magazine in a new direction.

While other magazines have cut back on frequency, Bloomberg Businessweek continues to publish approximately 50 issues per year. In 2014, it will publish 49 issues.

The overhaul also resulted in a sharp increase in the number of pages per magazine, with some issues such as the November 2013 “The Year Ahead: 2014” edition breaking the staples.

The magazine has added 20 percent more editorial pages and doubled the number of stories to deliver more value to its audience since 2009.

“When readers pick up a copy of Bloomberg Businessweek, they now get the sense they’re getting what they paid for,” said Rachel Nagler, communications director for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Lindblad said this decision was based on the magazine’s weakening financial state.

“When we were acquired, we were still losing money, so we decided to maintain a certain size of the book,” Lindblad said. “It’s packed with a lot more calories.”

There is a perception that Bloomberg Businessweek is still losing money, but Nagler said statements about the profitability of the magazine are not publicly available.

As part of the larger Bloomberg enterprise, the magazine is more than just a large collection of pages. Paul Barrett, a senior writer and assistant managing editor at Bloomberg Businessweek, said the magazine provides an outlet for Bloomberg news material.

“That apparently is of considerable value to the man whose name was on the door (Bloomberg),” he said. “I’ve heard him say in meetings that he thinks the magazine, both print and web, helped sell the terminal.”

The terminal is the main source of revenue for the larger company and what drives the livelihood of Businessweek.

“If you stripped it away from everything else, the magazine in all likelihood would have gone away many years ago,” Barrett said.

“Mass circulation magazines will go away in a few years unless they find some new configuration, some other version of what has happened with Businessweek. The old equation of the ad revenue minus what is going out doesn’t work anymore.”

Turnover Has Some Turning Over

With the purchase of the magazine in 2009 came the loss of jobs for a quarter of BusinessWeek’s editorial staff. Some were fired, and some chose to leave.

“It’s not like this is all sweetness and light,” Barrett said. “The simplest example is the guy Steve Adler who was out the door because of the change in ownership of the magazine.”

Weber said the consolidation, though a money-saving measure, has ultimately hurt the content of the magazine.

“From the Bloomberg perspective, that may have made some sense to them,” Weber said.

“They figured they had their own reporters. They didn’t need to have a large staff of relatively high-paid people. I think the product would have been better today if they had kept some of the former BusinessWeek people.”

Fun and Feature-y

After a couple years into Adler’s stint, BusinessWeek cut back on its publication of sports, lifestyle and politics articles, instead focusing on writing from a businessperson’s point-of-view.

Today’s Businessweek is aimed at churning out entertaining articles and accompanying imagery, which a quick flip through the magazine will reveal. Glasses of whiskey, Shaquille O’Neal with a contorted facial expression and an elaborate photo illustration of the Twitter bird icon are all examples of recent Businessweek feature images.

“It is much livelier, it is more irreverent, it is more entertaining in a broad sense,” said Barrett.

“Not that every single article is a laugh riot. We just hope people get kind of a kick out of it and say, ‘That was a fun, lively experience.’”

Weber said among other characteristics such as solid content and a deep understanding of corporate culture, a good business magazine needs a bit of humor.

“It’s got to have a light touch, some personality, some sections that are dessert,” he said.

Lindblad said she thinks this new approach to writing gives reporters more of a voice in their stories than in the past.

“We’re more entertaining than we used to be. We used to be more preachy.

“The feature tone is completely different,” she said. “We do much more narrative stories than we used to. They’re more upbeat — but some people have said they’re not about business.”

Grumpy Editor blog’s Hal Morris is one such individual. In an email, Morris said the magazine’s writers and editors need to keep in mind that the title of the publication is Businessweek.

“Sometimes its editors forget that, as a weekly, it should recap, amplify or update business events of the week,” he wrote. “Some stories have nothing to do with business/finance.”

But one of Bloomberg Businessweek’s goals is to rope in a broad audience — or at least a readership more diverse than the businesspeople Adler aimed to reach.

Lindblad said lifestyle stories draw in a wider audience and have allowed the magazine to reach women, a demographic historically underrepresented in the magazine’s readership circle.

“We have stories about clothes and makeup and shoes,” she said. “Our goal is not to be an elite product, but to reach people. If we’re pulling you in, then good for us.”

The ‘Old Days’

Bloomberg Businessweek is a widely acclaimed magazine.

Jack Shafer of Reuters called Bloomberg Businessweek “the best magazine in America.” Columbia Journalism Review’s Ryan Chittum wrote, “Tyrangiel has in a very short time turned Businessweek into far and away the best read of any business publication.” And Walter Isaacson, author of the best-selling biography of Steve Jobs, called the magazine’s Jobs memorial issue “the best issue of any kind produced in the past five years.”

Despite praise from media peers, Bloomberg Businessweek might in some ways lag behind its predecessor.

Weber said Bloomberg Businessweek has certain areas that just don’t stack up to the McGraw-Hill-owned version of the publication.

“I think when they set out to do their big projects, like cover stories, they are every bit as good as the stuff we produced in the old days,” he said.

“I think that the more day-to-day and week-to-week stuff, a lot of it I just don’t find terribly interesting.”

Part of BusinessWeek’s staff turnover upon its acquisition in 2009 resulted in a new kind of writing influence on the magazine.

Weber said that while Bloomberg is a top-notch deliverer of financial news, its writers tend to carry over their wire service writing style into the magazine content.

“They have to look up from their terminals and realize a magazine story is not the same as a terminal story,” Weber said.

“They have a fair number of wire service reporters and magazine editors who are editing it. They have this short, clippy, just not as elegant of an approach.”

But Lindblad said she thinks the collaborative effort is successful, as the data-driven capabilities of wire service reporters meshes nicely with the expertise of the magazine editors.

“In some cases we will take stories that appeared on the terminal and editors will try to shape them more into magazine pieces,” she said.

“If they’re writing something for us, they can turn it into a magazine piece.”

Barrett agreed that Bloomberg Businessweek’s model is grounded in a strategy that works.

“That just shows you that there are a lot of instruments in the orchestra and a lot of ways to play the instruments,” he said. “I think that was the whole idea that the Bloomberg people had when they bought the magazine.”

Nagler said among its many awards, Bloomberg Businessweek received the 2014 SABEW Best in Business Award for Magazines.

However, Weber said the Businessweek of today hasn’t racked up nearly as many accolades as the publication did during his tenure.

One of the problems plaguing Bloomberg Businessweek might be the emphasis on verticals, he said.

“We had a concept that everything had to be horizontal, meaning that you wanted to reach people in many different areas of business,” Weber said.

“If you were writing about a drug manufacturer, it should be interesting to people in an accounting firm. They have too many vertical stories, which are interesting to people who have one area of interest.”

Still, Lindblad thinks Bloomberg Businessweek is grabbing hold of not only a larger audience, but a larger source pool.

“I think trying to reach more people in the sense that you’re reaching a bigger audience means more people will be willing to open doors to you,” Lindblad said.

“Before there was a certain category of executives who would speak to a business news reporter. Now that you have Businessweek and online, it makes it more attractive to some people.”

Scandalous or ‘Just for Fun?’

From images of a man with arrows jutting out of his belt to two airplanes “getting it on,” Bloomberg Businessweek has turned out some sexually obtrusive and controversial covers.

These edgy designs are part of an effort to attract a younger age group and surprise and engage more readers.

Weber said he thinks the covers are tarnishing Businessweek’s reputation, though he hasn’t noticed any recent covers that emit sexual messages.

“I think some of the sexually suggestive covers are an embarrassment,” he said. “They try to get edgy and get noticed.”

Lindblad said the covers are creating buzz and not based on the intent to shock but to humor.

We have a very edgy design team that has made us look very different from our peers,” she said. “We’re trying to appeal to a new demographic. It’s a worthwhile gamble for us.”

Richard Turley, the creative director at Bloomberg Businessweek responsible for many of the controversial covers, recently left for a job at MTV.

Morris said Businessweek is competing with other news outlets such as Fast Company to garner younger readers’ interest, although the current Fast Company issue spotlights Chelsea Clinton on the cover with the line: “She’s Got Power, Influence, and a Plan to Change the World.”

Nonetheless, the covers and design of Bloomberg Businessweek have achieved acclaim for pushing the boundaries of traditional newsweekly and business magazine design.

In 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek received the Magazine of the Year award from the Society of Professional Designers, Creative Review’s 2012 Studio of the Year Award and was Magpile’s Best Magazine Design winner for 2013.

From ‘W’ to ‘w’

When Bloomberg bought BusinessWeek, the uppercase ‘W’ became lowercase. The change did not only signify the shift in ownership, but a change in initiative and a growing need to adapt to the Internet age.

“It’s hard to compare one magazine to another because it’s not the same era,” Shephard said.

“They have been very smart about adapting to a new world. I think they’re still losing money, but I don’t think they’re losing as much as they were in 2008.”

The trend toward digital operations began under Shephard himself.

“One of the things that had happened at the magazine during the time under the stewardship of Steve Shephard, the editors really recognized how important technology would be,” Vamos said.

The definition of a good business magazine has subsequently changed with the times.

“At the time — during BusinessWeek’s heyday (which I was part of), it was being comprehensive that made for a good magazine,” Vamos said. “BusinessWeek could cover very broadly the world of business — everything from technology to industry to finance to the moon.

“What makes for a great magazine now, it has much more to do with a sharper focus, a voice…it’s a very different game.”

But even though comparing the McGraw-Hill version of the magazine to the Bloomberg version might be akin to comparing apples and oranges, there is reason to think the magazine has improved.

According to Alliance for Audited Media statements, circulation is up 8 percent to 989,000. This has been driven by individually paid subscriptions, which are up more than 40 percent. Average price paid by subscribers has also risen to the highest rate in 10 years.

“Has Businessweek improved? 100 percent yes,” Lindblad said. “It’s a completely different magazine, but it’s one that people are more likely to read.”

Chaney is a business journalism student at UNC-Chapel Hill. She will intern this summer at the Triangle Business Journal.

In: Stories 17 May 2014 0 comments

By Andy Willard

Data journalism can paint an incredibly accurate picture in ways a journalist simply cannot.

By aggregating millions of tiny bits and pieces of information, a whole representation can be made and trends can be mapped.

The recession that began in 2008 affected almost every American, and journalists across the country scrambled to find the information that had previously been missed.

Data on the housing markets, trades and sales made on Wall Street and deals that had been struck by politicians in Washington, D.C., were collected in a frenzied craze. Not only did the amount of economic news increase, but also the demographic for economics news.

And according to a report issued by the Pew Research Center in 2009, the media problematically approached the narrative from the top down.

The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan data collector that conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other such surveys.

The study analyzed data from news stories across all platforms from the beginning of February to the end of August, focusing on front page news, the first 30 minutes of television and radio news programs and the top five stories on large news websites.

It sampled news across all traditional platforms: print, television and radio. It also looked at online news, though all of the sites sampled were affiliated with a major news outlet.

The study concluded that the banking and auto industries, along with political battles over Washington’s finance polices, dominated economics coverage story lines. Other topics, such as retail sales, economics coverage and consumer issues, in general were given very little attention.

It also found that 76 percent of the datelines came out of New York or Washington, D.C.

“Citizens may be the primary victims of the downturn, but they have not been the primary actors in the media depiction of it,”the study reads.

The tone of the study is disapproving at best and condemning at worst. And several business journalists, when shown the study, voiced dissenting opinions with the criticisms, and even concerns with its methodology.

In their minds, the focus not only made sense, but also benefited the average citizen much more than any of the issues that were pushed to the side.

Steve LiesmanSteve Liesman, CNBC’s senior economics reporter, called the survey seriously flawed.

“How do you report on how much time media and cable reported on the economic crisis without including CNBC?”he asked.

“That seems insane.”

Liesman pointed out that the study neglects several news channels, such as CNBC and Fox Business Network, as well as new media on digital platforms.

“(CNBC) has a person who blogs about housing and retail every single day — I just thought it was weird,”he said.

Allan Murray, president of the Pew Research Center, has a long history of covering national economics. He started working for the Wall Street Journal in 1984 and ultimately became the Washington bureau chief in 2002. After taking a three year break, he returned and wrote a business column.

He said after 2009, there was a historic meltdown of the banks, so it did not surprise him that there was an increased scrutiny on the industry.

Having only taken the helm of the center in January 2013, Murray said he did not want to pass judgment on previous works that had been produced.

But he did say that in this year’s edition of the Pew Center’s annual “State of the Media”report, there was absolutely a sharper focus on newer forms of media.

“There has been a significant increase in attention to digital news outlets. We definitely stepped up our digital coverage,”he said.

By 2009, the transformation of the media was well underway. The Internet had already come to dominate, and mobile applications were thriving. It seems odd that average citizens were already aware of and participating in these new forms of media, but the Pew Research Center seemed reluctant, perhaps dogmatically, to focus in on legacy media.

Judging from the comments of the new president, it seems that the problems were recognized and an attempt has been made to rectify them.

Other experienced economics reporters echoed Murray’s feelings that the added scrutiny on high finance was the right move.

Steve Matthews“I agree there was a concentration of news coverage on the banking, auto industry, and the stimulus especially in 2008 and early 2009, with relatively less coverage of the impact on ordinary Americans, not to mention consumer issues,” said Steve Matthews, a Bloomberg News reporter who covers the Federal Reserve Board and economics issues.

“There is a good reason for that,”he added.

He called the economic conditions of 2008 and early 2009 the worst since the 1930s. The struggle to revive the economy was highly controversial, he said. And for better or worse, controversy creates news stories.

Kevin Hall, the chief economics reporter for McClatchy News, worked as a foreign correspondent for most of his career before coming to Washington, D.C., in 2005 to cover economic policy.

He said the attention that the financial issues garnered was deserved because it was primarily driven by the fact that it was what people wanted to hear about.

“The economics beat has become one of the most important beats,”he said.

“During that time, my beat was one that would always be on the front page.”

The Pew study was also critical of the lack of what it called “ordinary voices”in the stories.

“If one looked inside some of larger narratives for a focus on ordinary lives, it was elusive. The narrative about the auto industry’s hard times and plant closings, for instance, accounted for almost one-tenth of all economic coverage. Yet the storyline devoted about labor issues and worker layoffs in the car industry was negligible, filling less than 1 percent,”it reads.

Matthews said that while many of his datelines are out of New York and Washington, D.C., he made an effort to talk to many average citizens — small business owners, unemployed individuals, workers, people who were shopping — to fill out his stories.

“I don’t think, to the extent there was a shortfall of consumer coverage, it had any impact on governing.”

It is admirable that the Pew Center concerned itself with pointing out the lack of ordinary voices in the most high-profile stories.

But in a time of crisis, the only benefit of telling the stories of those affected, as opposed to those leading, is to show the suffering, which represents the gravity of the situation.

That had been done. Everyone understood that this was one of the worst periods in American history. But more than painting a picture of society, journalism is a tool to move society forward regardless of the direction.

That mission could not be completed by only focusing on the horrid effects of the recession. It had to be done by informing the country on the direction that the leaders were taking it.

North Carolina State University Economics Professor Michael Walden said the media’s failure did not lie in its areas of coverage but rather the narrative that was constructed.

“(The financial sector) is like the heart of the economy because it pumps the blood of the economy, which is the credit,”he said.

“It makes sense because that was the crux of the economy.”

He said Americans needed to see these battles that were playing out on the federal level because state policies really have no effect on overcoming a recession.

Citing a problem that was not addressed in the Pew Center’s study, Walden said he believed the media’s need for viewers and subscribers created a space where journalists were putting out stories in an impassioned manner.

“The media perhaps focused too much on creating bad guys and good guys — villains and saviors,”he said.

The study assumes that by not focusing on the consumers, the media gave attention to the “bad guys”the ones that caused the recession in the first place.

Walden said the way the stories were posed created an unnecessary conflict.

“To an economist, greed has no meaning,”he said.

He said economists look at the world in terms of incentives, and what needed to be presented was an unemotional analysis of what happened, why it happened and how it could be prevented in the future.

There’s no doubt that there were several excellent explainer pieces produced during this time —they just did not make the front page. Conflict drives journalism, but if done correctly and without bias, the pros and cons of all sides are presented.

It was all too easy in the wake of the economic fall out to point fingers because that is what citizens wanted to read. They wanted to know whose fault it was that their homes, savings, cars and credit had all been decimated.

One reason this might have come to be is the sheer complexity of the story of the financial meltdown. In the world of high finance, what insiders consider the simplest of terms are complex and multi-layered issues for both average citizens and reporters.

“Mainstream media is not exquisitely equipped to cover the economy. When it broke, they were more likely to rely on Washington and New York for sources,” Matthews said.

His views stand in contrast to what the Pew Center’s study claims about the effect of top-down coverage; it goes as far as to label it Obama-centric coverage.

Though perhaps collected through flawed means, the Pew Center’s data seems accurate. Its conclusions are misleading and unjustly censor the American media.

After the lapse in information that allowed the banking industry to run amok, it would only make sense that the magnifying glass should be aimed at Washington and New York — those in power were the only ones with the ability to help.

“If you knew what was happening there, you would know outcomes better than any individual,” Matthews said. “Interviews in Idaho wouldn’t tell you what was going to happen tomorrow with Citibank or the Treasury.”

Andy Willard is a business journalism student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication