Media Moves

A good business journalist needs a calendar

September 15, 2015

Posted by Allen Wastler

Allen Wastler 2If you are a business reporter covering a particular sector or group of companies there is one item you definitely need in your toolbox: A calendar.

And it should look a lot like the calendars of the CEOs on your beat.

This is a big difference between business journalism and general news. Police busts and weather disasters are rarely scheduled in advance. But business follows a timetable, owing to its fiscal roots.

Sure, the calendar should list obvious stuff – shareholder meetings and earnings announcements. But it should also list the not-so-obvious stuff — board meetings, regulatory due dates, contract expirations and the like.

Not that you would specifically cover those events and occurrences. But they prompt you to think about what the management of a company is thinking about. And that puts you in a better spot to anticipate news.

Board meeting coming up? Then it’s time to make a few calls or Snaps: “Hey, what’s the temperature of the board looking like for next week?”

Major customer contract due in a couple of weeks? “Hey, thought I’d check in on your deal.”

You get the idea. You’re asking questions ahead of time and getting out in front of events. It’s why beat reporters often break news (and why news outfits without a beat system are stuck in reaction mode).

Not all of these dates are readily apparent or available. They have to be collected. Make notes when dates are dropped in conversations or figuring out time tables from previous years’ coverage.

Seasoned beat reporters already have these dates tucked away. They know the power of the calendar and how to use it.

But a lot of beat reporters are leaving the business and retiring. Indeed, as budgets tighten and news organizations look to do more with less, beat systems seem to be waning (especially if you don’t count tech). More and more general assignment folks are being asked to pick up the slack.

So make sure you have a good calendar.

Allen Wastler is the former managing editor of and the former managing editor of CNNMoney. He can be reached at

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