Media Moves

When business journalism falls into a rut

September 22, 2015

Posted by Allen Wastler

Allen Wastler 2What’s more important in business news coverage: Experience or a fresh perspective?

Or, put in a different frame, what’s worse: “same old same old” or “doesn’t know what’s going on”?

This is becoming an issue for financial news coverage, especially as everyone in the business continues to dog the seemingly never-ending story this year: the Fed and interest rates.

Survey the coverage. Pretty much the same set of experts gets trotted out or quoted for each Fed meeting. And each news institution seems to have their favorites.

This points up a constant pitfall for beat reporting: Using the same sources again and again. It’s an easy routine to fall into.

Once you’ve established a source – you’re comfortable with them and they are comfortable with you – it’s easy to communicate with them. Cold calling is, after all, uncomfortable. And in broadcast finding someone who is camera-ready is an added challenge. And if the source is recognized as authoritative, well, what’s the harm?

Well, the danger is that you fall into a rut journalistically. Sure, you want wise interpretation of events from experienced players. Those players don’t change a whole lot from game to game. But their commentary doesn’t change a whole lot either.

So we get: Fed meets, stands pat (yet again), “they are too cautious”, “they are avoiding 1930s/Japan mistakes”…rinse, repeat. No wonder readership drops and ratings fall.

But what is business journalism to do? Liven Fed coverage up by quoting comedians? “Three Fed governors walk into a bar. They didn’t order…”

At least by asking the question “are we falling into a rut” business news institutions can be aware of the potential problem and looking for potential ways out.

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

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