Media Moves

The future of business journalism needs rethinking

June 22, 2006

Business journalism, and journalism in general, needs to rethink its future in terms of its audience, not how the information is delivered, said a Washington & Lee professor in a speech Thursday.

“We have a lot more control over how we define our audience than how we define our technology,” said Pamela Luecke, the Donald W. Reynolds business journalism professor at W&L at “The State — and Future — of Business Journalism.

Pam Luecke“Those in the financial press see the audience for the work as the elite,” said Luecke. “We write far more about the people who run the companies than those who work for them or consume their services. We write more about the Fed governors than those who are affected by them.”

A broad view of business journalism had diminished as organized labor has declined and public relations prospered, said Luecke. The stock market rally in the 1980s and 1990s has also distracted journalism away from what it should be covering in business and the economy.

“A narrow definition of business news has correlated with declining listeners and viewers,” said Luecke. “Why not figure out how to attract the readers and viewers we never had?”

Few business sections write for lower-income and middle-income readers, she noted. Their information sources are not traditional media.

Still, business journalists needs to understand that their ultimate reader is the consumer, not the business executive or the middle manager. “We all buy groceries and gas,” said Luecke. “But these readers are often overlooked.”

Older media users are also neglected by the business media, argued Luecke. The ending of Louis Rukeyser’s Friday night show on CNBC and earlier on PBS as well as the dropping of the stock listings in daily newspapers upset older readers. “We are giving our older, most loyal readers one less reason to turn to the business pages,” said Luecke. “We are leading to the destruction of the business section.”

The most curious issue about the media’s declining interest in the elderly population is that older readers are the largest growing part of the consumer market. “Broadening the audience for business journalism seems to make some sense, at least in terms of numbers,” said Luecke.

Journalists should and can play a role in improving financial literacy in the country, and help those in the lower and middle-income roles manage their money better, said Luecke.

“Information is power, and journalists are one of the groups that should be addressing this,” said Luecke, who called for a business publication to cater to such an audience.

Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry daily or weekly.

Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry.