A biz journalist’s great value: Asking hard questions
Because most American business journalists are not working this Labor Day, we’re going Down Under to Ian Verrender, the business columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald who is leaving the Australian paper.
Verrender’s goodbye column is on the demise of the business journalist. He writes:
Because, unlike politics or sport, those running big business have a great deal of power. Veer too far from the press release, question a little too aggressively and the mighty weight of a corporation suddenly is hovering above, threatening litigation, demanding your dismissal. The chief executive probably knows a few people on the newspaper company’s board.
Little wonder then that most business reporters default to the easy option. And many begin to believe they are part of the business world, that the reason they are being squired to upmarket restaurants, to corporate boxes and offered trips to exotic places is that they are part of the team.
The stories become ever more technical to impress their contacts. Every sentence is littered with impenetrable jargon. In the end, there’s so much wood, they forget a forest is even in the vicinity.
Eventually, the industry starts leaking ”scoops”. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, a wonderful symbiosis, where the bankers boost their deal-making prowess and bonuses and their pet reporters become gun news breakers.
It speaks volumes that one of the best pieces of journalism about the events of this decade came, not from The Wall Street Journal, but from Rolling Stone.