William Holstein, in what might be his final column as editor of Chief Executive magazine, lamented the declining quality in business journalism. He blamed it on publications that are cutting back in their networks of correspondents and reporters, and in wanting to bring in some fresh blood, i.e. young reporters.
Holstein writes, “Fortune magazine now has one full-time staffer on the ground in Asia and one in Europe. Thatâ€™s it. Business Week has folded its international editions and downgraded its Tokyo bureau to local hires. Forbes has scrapped Forbes Global. And forget television. The major networks have largely demolished their bureau networks. Fox has never built one. CNN has demonstrated that it canâ€™t make a go of it in business news, aside from Lou Dobbsâ€™ latest tirades. And CNBC has long ago forgotten any global aspirations.
“The quality of people get cut back. Tens of thousands of seasoned journalists have been fired, downsized, outsourced or just plain canned in the past few years. The mantra is, ‘Letâ€™s bring in the children.’ The folks in charge, with marketing or technology or financial backgrounds, donâ€™t see a difference in the end product, whether produced by experienced staff or newbies. But itâ€™s obvious to me, a practitioner, that the product has been degraded. You know it as well. When CEOs see business reporters coming in the front door, they are usually unseasoned and naÃ¯ve.
“Real business coverage gets cut back. There seems to be a stampede toward covering business as an extension of lifestyle, whether fashion or music or games or sports. Fortune magazine now has a managing editor with absolutely no business journalism experience and its new photo editor comes from, get this, Details magazine. No wonder the Big Three business magazines are in trouble with business readers theyâ€™re turning themselves into consumer-oriented magazines. The Wall Street Journalâ€™s weekend edition also has flopped with business readers largely because you donâ€™t have to read it.”
Holstein’s solution? Have a CEO of a company “adopt” a business journalist in the area, and have them sit in on meetings and explain to them how businesses work and what a CEO’s job is.
Read the rest of his column here, as well as some comments from readers.