OLD Media Moves

Biz journalism professors question Cuban's tactics

August 13, 2006

One day after an editorial on the topic in the newspaper, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s business section published a story written by Heather Landy in which business journalism professors questioned the tactics taken by billionaire Mark Cuban in investing in stocks before publication written about on the investigative business journalism web site ShareSleuth.com he is funding.

Landy wrote, “Cuban may be able to keep regulators at bay with his disclosures and his financial arrangement with Sharesleuth.com, but some media insiders still see cause for ethical concern.

“‘I am bothered by Cuban’s actions because it gives the impression that people involved in business journalism are out to make a buck by playing the market with the information we possess, and if people think that, then we lose all credibility,’ said Chris Roush, a former business reporter who teaches journalism and heads up the Carolina Business News Initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “‘What he is doing isn’t illegal, but it hurts the profession’s image at a time when we’re just now recovering from failing to uncover scandals such as Enron and WorldCom.’

“Star-Telegram policy prohibits its business reporters from trading in stocks of companies they write about.

“The University of Missouri’s Martha Steffens, who holds a professorship endowed by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, said SABEW recently received a $25,000 grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism, Ford, and James L. and John S. Knight foundations to explore issues such as the ones raised by Cuban’s new venture.

“Attack-style blogs, the proliferation of short-selling and the demand for real-time information are changing the landscape for financial reporters, requiring journalists to re-examine their role in the markets, she said.

“And with a Web site that departs from traditional business publications by focusing only on investigations that raise questions about companies or the executives that run them, Cuban — who made his fortune during the Internet boom by selling his Broadcast.com audio site to Yahoo Inc. — is once again on the cutting edge.

“Cuban’s arrangement with Sharesleuth.com ‘is a different animal than anything we’ve seen,’ Steffens said. ‘But you know they’ve got to be careful because you’re talking about [someone with the potential to be] a deep-pocket defendant.’

Read more here. Cuban declined to talk to the Star-Telegram.

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.