OLD Media Moves

Business journalism takes off with technology

October 16, 2006

Gregory Millman, writing in the 75th anniversary issue of Financial Executive magazine, notes that the history of business journalism has been impacted the most by technology.

Financial ExecutiveMillman wrote, “Computers replaced lead type; color presses created whole new palettes. Television evolved from a small, gray box to high-definition and plasma. Correspondents, many hired less for their knowledge than their looks, now chatter with executives and analysts on cable TV programs. Even now, the Internet now seems to be the future of much of communication in an attention-deficit world in which depth is often disappearing.

“That’s not to say, however, that serious and important stories about business aren’t being done. They remain a staple of major newspapers like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, as well as the major business magazines like Fortune, Forbes and BusinessWeek. There’s a bigger audience for business news than ever before, and a greater capacity to deliver it. Financial executives, especially public company CFOs, are often in the forefront of those supplying information, be it filtered through analysts or investor relations departments.

“Indeed, today’s business press does have a real impact on business, perhaps greater than ever. Sometimes the influence is overt, as happened earlier this year when press coverage of a professor’s research into backdated options spurred intensified regulatory interest and a stock market response. Sometimes, the influence is subtle.

“One study, for example, found that press coverage alone can influence auditors’ opinions on a company. Presented with information about companies that had defaulted on their loans, auditors were more likely to issue a negative opinion if the press had covered the default. ‘What was startling about this research is that there was no new information in the press, just a repetition of information available in the audit work papers, yet auditors were more conservative once they saw an article,’ says Jennifer Joe, assistant professor of Accounting at the Georgia State University’s Mack Robinson College of Business.

Read more here. Registration is required, but this is a nice article about how business journalism has evolved in the past 75 years.

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