One of the most difficult things that a business reporter is ever asked to do is to write a story about the publication, or the parent of the publication, for whom he or she works.
Joe DiStefano, a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, recently talked to PR Week about the issues surrounding his coverage of Knight-Ridder’s sale. The Inquirer is one of the papers that McClatchy has said it will buy from K-R and then turn around and sell to someone else.
DiStefano said, “It is a little bit weird covering your own company when your own union is a player in trying to organize one of the several groups that’s trying to buy the paper. That adds another level of weirdness onto it. But it’s a lot of fun. I guess I’m the kind of person that, if I’ve got to go somewhere and it’s a long trip, I’d rather be driving the car than [being] a passenger. You don’t get there any sooner, but you have the illusion of control.”
About business reporting, DiStefano noted, “There’s no secret. In one respect it’s easier [than other beats], and that is, as in government, there’s a lot of information that gets reported, and a lot of the challenge is just figuring out how much time you spend on that information and decoding it, and finding people that can help you do that. And then, like anything else, you’ve got to work your sources, you’ve got to develop them, you’ve got to evaluate them so that you’re not their prisoner. You have to make it clear that you’re going to write your stories whether the companies and CEOs talk to you or not, so it’s in their interest to talk to you… Mostly what I’ve covered is banks. They keep two sets of books: one for the investor, and one for the government. And they probably have a third set for the tax man. And you can learn a lot by going through there. It gives you the right questions to ask.”
Read the rest of his interview here.