OLD Media Moves

Do biz journalists need more training?

June 22, 2006

A panel of well-known business journalists and experts differed Thursday morning on whether reporters covering business and the economy need to have more training in the field.

“I don’t think we have any requirement where religion writers have to go to seminary,” said Nik Deogun, deputy bureau chief in Washington for the Wall Street Journal. “I never understood why business reporters had to go to business school.”

Nik DeogunNewsweek Wall Street editor Allan Sloan agreed with Deogun, while Kansas University professor Jimmy Gentry and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill economist James Smith argued for more training and education to improve the quality of business journalism.

All four were part of a symposium called “The State — and Future — of Business Journalism” held this week at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“There’s an irony here too,” said Gentry. “Companies are spending more money training their advertising and public relations professionals. We on the media side do less on training and less to grow our people, while the companies are becoming more interested in such training for the people who deal with the media.”

Gentry argued that there are a number of hurdles at journalism schools that prevent many of them from offering more in the way of business journalism training. Some of them are the lack of professors with business journalism expertise, the barriers to business school classes, the aversion of journalism majors to take classes focused on numbers and the focus on a liberal arts education.

“Why are we not blasting the people about the numbers of the Federal Open Market Committee?” asked Smith. “Monetary policy works with a long lag. What happens to inflation today is something they did two or three years ago. You can teach any reader how to measure inflation.”

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