OLD Media Moves

Herb Greenberg has left the building

May 2, 2008

Herb Greenberg, a longtime business journalist, left his job as a Marketwatch columnist earlier this week to start an independent research firm. He will, however, continue to appear regularly on CNBC.

Herb GreenbergBefore leavimg, Talking Biz News asked Greenberg to provide his thoughts about the current state of business journalism.

Here is what Greenberg said:

“Chris, you asked me if I had any parting shots, thoughts or advice about business journalism.

“If you must know, when it comes to business journalism, I’m most disturbed about the demise of so many free-standing business sections. Getting out from behind sports was a sense of pride for those us in second- tier markets who lived through the transition.

“Business journalism had finally come into its own. It’s still very much in its own, and always will be, but the changes remind us not so much about the state of business journalism but the state of all traditional journalism –- or at least journalism, the way we knew it.

“It was our little exclusive club. We all had been bitten by whatever that bug was, and there was (and is) no better job.

“But like it or not, the changes are here. Content is king, but it has sadly also become a commodity. Stories from any newspaper can wind up on any given portal, and readers increasingly don’t care where they find it, as long as it’s there.

“Do a search on any given topic and you’re just as likely to find a story from the New York Times as you are a well-thought-out and even well-written piece by somebody you’ve never heard of. That’s the challenge. But it’s also the opportunity for today’s journalism to figure out how to bridge those two worlds.

“I still like the feel of a newspaper or magazine. I find myself reading more with a hard copy than I do online –- and that’s coming from somebody who has principally earned a living for 10 years writing online.

“But to my surprise (and this is where local newspapers have a chance to thrive) I also find myself going online increasingly for timely local news. What’s that smoke from? Why was the “5â€? so clogged with traffic? Did my next-door neighbor, a typical suburban mom, really just get arrested after having been on the run for 32 years — having escaped from a prison in Michigan, where she had been jailed on drug charges? (The answer to the latter is yes, but the local TV stations got there first, and their websites had the first video.)

“All of this will get hashed out, but not by sticking to tradition — though a throwback to having someone monitoring police radios might not be a bad idea.

“In the end, the basics of good journalism will never go out of style, and will prevail, but the definition of ‘journalist’ will likely evolve as, on the one extreme, cottage industries and companies like privately financed Pro Publica are created. On the other extreme are the likes of Barry Ritholtz’s The Big Picture blog, which is a great example of a non-journalist, personality-driven originator of business, investment and economic content that gets the kind of eyeballs that would (or should) make mainstream journalism drool.

“Where does that leave the business journalism you and I know best? Certainly no worse off than any other type of journalism — and arguably better. Not everybody, after all, can be a business journalist, and that will always create an imbalance of supply and demand.

“While print may never be quite the same, barring an economic and stock market Armageddon, the hunger for investment and financial news will not likely decline. The trick for reporters in this slimmed-down indsutry will be a willingness to work outside the traditional box.

“How far outside? I’m about to find out.”

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