OLD Media Moves

More than 2,600 readers complain about cut stock listings

November 18, 2006

Deborah Howell, the ombudsman for the Washington Post, noted in her Saturday column that more than 2,600 “vociferous” readers complained about the decision by the paper to cut its stock listings this week.

Howell wrote, “The Post may be the last big newspaper to be doing this; most did so years ago. And most stockholders get listings online. The Post, unlike a lot of other newspapers, is offering to restore some stocks at readers’ requests and has left room for at least 200 additions.

Jill Dutt, assistant managing editor for financial news, said, ‘Even with the cuts, we still publish more price/trading information for individual stocks and mutual funds than does the New York Times or the Financial Times. We will keep for now our full listings in Sunday Business. But trimming there also is not off the table. I considered and rejected going the way that some newspapers have gone: eliminating trading data for all but the 100 largest stocks or the 100 local stocks and instead publishing only trends and summaries of market activities overall. I see news value in publishing as many daily price change quotes as we can.’ Dutt will e-mail anyone who writes to stocks@washpost.com a short guide to tracking their investment portfolios through washingtonpost.com.

“That didn’t satisfy a reader from Olney, who told Dutt in a washingtonpost.com chat: ‘For me and for so many other Washington Post customers, Nov. 14, 2006, is the day that The Washington Post died. What Ed Wassermannumbskull thought that to save newsprint costs, it would be wise to perform a slash and burn edit of the stock tables. In this new reduced format, they are useless.’

Edward Wasserman, Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University, disagrees: ‘I’ve always viewed stock tables as one of the more dubious things that newspapers offer. They really are little more than promotional material for stockbrokers. . . . Plus, they’re of interest to only a fraction of the readership, and they keep alive the fiction that the stock market is a surrogate for the economy. . . . I’ll be glad to see the end of all printed stock tables.'”

Read more here.

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