OLD Media Moves

One of my pet peeves

May 24, 2006

Let me first start off by saying that it was my idea at The Tampa Tribune back in 1991 or so for the paper to start a special section on the top publicly traded companies in the Tampa Bay area. Such special sections were growing in popularity back at that time both on the editorial side, as well as on the business side.

On the business side, the special sections brought in extra advertising. I once knew the numbers at the Trib, but now my memory is fuzzy and thinks that the special section brought in about $200,000 in revenue for the paper. When I was in Atlanta, we did this special section as well, and I fully participated in writing the stories on some of the top companies.

But here is my problem with such lists — they have become propaganda for many of the companies listed in them. These companies put out press releases noting that they made it into the list of their local metro paper.

Here is an example of one of these press releases, issued this afternoon:

LYNNFIELD, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–May 24, 2006–Investors Capital Holdings (AMEX:ICH), today announced that it has been named to the “Globe 100” list of top performing public companies in Massachusetts.

Boston Globe top 100Based on a composite score derived from financial data for the four quarters ending December 31, 2005, Investors Capital Holdings was ranked #24 among the top 50 Massachusetts-based companies based on growth. Investors Capital Holdings also ranked #10 among top financial services companies, #9 in the Wall Street Wall Flowers category and #100 in the overall listing. It is the third consecutive year that Investors Capital Holdings has been included in the Globe 100.

“The companies in the Globe 100 represent the brightest lights of the Massachusetts economy,” said Boston Globe business editor Caleb Solomon. “This year’s top 10 Globe 100 companies span a variety of industries – Internet and communications technologies, defense contracting and technology, biotech, life sciences, and financial services. This diversity is key to the strength of the region in the ever-changing and competitive global economy.”

To qualify for the Globe 100, a company must have been public for the entire 2005 calendar year and have reported a positive net income for both 2004 and 2005.

Read the rest of the release here.

What makes me even more uncomfortable about this is that the press release put out by this company includes a quote from the Globe’s business editor. In my opinion, that’s a tacit approval of the company by someone who is supposed to be impartial and objective.

I’m all for doing these lists, as long as the methodology comes up with an accurate way to measure the companies on something other than number of employees, revenue or net income. But I draw the line when these lists become less editorial and more like free advertising for the companies.

I’d like to start a conversation about this issue. Please feel free to disagree — or agree — with me and post comments.

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