Today at an American Press Institute workshop for business editors in Reston, Va., the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism presented some interesting research on business section content.
Here is a summary of some of the highlights:
112 respondents to the survey from May to July, with about half of the respondents coming from newspapers with fewer than three business reporters. Eighty percent of the respondents were from newspapers with a circulation below 200,000.
–Stories about the local economy and small business are more likely to end up as centerpieces in the business section than any other story type.
–About 35 percent of the respondents say their business coverage is good, while another 35 percent say it’s fair.
–The quality and usefulness of business sections often correspond to the level of interest from reporters working on them. For the most part, reporters are only somewhat interested in working on these specialized sections.
–Those who said that their reporting staff’s interest in the specialized section was “high” were more likely to descrive their sections as “excellent” (56 percent) and “very useful” (89 percent).
–Those who said their reporting staff’s interest in the section was “low” were more likely to describe their sections as “fair” (53 percent) and “somewhat useful” (69 percent).
What makes a business section good? The respondents said a deeper exploration into a topic of interest and larger trends, as well as a narrow, local focus that is made relevant to local investors and consumers.
Common obstacles, and these should not be a surprise, include lack of manpower, lack of local stories and a reliance on wire copy and a lack of space.
My read on the research presented is that newspapers and universities that teach business journalism are still not doing enough to get budding reporters interested in writing about business and the economy. Newspapers seem to be doing a good job of covering their local economy, but the reporters sometimes don’t seem to be that enthused about what they’re writing about.