Peter S. Goodman is the executive business editor of The Huffington Post, where he supervises business, economic and technology coverage. He is also the global news editor and writes frequently about the upending of basic economic security for ordinary Americans and the search for new sources of quality jobs.
Goodman joined the Huffington Post in the fall of 2010, after two decades in traditional newspaper journalism, most recently as the national economic correspondent for the New York Times, where he played a leading role in the paper’s award-winning coverage of the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession. Prior to that, he spent a decade at the Washington Post as a foreign correspondent and a financial writer.
Goodman is the author of “PAST DUE: The End of Easy Money and the Renewal of the American Economy” (Times Books, 2009), which draws on more than a decade’s reporting to trace the origins of the breakdown in American economic life while exploring ways to reinvigorate the economy. The book was selected as an Editor’s Choice title by the New York Times Book Review and as one of Bloomberg’s Top 50 Business Books.
Goodman grew up in New York City and graduated from Reed College in 1989. He began his newspaper career as a feature writer in Kyoto, Japan for the English language-Japan Times, then spent three years freelancing from Southeast Asia for several newspapers, among them the Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, Miami Herald and London’s Daily Telegraph. Returning to the United States in 1993, Goodman worked as a Metro reporter for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska, where he covered the Wasilla City Council and a then-unknown member of the body known as Sarah Palin.
After a year at the University of California, Berkeley — where Goodman gained a Master’s in Asian Studies — he joined the Washington Post as metro reporter in the summer of 1997. By 1999, he was the newspaper’s telecommunications reporter, giving him a front row seat for the emergence of the Internet as a force in commerce, culture and ordinary life.
Goodman spoke Wednesday afternoon with Talking Biz News about how Huffington Post covers business and economics stories. What follows is an edited transcript.
What is the philosophy behind your business news coverage?
We view our business site as one that is edited and written for a general interest reader. We are very much cognizant that most people are put off by jargon, esoteric terms that don’t get explained, and a lot of business sections don’t invite in the outsiders. We try to make the connections between big, important and hard-to-understand events and everyday people in their lives as workers, parents and one day retirees. We try to break them down into terms they can understand, such as saving for retirement and paying for kids to go to college.
We are also very serious about accountability. Business and economics issues spill over into the rest of life. So we are looking for stories that make sense of hard to understand events and to sound a warning when the public interest is being threatened or not adequately.
So an example of accountability would be the JP Morgan piece on the home page right now?
We look at JP Morgan as a company that, for better or worse, has been at the center of every big business story for the past decade. Any time that we write about financial regulatory reform or misdeeds by big companies, we have at the center of our thinking that we barely survive the last financial crisis, so what are the odds that we’re going to survive another one, and what lessons have we learned? So the JP Morgan becomes a hook to explore those questions of financial fairness and safety.
It’s quite collaborative. In the morning, we all read and check our Twitter feeds and in-boxes. Some things get planned in advance, like if the jobs report is going to happen or if the Fed is going to meet. Every morning, we bat around a bunch a possible stories and consider the merits of each and see who we have available.
How big is your staff — permanent and freelancers?
We don’t have any freelancers in business. Business and tech together we have seven reporters, a managing editor and an assistant managing editor and four associate editors. The seven reporters are all doing originally reported stuff. And the four associate editors are doing some aggregating and some original reporting.
Do you have a goal to post a certain number of stories per day or week?
No. We don’t have quotas. We stay on top of the news. We feel like you ought to be able to glance at our site and surmise what people are talking about and get some enterprise as well. We don’t operated on a quota basis.
How do you differentiate your coverage from other sources of business news and information?
A lot of the ways that I started off talking about. We understand that most of the business press is for people in business or trading or seeing the world through the eyes of companies and executives. We’re interested in looking at business and economic developments through the eyes of everyday people. I think lots of people do that well to a degree, but there isn’t anybody doing it wholesale.
What stories have your staff done recently that you’ve been proud of?
We did a terrific two-part investigative series into Youth Services International, a big prison conglomerate. We built the database from scratch, without much help from the states, and analyzed trends and discovered that this company has a history of abuse and neglect but nevertheless keeps getting contracts. That was really masterful work by Chris Kirkham.
Tech is doing a series on stolen iPhones and the international distribution of iPhones from the U.S. Our reporter, Gerry Smith, has been all over this.
And then Kim Bhasin, who covers retail for us, has had a bunch of solid scoops about JC Penney and the chaos at the company. We were very enterprising with the story that Barney’s security was harassing black customers at its stores.
Ben Hallman did tremendous work on a company called Safeguard, that gets bank contracts for foreclosed homes they’re sitting on. It’s a real free for all. It’s an industry that nobody understands.
And Mark Gongloff, who is deputy managing editor, writes a column, and his work on JP Morgan has been tremendous.
What areas would you like to expand or improve coverage?
That’s never ending. I’d love for us to get more enterprising at the business opportunity that climate change represents. Everyone is writing that in bits and pieces, but no one has figured out how to make that compelling.
You’ve got a lot of bloggers on the business page. How are they selected?
We don’t have anything to do with the bloggers. That is a tricky situation. We’re both a journalistic outfit and a platform. A team of blog editors sometimes reach out to people, and they vet people and make sure there’s an interesting mix. There’s something there for everybody.
How do you reconcile Huffington Post as place known for links with your original reporting?
I run the risk of repeating myself, but most people begin thinking of The Huffington Post as a very quick, sophisticated packager of other people’s work. We still are very good at serving as a lens on everything because we don’t feel bound to the traditional newspaper format. We don’t live in that world. We live in a world of links, and if the New York Times has a wonderful story, we will link to that.
At the same time, we have a made a very aggressive investment to original reporting. Kirkham has also dominated for-profit college coverage. And Kim’s retail reporting is up there with just about anybody. It’s that kind of sophistication that I see as our future, which is getting much more serious about our original reporting while curating the web.
What is your visitor and page view growth like recently?
I don’t know if we break that out publicly, but we have seen very steady growth in the three plus years that I have been here. Steadily increasing growth.