Rob Wells, a University of Arkansas professor and former business journalist, writes in the Washington Post about the value of business trade publications, with the savings and loan crisis as Exhibit A.
Wells writes, “The work done by the National Thrift News also provides lessons for journalists across the board. First, it shows that there is a market for investigative journalism. Businesses and political types will pay for hard-hitting journalism.
“Second, journalists must be in ownership positions of media organizations. Strachan was co-owner of the National Thrift News, and his commitment to hard news — traditional journalistic values, tough but fair reporting, meticulous verification of facts — was a foundation of the newspaper’s culture. It stands in great contrast to the metrics-obsessed corporate chains of today.
“Third, the National Thrift News shows how small newsrooms can innovate in the face of advertiser influence. The publication was a reporter’s paper,’ one where journalists could set the news agenda rather than being led by the industry. Instead of hurting business, such hard-hitting journalism can actually further the bottom line.
“The good work done by the National Thrift News in the Keating scandal also offers mainstream publications a means of covering technical areas like business as resources for journalism dwindle. One solution involves partnerships with plugged-in trade journals, such as the recent collaboration between the American Banker and the investigative news website ProPublica. This is a needed step for sharper coverage of business and finance in the struggling media landscape.”
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