OLD Media Moves

Why the decline of business journalism isn’t accurate

January 14, 2012

Posted by Chris Roush

Robert Teitelman, the editor of The Deal, writes in response to Dean Starkman‘s latest piece in Columbia Journalism Review on the decline of business journalism about why the argument falls flat, particularly because the average consumer has become an investor.

Teitelman writes, “Starkman manages to write this entire essay, citing Joe Nocera’s book on the rise of personal finance, without mentioning the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution retirement plans, which drove millions of Americans into equity markets in the ’80s and ’90s. This is like missing the Internet. Given that tidal shift, he never bothers to examine exactly how much ‘investors’ have come to make up of the ‘public.’ He is quite right that there are stories that can be investigated about issues of import to the broader public and not investors. But that gap has shrunk. Who exactly is the rest of us? Do they consume journalism at all? How can they be reached?

“And, as the business and financial world has grown more complex and global, can we effectively bridge that chasm between the complex realities at play and potential readers who know little, have lost the habit of consuming ‘serious’ journalism and have a million other distractions as near as their cellphones. We can all agree that business journalism can be improved. I have my own kit bag of concerns and fears. But Starkman seems to suggest that reforming journalism shouldn’t be all that hard — that it’s really a matter of realizing what’s gone awry and doing good, of reviving an imagined past. It’s infinitely more difficult than that — and it always has been.

“The notion of a ‘public good’ is hazy and subjective and the province of demagogues and ideologues. Journalism is inevitably a commercial product and must be sold to an audience to survive — never more than today. You cannot force people to read or to understand. These subjects are complex and dynamic. It is exactly like not only recognizing a bubble (no trivial task) but also then managing to convince the world of it: easy in hindsight, fiendishly difficult in real time.”

Read more here.

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