Talking Biz

The relationship between business reporters and P.R. sources has long been the grist of journalism conferences.  But there was an interesting twist to the conversation at the Talking Biz one-day conference in Manhattan last week that was organized by UNC J-school Professor Chris Roush, the creator of Taking Biz.

Reporters in or from mainstream media made it clear no one has time to build relationships any more.  An emerging media business editor argued relationships give them an edge.

For AP’S new business editor Kevin Shinkle, the push for getting stories out, making 24/7 deadlines and feeding multiple platforms means lunch with a source is simply an artifact of the past.  “You once knew where PR professionals were coming from and they knew where reporters were coming from.  That is gone.  Now, no one has time.”

Along with Kevin Shinkle of AP, the other working business editor on the panel was at a new web based news organization:  BuzzFeed. 

Peter Lauria, who worked at the New York Post before joining BuzzFeed as business editor, emphasized the need for relationships.    A fast paced web site, Buzz Feed is building an audience that is younger than the traditional business news audience.  Lauria said they want to leverage relationships with companies – both with those in the PR arm of a company and those on the front lines.  As he put it: “We have scoops because we have relationships.”   Scoops are the currency of the realm for on-line news sites like BuzzFeed.

Lauria insisted the hardest part of his job was building the relationships with corporate leaders that Fortune and New York Times always had.  The reason: he must convince big business leaders that a new start-up site like BuzzFeed is worth the time.  “CEOs often dismiss Millennials,” who he explained are the audience for his growing site.  He argued such dismissals were short sighted since Millennials will soon be the recipients of a major transfer of wealth when the baby boom generation passes on their wealth to their children.

Business news is big business these days as computerized investing, the global market, and start-ups change the rules in how business runs.  Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters have gained profits and audience share while traditional leaders in the field have lost pace.  Being fast is critical with information giving investors an edge of seconds that can turn into millions.

The great business reporting pages were represented on the panel – Fortune, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.  However, the reporters that once worked explaining, covering and spotlighting business were now mostly on the other side advising companies about how to tell their story. Some still worked with reporters as bridges to corporate leaders.  But many of them were now turning to media they could control to influence the global market.  Reporters and business news is still important – perhaps more than ever – but in a different way.

I left with two big take-aways from the strong panel that Talking Biz and Roush put together:  old successful business journalists are now strategists for corporate America which may be a real boost for American business.  And business journalism is the new frontier for start-ups like BuzzFeed.

It wasn’t a good news/bad news, dire situation kind of a discussion – it was one that revealed all the change underway.  And, it proved the hunger for information and understanding is alive and well.

For newsies like me – that seems like a good thing.

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