The troubles with business journalists

Cite this Article
Larry Ribstein, The troubles with business journalists, Truth on the Market (August 24, 2010),

Chrystia Freeland had some interesting thoughts on this in Sunday’s New York Times:

  • Too much of the top business writing (e.g., Michael Lewis) reports from the inside, based on cooperation with the insiders. Mikael Blomkvist would disapprove.
  • So-called investigative reporters like Gretchen Morgenson obsess over individual wrongdoing instead of root causes. (Don’t get me started.)
  • Journalists like personal narratives rather than analyzing what’s really happening inside corporations. (Mae Kuykendall has more on this.) Good example: focusing on the Fabulous Fab instead of Goldman.

I have a solution: scholarly blogs, or what I call PEAPs in my Public Face of Scholarship. The advantages of PEAPs include:

  • Lack of mainstream press institutional biases (discussed in more detail in my article).
  • Authors’ freedom to diverge from views of mainstream journalists’ mass audience.
  • May have smaller audience, but provide competitive discipline for the mainstream press.

My article predicts an equilibrium:

Journalism might evolve into a hybrid in which neither professional nor amateur journalism clearly dominates. Professional media may add to their bundles blog-like features for the readers who would otherwise defect to blogs. Indeed, many newspapers already have blogs on their websites that combine professional writing and reporting with interactivity. This might carry over to the rest of the newspaper, with each story providing a point of connection with reader commentary and blogs. Or current forms of professional media might be replaced by professionally managed group blogs. [footnote omitted]

But: there will always be a role for well-financed professional reporting.

Some dividing line between professional and amateur media is likely to remain. For example, professionals by definition will have more resources than academics to report on facts.
Conversely, bloggers, particularly authors of PEAPs, will continue to offer more specialized expertise than the mass media can offer. [footnote omitted]

The question is whether that professional reporting will come from anything like conventional newspapers.