Take a look at this scathing but humorous critique of the BusinessWeek 2006 Investment Outlook by Mark R. Mitchell of CRJDaily (Columbia Journalism Review). It's a great combination of journalism and investment "insight". No great stock tips, but that's okay and for the good of most readers. Just a sample:
... BusinessWeek singles out a few stocks and advises readers to invest in them because one analyst or another believes it's a good idea. Reporter Timothy Mullaney, for example, writes that Google might be a safe bet because Mark Mahaney says so. What we know about Mark Mahaney is that he works at Citigroup Smith Barney. He is also "influential."
Mullaney doesn't provide further information about this analyst, and why should he? The truth is, Mullaney is being modest, cloaking his own reporter-wisdom behind the quoted words of some faceless investment banker. There are surely other suits who told Mullaney that Google's stock will lose value, but he probably didn't even have to consult a balance sheet to know that those who presume to disparage the almighty Google deserve no hearing on the pages of BusinessWeek.
And also read Blogspotting's post by Stephen Baker's entitled "Scathing critique of investment coverage" as he opines that Mitchell isn't being quite fair. He says:
Maybe I'm a tad defensive, but I think the misdeeds we're being charged with are common to most journalism that dares to predict market behavior.
Aha! He's hit the nail on the head, albeit in an indirect manner. THE PROBLEM is that journalists are constantly trying to do something that they shouldn't be doing: predict market behavior. Stop doing the bad thing and CJR wouldn't have to complain about your doing it. Any questions?
Mr. Baker closes by asking:
... should journalists make calls, or simply provide the facts on both sides and leave it at that?
Once again, he's hit the nail on the head, albeit a little indirectly. Who is the somebody who is misguidedly pressuring weak-willed journalists to "make calls" when common sense should be screaming at them to don't do it!? Is it their boss? Their peers? Who? Who is causing these weak-willed journalists to exercise bad judgement? Certainly not me. My clarion call to all journalists is to simply "Give me the facts, all of the facts!" By all means give me all sides of the issues or fence or table. They should even interview analysts and report all sides of the analysis of the facts. That's what I want and that's what I need. Readers can then decide for themselves which facts and which non-journalist analysis fits their own needs and then consult with non-journalist professionals for specific, professional advice, whether the topic is investment, technology, health, management, entertainment, or whatever.
Just to state that a little more simply, journalists can help readers best when they uncover facts or opinions that non-journalists simply don't have the time or access to ferret out. I applaud those efforts. Journalists can also do a tiny amount of editorializing, but only on the side. I'de love to read some editorials from Mr. Baker and his cohorts, but separately from their normal reporting of facts. Otherwise, journalists should endeavor to keep their opinions to themselves and do their best to not let their personal, subjective selves show through in their normal writing. Sure, a little color and personality is fine, provided it's not intended to masquerade as non-personal fact. Yes, journalists should do the occasional op-ed, give personal speeches now and then, and express your opinion when asked, or at least clearly marked as "Opinion", but keep the core, bread-and-butter "stories" as objective and informative (with collected facts) as possible. That's all I really wanted for Christmas (and didn't get).
-- Jack Krupansky