In a rapidly changing global economic environment, the rules for reporting on business news are changing. Today, business journalists need to be aware of not just the intricacies of business, finance and the corporate world but also the economic, political and social environment that they operate in. Hence, the challenges today for business journalists are manifold.
Speaking on the importance of business reporting, Annurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media Group, stated, “Today, business is a front page agenda for all newspapers as business impacts politics, as much as politics impacts business.” However, with the medium of consuming news changing for readers, the job became all the more challenging for journalists. Batra pointed out that readers were now consuming content ‘on-the-go’. Hence, the role of technology in reporting had increased.
Stressing that journalists needed to move from information to knowledge, Batra remarked, “Breaking stories is not good enough in today’s scenario. Reporting must involve more research so that the story can give better insight to the readers with authentic data.”
He further emphasised on the trend of ‘super-specialisation’ in journalism, adding, “Now, readers follow not just publications, but domain specialists as well.”
He also listed out some drawbacks in media today in India, where publications did not collaborate on stories, but fiercely competed for stories. He stressed on the need for journalists to communicate more with each other.
Business journalism in Canada
Giving a global prospective on business reporting, Janice Neil, Associate Professor, School of Journalism, Ryerson University, Canada, explained how her country was moving ahead in the domain. Citing examples of some of the popular business publications in Canada, such as Financial Post, Report on Business, and The Globe and Mail, Neil explained how they had moved from merely reporting breaking news to in depth analysis and commentary. However, she also raised her concerns regarding ‘press release journalism’, stating, “The bigger challenge for media to create a perfect balance in editorial and advertising content.” As it is, ethics was a complicated issue for business journalists, Neil added. She also stated that given the multiple platforms in which to access news today, packaging news in different ways for different media platforms had become imperative.
Back to basic Economics
“If you know economics, you won’t commit basic mistakes,” remarked Ashok Desai, Consulting Editor, Businessworld, stressing on the need for all business journalists to study economics. He pointed out that journalists in India tended to be combative, because most of the time they do not know what questions to ask. “Journalists need to ask ‘informed questions’,” Desai maintained.
According to him, journalists in India were recruited at a fairly young age, when they only knew that they were in the business of “producing words”. He emphasised that a good business journalist must know the nuances of Economics and know his/ her subject well.
Further, giving a comprehensive Power Point presentation on the state of the world economy and its impact on India, Desai said, “The world is not at its worst at the moment, and growth in the West is not bad by modern standards.” He believed that for India, the good thing was that the country had been becoming less dependent on the world economy.
He pointed out that business confidence had declined in three major regions of the US, Europe and Japan. But growth in OECD was not too bad, though there was deepening pessimism. “Though growth is slowing, the good thing is that balance of payments has improved,” Desai remarked.
Delving into the different sectors of the economy, Desai said that manufacturing had shrunk rapidly even as inflation was rising. Industry output today was about 5 per cent lower than what it was a year ago.
India’s exports rose 52 per cent, led by engineering goods, chemicals and petroleum products. But the direction of exports did not change much.
Omkar Goswami, Director, Infosys, Founder & Chairman, Corporate & Economic Research Group (CERG) had three “propositions’ regarding journalism.
According to him, the first proposition was that journalists wrote words, readers read pages. A page is a combination of words, images, headlines and graphs.
Proposition two was that one’s writing was only as important as readers reading it. The third proposition was that editorial cost money. “If a page is not read, then it is waste of money,” observed Goswami.
According to him, today wordsmith were required. He urged all journalists to improve their reading habits. “It will teach you felicity of very good English, importance of gravity, importance of focus, learn what it means to do research and put it in a clean, pithy language, and more.”
He then went on to give an overview of awaited India in 2012 and said, “I see phenomenal growth in corporatisation and entrepreneurship in India, even better than China, which is going to drive India into the growth path. I don’t see growth falling for India.”
On what the world looked like in 2012, he said that the US closed the year 2011 with a GDP growth of just a tad above 2 per cent, mostly contributed to by the holiday season. The GDP growth in 2012 was likely to remain in the same range of 2-2.5 per cent. But the good news was that eventually the US was on the mend.
The Euro Zone remained a concern and he said that it was good to be a bear on this zone. Greece would bleed the Euro Zone, he noted.
Presenting another view, Amit Kapoor, Honorary Chairman, Institute of Competitiveness, stated that the Indian economy was going through a structural shift. He stressed that region-specific competitiveness strategy would help laggard Indian states raise their per capita income. “States need to decide their vision clearly,” he added.
Janice Neil, Ashok Desai, Omkar Goswami and Amit Kapoor were speaking at the day-long work shop on ‘Reporting on Business in a Global World’ for business journalists, held in Delhi on February 23, 2012. The workshop was organised by the High Commission of Canada, in collaboration with exchange4media.