Survey points to low quality of US business journalism

WASHINGTON: The state of American business journalism got a failing grade in a recent, comprehensive study that included a harsh assessment from business editors and reporters.

WASHINGTON: The state of American business journalism got a failing grade in a recent, comprehensive study that included a harsh assessment from business editors and reporters.

In the four-survey project, corporate and news executives - along with journalism-school deans - also identified a host of problems with the craft, from a void of talent on the business desks to a lack of funding for education for business scribes.

Sponsored by the American Press Institute, the survey quantified years of anecdotal evidence pointing to the dismal state of business reporting, said Dr. William Winter, president of the organization.

"There's a general recognition that there is a small number of people coming out of college who are prepared to be good business journalists," he said.

In an otherwise bleak assessment, The Wall Street Journal was the only standout, with 83% of the business leaders interviewed saying they read it every day.

More than half identified it as the most important source of breaking news.

One-third of the corporate executives surveyed said they were dissatisfied with the business news they find in local newspapers. For the most part, however, these executives complained about a lack of depth in the reporting, not the accuracy.

News executives were just as critical as corporate executives. Only 38% said that business coverage is a high priority.

Though some of this is the result of the poor education of the reporters, White argued that the problem extends back to where a future reporter focuses his or her attentions during formative years.

"Kids grow up interested in sports," he explained. "They tend not to grow up interested in business."

The study has resulted in a $3 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation of Las Vegas to help the institute establish a center to improve business journalism.

HOW THE BUSINESS PRESS ADDS UP

- 83% of CEOs read The Wall Street Journal

- 9% of CEOs give their local business coverage an "excellent" rating

- 91% of CEOs say coverage of their companies has been "very" or "fairly" accurate

- 14% of news executives describe the skills of their business reporters as "excellent"

- 18% of business editors rate their desk's talent as "excellent"

- 44% of business editors rate the talent of their paper's sports desk as "excellent"

- 48% of editors and reporters say they took a course in economics.

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