Discover what is business journalism and read about the origin and some popular examples of this reporting today.
Business journalism refers to reporting, analyzing, and distributing information relating to business and economic matters. Sometimes referred to as financial journalism, business journalism includes everything from personal finance news to the latest public interest stories concerning big businesses.
As many with a journalism career know, it’s a broad and varied genre, with personal finance, investment news, and consumer reporting only a few of the topics under its banner.
The Importance of Business Reporting
If money makes the world go round, a mechanism as powerful as commerce should be of interest to the public and monitored by news organizations and trained reporters.
Business reporters provide the public with valuable information about the world of business and economics. This, in turn, allows them to make more informed financial decisions.
This type of reporting also functions similarly to other forms of journalism; it keeps those in powerful positions accountable for their actions.
The Northwestern Business Review touches upon this in an article entitled ‘Business Journalism More Relevant now Than Ever’. There, they discuss the need for more business journalists and why their work should be valued more. It reads:
“Reporters and editors… keep world and industry leaders accountable, and tell stories about crime and justice to reinforce societal values”.
As great investigative journalism books argue, almost all reporting has a financial angle. This argument states that because of this, nearly all journalists are business journalists to some degree. This is a point that Raju Narisetti, professor and dean at Missouri School of Journalism, made when he discussed the profession. He said:
“Money drives business and is at the core of every story… All journalists – whatever the beat – should think of themselves as business journalists. There are good job opportunities for those who work to truly understand the role of business in society and effectively tell those stories.”
The Origin Of Business Journalism
Business journalism has a long history which dates back to the Middle Ages when small business owners would communicate important information about trades. However, it wasn’t until the 1500s when these conversations between business owners were recorded and published. The first known place where this happened was Germany, where the Fuggers family published newsletters with business information that interested the business-owning public.
These newsletters were published between 1568 and 1604 and are considered by many to be the birth of print business journalism. Of course, they mostly contained information about the availability and the price of goods. However, according to the historian George Matthews, some also included “reports of those who have heard the echo of events as they reverberated through the markets of the world”.
In other words, they discussed and analysed how local and global events affected the business. These publications set in motion a journey toward what we know as business journalism today.
The Business Journalism Emergence And Growth
The Fuggers’ newsletters established an appetite for business coverage. In fact, by the time the 1700s came around, economic reporting had grown to a new level.
It was a decade when newspapers in both England and the American colonies began running stories detailing information about ships entering and leaving the ports.
It was also a time when the first ‘price currents’ appeared in newspapers. ‘Price currents’ were where the price of goods available in a town or city were listed. It wasn’t long before the United States had its first business newspaper too. In 1793, The New-Hampden Journal, also known as the Farmers’ Weekly Museum, began publishing.
This was quickly followed by The New York Price Current in 1795. This publication ran for 100 years, incorporating details of financial markets and the stock market into its content. Then, other papers started running their business sections. The first daily newspaper in the US to do this was the New York Herald. They began publishing a dedicated business stories section in 1835.
The Chicago Tribune was another paper that installed a business section. Henry Demarest Lloyd became its financial editor, and he became known for publishing in-depth news stories on business corruption.
It was also when some of the most prominent business journalism publications we know today were founded. First, there was The Economist in 1843, then The Financial Times in 1888, and then, The Wall Street Journal in 1889. Read our Wall St. Journal review to learn more.
Over a short period, business journalism moved from the periphery of media to claim its place as an integral part of local, national, and international news coverage.
Business Journalism Today
Of course, most of the above relate to print journalism. However, business reporting has since gained its place on every platform. CNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg News are just a few of the prominent television channels that focus on business news. They have a dedicated following, with huge numbers watching their programming every day.
Meanwhile, according to MuckRack, the most popular online business journalism outlet in the United States is the New York Times’ DealBook. CNN Business and Yahoo Finance complete the top three list of US business news outlets. The numbers reading online business journalism are in the millions and constantly rising.
In fact, business breaking news is being distributed everywhere, from print to radio, to television, and the web. It is one of the most popular and prominent news genres.
The Future Of Financial Journalism
Despite this, there is some worry that more needs to be done to train future financial and business reporters. Christopher Roush is a veteran business journalist and dean of the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. He published a book entitled The Future of Business Journalism: Why It Matters for Wall Street and Main Street. His book discusses some of his worries about the future of business journalism.
He touched on one such concern in an interview with The Observer. It was here he discussed his alarm around degree programs and graduate school programs not preparing future business journalists for the profession. He said:
“I devote a whole chapter to the fact that colleges and universities are not doing a good job in educating journalists on the importance of business and economics coverage. There’s maybe a dozen universities in this country that teach business journalism with any rigor. We make sure everybody learns how to cover education and cops and government. But business and economics is just as important to society.”
Roush also discussed the importance of ensuring equal access to information in regards to financial journalism. He believes this doesn’t currently exist and is helping create inequality. He added:
“Business journalism has resulted today in what I call a dissemination divide. For the people who can afford to pay thousands of dollars to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, or even pay for a Bloomberg terminal, can get the business and the economics news that they need.
“But it’s the 99% of us, the 30 million small business owners and the millions of consumers out there, who are no longer getting the business and economics news that they need to make important decisions either about their companies or about their personal lives”.
Newsrooms are essential in ensuring all entrepreneurs and those who want to access news about the local and global economy can access it. However, the current media business model often blurs the line between reporting and business. No easy answers exist!
However, those reporting on financial affairs go through the correct journalism programs. This type of journalism has a long history, and its future depends on the reporters of the future embracing it.