"Business Journalism or Journalism of Business - An ethical orientation needed"

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"Business Journalism or Journalism of Business – An  Ethical Orientation Needed"

D.V.Ramana Murthy*

" I am constantly pressured by advertisers  to write stories that will sell more of their products. It gets me angry. The proper method is to be totally honest, evenwhen you could upset your entire ad base. If you remain honest, people will read it no matter what the medium. And where there is circulation, ads will follow". ( a businees  journalist)

Business journalism is the branch of journalism that tracks, records, analyzes and interprets the economic changes that take place in a society. It could include anything frompersonal finanace,to business at the local market andshopping malls, to the performance of well-known and not-so-well-known companies.

This form of journalism covers news and features articles about people, places and issues related to the field ofbusiness. Most newspapers, magazines, radio, and television news shows carry a business segment. However, detailed and in depth business journalism can be found in publications, radio, and television channels dedicated specifically to business and financial journalism.

A journalist who works in this branch is considered a business journalist. Their main purpose is gathering information about current events in the economic life of the country. They may also cover processes, trends, consequences, and important people, in business and disseminate their work through all types of mass media.

Business journalism includes coverage of companies, the workplace, personal finance, and economics, including unemployment and other economic indicators.

Business coverage gained prominence in the 1990s, with wider investment in the stock market. The Wall Street Journal is one such example of business journalism, and is amongst the United States of America's top newspapers in terms of both circulation and respect of journalists. All major broadsheet newspapers carry a business section to a varying degree.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------*Senior Faculty, P.G.Department of commerce, The Hindu College , Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh, INDIA

  Guest Faculty, Department of Business Management, Krishna University, Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh, INDIA

 Directore &  Core Faculty,  Attitude+ve, Behavioural Training Solutions, Machilipatnam & Visakhapatnam, INDIA

Paper presented at  national seminar on "Media trends and ethics" organised by Department jounalism and Mass communications, Krishna University, Machilipatnam and Press Academy of Andhra pradesh, Hyderabad, 20-21, March 2011.



The quality of Indian journalism has been under question for as long as indian journalism has been around, especially by those wjhop found the news ad views contrary to their own closely held beliefs, assumptions and ideologies.

It has been widely whispered and speculated over for years, even though there are few cases of business journalists having actually been caught for accepting remuneration or incentive for writing or broadcasting slanted and biased information.

The malaise of journalists involved in insider trading and using the media to manipulate the shares of a particular company is also a well-known phenomenon not just in India but also in countries like the US and Britain. In fact, every time there is a bull run, market observers blame the media for propping up the markets by their overly optimistic projections about the corporate sector.

One cannot forget the classic story of Harshad Mehta, the legendary bull player on the Indian markets who was ultimately jailed for fraud and share manipulation. Till Mehta was ultimately hauled up by the authorities, he was a media darling.

Many reputed news and business magazines carried the "Big Bull" - as Mehta was called - on their covers, posing in front of his favourite Lexus. Clearly, there was no attempt at a critical evaluation of this market player by any of the corporate reporters who were involved in writing about his role in the bourses.

The issue of corruption in the business press has been around for much longer, however, than the era of Mehta. In the 1970s, when even printing the name of a private company on the business pages was considered to be giving some kind of publicity to that firm, it was widely known that some companies gave generous doles to journalists to ensure that only positive write-ps appeared in the papers.

There are also instances when corporate houses, unable to push their viewpoints from one bureau of a newspaper, would get them past some other bureau in another city. Even newspapers that pride themselves on being credible and authentic have succumbed to such tactics.

The problem is that even though such news items show a clear bias in favour of a particular company, the gatekeepers in the media allow these to appear, apparently without any qualms. Many financial dailies publish news items that are blatantly one-sided, invoking questions about the cavalier attitude of those who should be monitoring the flow of news.

Similarly, there is little critical evaluation done by business channels who are apparently content to report the news as it flows from the corporate sector or the government. Many questions have been raised, not just in India but also in the US about the compliant role of the news channels in the months just before the recession.

There are business magazines that thrive largely on articles commending the role of corporate houses in different sectors. One can speculate that this could be a way of bringing in more revenue through advertising but it certainly does not make for good journalism.

These issues are difficult to gauge precisely as there is no hard evidence. But there is a view within the media community that despite the huge salaries now being paid to business journalists in the print and electronic media, the incidence of corruption remains the same .

There was a time when business journalists would queue up to get a free shirt after a press conference by a textile company. Now they can afford to buy their own shirts. But it is whispered that much more is now being doled out by these firms that need to have positive write-ups in the media, especially at crucial times such as prior to a public issue to raise money or before launching a major project.

As far as the public issues are concerned, there has even been a pernicious practice of handing out envelopes filled with cash, or cash vouchers, to reporters at the press conference with the explanation that they could buy a small gift for themselves rather than being given the obligatory clock or tie from the organisers.

Insider trading by journalists is yet another story. Some journalists had become famous among their colleagues for the huge portfolios that they had built up over the years through getting preferential allotments from blue chip firms. Others were alleged to have been adept in planting stories at key times to ensure that prices of shares move up or down as the need may be.

But what is significant is that, as mentioned earlier, the gatekeepers in the media organisations concerned are clearly not being vigilant enough to ensure that such manipulation of news is kept to the minimum.

Most managements take the justifiable view that the free trip provides a tremendous learning opportunity to the scribe concerned, especially since Indian newspapers lack the financial muscle to fund such trips on their own. And there is no doubt that actually seeing a huge automobile or telecom giant's operations enhances the writer's education apart from the enormous contacts gained during the course of the trip.

But ever since India's economic liberalisation in the 1990s, these junkets have assumed ridiculous proportions. To the extent that business journalists would ask each other where they were going every month. One leading South Korean carmaker has been organising two-three junkets every year and several business journalists have visited Seoul, courtesy the carmaker.

On the plus side, the vast majority of business journalists try to remain as free of bias as possible. This is why firms trying to buy their way into good news and column-centimetres in newspapers do not always find it easy to locate a pliable scribe. There are also editors and reporters who have consciously decided to avoid buying any stocks or shares to ensure complete objectivity in their writing.

So it is not all bad news. But the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has shown in its latest report that a problem does exist. Greater vigilance, therefore, is needed to eliminate this blot on the media's reputation as a public watchdog.

Few examples:

Nue Gen hair Oil : Two TV news channels present two different views  on the said product throwing the viewers in to confusion on the oproducts utility.

Reliance Power IPO : The TV presenters were saying every thing was good about the issue till is listed below the issue price. And after, we found the TV people saying every thing was wrong and talking it down. What is this!.

Media definitely plays very critical rolein influencing people, especially business media, let it be print media, visual media or any other media apart from keeping people informed and updated also plays an important role in investment advice, as a single wrong information may get a number of people bankrupt.

Let the business media give accurate information, honestly and professionally gathered. Inaccurate and sloppy reporting msut be avioded.

Let business journalists' dealings with sources of information - - and with ather editorial staff  must be truthful. Let their judgements be based on through reporting and reasonable analysis. There should be no ideological agenda for businss media.

Let the business media who do anlytic journalism and commentaries, must always be fair and present the facts with out fear or favour.

Let business media realise the fact that it is important to ensure that their communications are meaningfullly creative yet completely honest.





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-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------*Senior Faculty, P.G.Department of commerce, The Hindu College , Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh, INDIA

  Guest Faculty, Department of Business Management, Krishna University, Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh, INDIA

 Directore &  Core Faculty,  Attitude+ve, Behavioural Training Solutions, Machilipatnam & Visakhapatnam, INDIA

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This article was published on 2011/03/24