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Kelly Carr

Kelly is the Reynolds Center's Senior Online Producer. She has worked as a reporter for several newspapers, most recently The Arizona Republic, and has been an adjunct professor at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College and holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from West Virginia University. Kelly also was a fellow at The Poynter Institute and a contributing writer for "Cancer Stories: Lessons in Love, Loss & Hope."

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Finding your region’s ties to Africa’s booming economies

africa small business

By Flickr user hdptcar

President Obama’s current trip to sub-Saharan Africa, with stops planned for Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa, seemed a timely moment to update the blog post, below, I originally wrote last fall.  As I noted then, “over the past decade, six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies” are in Africa.

That’s a statistic not lost on American corporations; as this recent Wall Street Journal piece notes, household names from General Electric to General Motors to Procter & Gamble are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Africa to sell products from diapers to pickup trucks.  The Corporate Council on Africa appears to be a lobbying and advocacy firm representing American business with Africa; I didn’t see a member list but it boasts nearly 200 corporate partners and might point you to those in your area; note that two upcoming conferences are advertised, including the U.S.-Africa Business Summit in October in Chicago; keep an eye on the site for sponsorship and exhibitor lists that might also lead you to interested parties in your market.

Small businesses aren’t shut out, either.  And while Africa is home to energy and mining giants, this Forbes article, “Solar energy: African economies’ secret weapon” suggests that alternative and renewable energy offers opportunities for small firms, too.

Last winter, a Doing Business in Africa conference was held at the White House; this web page about the conference is packed with leads, including links to programs that facilitate minority-owned businesses in commerce abroad; the report says that minority-owned companies are twice as likely (according to U.S. Census Bureau data) to export their products and services as non-minority-owned firms; I didn’t know that and if your beat includes entrepreneurs, small business or minority business, there’s an interesting nexus of story ideas.  This report from the Minority Business Development Agency, “America’s key to the global marketplace,” has related information.

This publication, The Africa Report, covers politics and economy — and has tons of business-related resources on its website that may spur some story angles for you.  Note its ranking of Top 500 companies – you can sort it by sector and possibly find firms that have ties to those in your region, as either suppliers or customers.

Or, talk with investment experts, brokerage firm industry analysts and mutual fund companies — where might Africa-centric funds or other investments  fit into an average American’s retirement portfolio?  The Economist recently called the continent “the hottest frontier” and said the capital-starved continent is ripe for investment from richer nations.

Here’s the U.S. Chamber of Commerce portal on Africa.  Note the “investment climate updates” for various regions of the continent; they’re fascinating reading and might give you ideas for which local companies might see opportunities there; the report on Kenya, for example, refers to a special economic zone being established near Nairobi as East Africa’s first “techolopolis,” – a city established specifically for technology firms.

For further resources and story ideas, here’s a review of the information posted here in September 2012: 

A snippet overheard on a recent TV news program was cause for pause:  Over the past decade, six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were in … Africa.

Like many Americans, I’ve been conditioned to think of the so-called dark continent as one of poverty and strife, even while intellectually aware that some areas are middle-class and even prosperous.  It certainly isn’t top-of-mind as a local business angle.  But as this article in The Economist points out, despite some entrenched problems, many African countries are embracing technology, producing a better-educated generation of young people and growing the incomes of their citizens.

What a fascinating trend and what a great opportunity to find your region’s ties to Africa’s growing consumer class and business arena.  Here’s an excellent piece from The Atlantic, “The Next Asia is Africa,” which is chock full of important background information and leads to resources you can pursue.

The discussion primarily involves the sub-Saharan portion of Africa, excluding the Arab states in North Africa. For background, refer to the site of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, a 2000 law that “provides beneficiary countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with the most liberal access to the U.S. market available to any country or region with which we do not have a Free Trade Agreement. ”  The site provides links to a number of resources including data tables and reports.  And here’s a U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) backgrounder about factors affecting trade, by industry.

Finding local companies that trade with Africa will take some digging.  Try state chambers of commerce and economic development units, and even the business schools at area universities.  And of course, if your area is home to household-name multinational corporations, from corn flake makers to IT companies, they likely have African investments and may be aware of others from your market who do business there too.

Right now,  aside from energy, tourism may be the average American’s greatest connection to Africa, so contacting tour operators and outfits like the African Business Travel Association may lead you to people who can discuss what they’re seeing from your state or market.

Other resources:

Imports.  According to the USITC, 2011 imports from sub-Saharan Africa were more than $74 billion in 2011; here’s a breakdown by sector.  Obviously energy and minerals mke up a good share of that but agricultural products, textiles and other sectors were prominent, too.  The U.S. Census Bureau also has trade stats for the entire continent.  And here’s a U.S. commerce department blog post about economic opportunities in Africa.

Exports. Here’s a look at sectors where the United States exports to Africa; note “transportation equipment” (likely buses, cars  — here’s a 2011 USA Today article noting that Ford Motor Co. hopes to boost its Asia/Africa trade to 30 percent of global sales) is a biggie.

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IRE accepts applicants for its financial investigative journalism fellowship

Investigative Reports and Editors is offering a fellowship for journalists with a demonstrated interest in financial investigative journalism.

The David Dietz Fellowship, an award honoring David Dietz a longtime IRE member and supporter, covers conference registration fees and provides $750 for travel and lodging expenses. The fellow will also receive a yearlong IRE membership and a year-long mentorship with a veteran investigative journalist.

The IRE conference will be held in San Antonio on June 20-23. Applicants must have less than 10 years experience as a professional journalist. Details to apply are on IRE’s website.

David Dietz, Bloomberg Markets reporter

David Dietz

Dietz is a former Bloomberg Markets reporter who passed away from cancer last June. A Columbia Journalism Review article highlighted one of Dietz most notable investigations, “Broken Promises,” which it dubbed a “staggering scandal.” Dietz, along with Bloomberg’s William Selway, Martin Z. Braun, examined $7 million in tax-exempt bond deals that generated millions in fees and investment gains. An exhaustive reporting effort revealed that taxpayers received no benefit. (Here’s more background on Dietz’s impressive journalism career.)

IRE also offers a myriad of other fellowship opportunities open to all experience levels. You can find more details and instruction on how to apply at IRE’s fellowship/scholarship page. 

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Decades on the investigative beat: C-SPAN talks with Barlett & Steele

barlett & steele on cpan

Donald Barlett and Jim Steele were recently featured on C-SPAN's BookTV to discuss their decades of work.

Donald Barlett & Jim Steele, the storied investigative business journalism duo, were recently featured on C-SPAN’s Book TV for an in-depth session that covered everything from past award-winning series to the team’s new book, “The Betrayal of the American Dream.”

And when you have a body of work that stretches over 40 years, includes eight books and has been honored with almost every major journalism prize, a three-hour interview might not seem long enough.

Highlights included stories from Barlett & Steele’s impressive resume and inside details from their revelatory books on tax dodging and Howard Hughes. The pair answered questions from Facebook comments, emails and Tweets. They also shared their thoughts on the future of investigative business journalism in a ever-changing media climate. (Watch the full interview on C-SPAN’s site.)

“There are a lot of good journalists out there…There is a lot of outstanding work going on in this country,” Steele said.

This discussion with two of the top investigative business reporters will leave you feeling inspired. Once you craft your own in-depth work, don’t forget to submit to to our annual Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism. Learn more about past winners and application details for this year’s competition.

 

 

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Sutton stays at Grambling to lead public relations and communications

sutton leckey

Will Sutton (left) and Andrew Leckey, president of the Reynolds Center.

Will Sutton, a 2012 Reynolds Center Visiting Professor, will join Grambling State University as acting Director of Public Relations and Communications.

Since January, Sutton taught a business journalism class at Grambling as part of the Reynolds Center’s Visiting Professor Program, which pairs veteran journalists with academic institutions to encourage stronger financial training. Sutton, whose career included leading award-winning teams at various media outlets, was one of four visiting professors funded by a $1.67 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

In his new role, Sutton will handle Grambling’s public relations and communications. He will also advise journalism students as they embark on professional careers.

“None of this would be possible without the wonderful visiting professor opportunity provided by the Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism and the opportunity to share business and business journalism knowledge with students at Grambling State University,” Sutton said in an e-mail. “This job  gives me the chance to have a broad impact on the university while still working with students.”

While teaching at Grambling, Sutton founded a professional development program for journalists and also pushed for diversity on the business beat. This spring, his 11-point plan for adding diversity to business journalism ranks prompted a vibrant online discussion and eventually action. After reading Sutton’s challenge, Jill Jorden Spitz, president of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, vowed to explore bring business journalism training to five high schools. She also said the organization will strive to award five minority students scholarships to the 2013 SABEW Annual Conference in Washington D.C.

“We have enjoyed having Will on campus as a visiting professor, and we’re thrilled that he’s agreed to stay and help us communicate all the good news about our wonderful university,” President Frank D. Pogue said in a press release. “We know someone of his caliber will automatically have respect from his media peers and our academic community, and we know he can help us.”

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Open database of the corporate world: A tool to background businesses

open corporates

opencorporates.com screenshot.

Searching for U.S. business incorporation records typically requires jumping from state to state to dig through numerous Secretary of State’s websites. It’s time consuming and often daunting.

And when you’re in the thick of it – searching for one business in Florida only to jump over to look up another in Arkansas and then a third in Illinois – you start wishing for one thing: a master collection of incorporation records in one, central spot.

Thankfully, the founders of Open Corporates had the same thought and sought out a way to streamline the process.

Chris Taggart and Rob McKinnon are working to gather business information from around the globe into one database dubbed Open Corporates. Theirs is a simple, but big mission. Their goal: To have an entry for every corporate entity in the world logged into one central database, allowing users searching simply by company name or director to find a series of relevant matches from all parts of the world.

“Once you put it together in one place you can do lots of things,” Taggart said. “At the base it’s having one big database that allows you to search a bunch of different jurisdictions and a whole lot of different permutations all at once.

Currently, the site allows users to search through more than 40 million companies in 52 jurisdictions, which stretch from from California to Croatia. For users searching for information on U.S. companies, the site has business information from 23 states and also the District of Columbia. Taggert said those numbers will continue to grow.

This mega search allows journalists to sweep across information that’s held worldwide, allowing them to spot subsidiary or related companies. Reporters analyzing a company may begin to find related entities offshore or in other states they otherwise were unaware of and would have had to track down by searching each individual registry.

chris taggart

Chris Taggart, co-founder and CEO of Open Corporates.

“These days companies are not just a company,” Taggart said. “You’ll get multiple subsidiaries. You’ll get companies that own other companies in tax havens or secrecy havens, which will own another company back in the home jurisdiction. It’s a web of interconnected entities.”

Eager to dive in? Here are a few ways you can begin using Open Corporates as an investigative tool:

Run a basic company search: 

Run a basic company search: To do a basic entity search on Open Corporates, simply type the firm’s name into the search bar at the top of the page. The search will recognize capital letters or abbreviations and will pull in relevant company information. You can then filter by jurisdiction and follow links to the company’s actual filings. Remember that the search isn’t all inclusive. Not all states or overseas jurisdictions are accounted for yet because the site is still growing. The search can be a useful supplementary tool to identify related companies or locations you were unaware of. Also helpful area the tags next to the entities, which quickly reveal if the company is active or inactive.

Run a director search: Recently, Open Corporates added a specific search for company officers and directors where you can dig for leads in a database the holds more than 14 million results. When you search a specific name, the query scans through all 52 jurisdictions to provide matches. The ability to quickly search in one spot will cut your research time significantly. For more information on how to search, read this blog post from Open Corporates detailing the director’s section of the site.

Take your search deeper with Google Refine: With this option you can take a separate datasheet (formatted in CSV or Excel) with company information and compare it to registered companies found in Open Corporates’ database. This reconciliation streamlines your searching even more and allows you to quickly find incorporation records for multiple companies on your radar. For a step-by-step guide for using Google Refine with Open Corporates, watch the video below.

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Check out this SPJ Webinar to refresh your job-hunting strategy

weird careersStumped and frustrated by your journalism job search? The solution might be as simple as looking in unique places to distinguish yourself from the pack of job hunters. And there’s no better expert to guide you than Michael Koretzky.

Koretzky, a former hiring editor and author of a weekly media job list, will offer tips for revamping your job search in an upcoming Webinar on June 13. The promo for the training called “Weird Careers in the Media” says journalists will learn the lessons Koretzky ” had to discover the hard way.”

Here’s more details on how to register for the free Webinar, which will run from 11 a.m. to noon, EDT and is sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists. The session is open to all journalists and doesn’t require a SPJ membership to attend.

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Wharton hosts free daylong training program in San Francisco

whartonThe Wharton Seminars for Business Journalists will host a free daylong program on June 27 in San Francisco on “Buzz Engagement & Connectivity.”

The session, which will help reporters gain a deeper understanding of online behavior, customer engagement and “gamification,” will be led by Wharton professors Kevin Werbach and Jonah Berger.

Thousands of media professionals have participated in Wharton Seminars for Business Journalists since the program was established more than 40 years ago. The training links journalists with Wharton faculty on topics such as financial markets and economics.

The application deadline is June 27. You can find the program agenda and details on how to apply at Wharton’s site.

 

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Reynolds presenter, Barlett & Steele winner grab Pulitzer Prizes

pulitzer prizeMatt Apuzzo, a Reynolds Center presenter, and Michael J. Berens, a 2011 winner of the Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Reporting, have each won the Pulitzer Prize for their investigative work.

Apuzzo and his Associated Press’ colleagues, Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan and Chris Hawley, grabbed an Investigative Reporting Pulitzer Prize for their probe into the New York Police Department’s secret intelligence operations.  The department launched the spying program after the Sept. 11 attacks and the series revealed undercover officers dispatched in minority neighborhoods.

Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong of The Seattle Times were also awarded a Pulitzer in the investigative reporting category for their three-part series “Methadone and the Politics of Pain.”  The in-depth reports detail how the state opted to prescribe the painkiller methadone, ignoring the drugs’ risks, to cut costs. The investigation found more than 2,000 residents died after overdosing on methadone.

Matt Apuzzo, investigative reporter in AP's Washington bureau

Matt Apuzzo

The Associated Press and The Seattle Times’ pieces were just two stories highlighted in a line-up of impressive journalism honored in this year’s Pulitzer Prizes. The full list of winners, along with their work, is on the Pulitzer’s website.

Apuzzo, an investigative reporter at the AP, has led training sessions for the Reynolds Center on in-depth business reporting. To grab his reporting tips, check out our self-guided training “Quick-hit business investigations – Concept to execution.” 

Michael J. Berens won third-place in the Reynolds Center’s 2011 Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism for his series “Seniors for Sale,” which detailed the abuse of seniors living in adult family homes. In this post, he shares an inside look at the story and his reporting strategies.

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A discussion elicits action: Pledges to increase diversity in business journalism

Reynolds Center business journalism training

A recent business journalism training workshop hosted by the Reynolds Center.

A conversation sparked on the heels of this year’s Society of Business Editors and Writers annual conference about the visible void of diversity in business journalism. And now, just two weeks after the topic took center stage, the chatter has turned to action.

Christopher Nelson, a freelance journalist and graduate student at Georgetown University Law Center, wrote a blog that explored the lack of journalists of color covering business. Soon after, Will Sutton, a journalism professor at Grambling State University, jumped in. Sutton penned a column for the Reynolds Center detailing the minority gap in financial journalism. His conclusion: caring alone is not enough. With vigor, he proposed a plan.

Sutton’s 11-point challenge offered solutions for ensuring journalists of color have fruitful opportunities and support to enter business journalism. He called on the industry to offer feedback and to pledge action on his points, which included funding high school programs and offering scholarships to encourage minority journalists to explore financial stories.

It wasn’t long before his challenge buzzed on the internet. Then, people took notice and started making promises.

One was newly elect SABEW President Jill Jorden Spitz. She accepted the challenge and will attempt to bring business journalism training to five high schools. She also said the organization will strive to award five minority students scholarships to the 2013 SABEW Annual Conference in Washington D.C.

“I wholeheartedly agree that a lack of diversity is a serious problem in all of journalism, including business journalism, today, ”  Spitz said in a comment responding to Sutton’s piece. “What I like about what you’ve done is created a specific challenge with specific steps – you’ve given us all something to DO beyond fretting about this problem.

“Your challenge is too important for us to ignore. I’m willing to work with you to make it happen.”

Warren Watson, executive director of SABEW, said increasing diversity in business journalism and ensuring high school students get exposure to the beat early are important areas for his organization to support. SABEW, which was founded in 1964 and is headquartered in Phoenix at Arizona State University, will soon celebrate it’s 50th anniversary. The milestone could illicit a rise in fundraising and the consideration of new initiatives.

“We hope to focus some of our upcoming fundraising on diversity topics,” Watson said.

As for Sutton, he’s delighted his column sparked a collaborative forum for journalists seeking, and now carrying out, solutions.  He’s hopes the conversation will continue and he urges others in the industry to chime in.

“Now we need business journalism associations, news organizations and even business leaders to step up and join the conversation,” said Sutton in an e-mail. “They need to say what’s on their minds so others of us will know what they’re thinking about, how they see the challenges and what they propose we do. They don’t have to wait to join the conversation when they have something to offer. We can help them once they’re talking with us all.”