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Reynolds Week 2011


  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana is a capitol city with a certain flair. It’s home to a sports powerhouse, Louisiana State University. It has avenues filled with stately homes, beautiful walks dripping with live oaks, and  some of the best food you’ll find anywhere in the South.

    For us at Reynolds, Baton Rouge is an extra special place. Last week, we kicked off our inaugural custom newsroom training. At the invitation of David Dodson, executive editor of Louisiana Business Inc., I met with staff writers, editors and freelancers at several of the group’s publications to brainstorm and share some business journalism knowledge.

    Rolf McCollister, publisher of the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, was on hand to welcome the group. Our theme for the day was Thinking Like A Business Journalist, and we covered a number of areas, first as a group and then in one-on-one coaching sessions.

    1) What sets business journalists apart? The short answer is that we are always looking for the money in any story. The long answer is that you can find that money in just about any type of story, and that’s the secret to making it a business story.

    2) How do you talk to business leaders? People in the business world have a language all their own. The best way to learn it is to do your homework, and don’t be afraid to ask a good dumb question, as my editor at the New York Times, Adam Bryant, taught me. They’re the experts. We need to know what they’re thinking and understand what they’re doing.

    3) Are there secrets to organizing a good business feature? Yes, and one of them is to be very clear about what you’re trying to say.

    4) Where do you look for business story ideas? Sometimes, the idea for the next story is at the end of the one you’ve just finished writing.

    It was great to meet these smart journalists in Baton Rouge, and kick off a new phase for Reynolds.

    We plan to make custom newsroom training an integral part of our mission of helping business journalists. Whether your newsroom is five people or 50, filled with staff and interns or reliant on freelancers, let us know if you’re interested in hosting us. I’m happy to talk to you about our fee schedule and design a program that suits your needs.

    In the meantime, I’m still dreaming about that red grouper topped with crabmeat at Juban’s and wondering when I can get to a game at the newly expanded Tiger Stadium.

     

  • ARCHIVE: Blog for Reynolds Week 2011: 30 fellows, 4 days of intensive study in business journalism
    Two sets of 15 fellows will attend separate, all-expenses-paid seminars Jan. 4-7, 2011, at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix.

    Reynolds Week Professors


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    Melissa Harris on gaining ground with the corporate elite

    Melissa Harris has a cool gig. She covers civic and corporate elite for the Chicago Confidential column in the Chicago Tribune.

    Anyone who has tried to nail down an interview with a CEO or high-powered executive knows just how hard it is first get the interview and then chart the details to show readers the true person behind a public relations front. That’s Harris’ job day in and day out. And it’s no easy task.

    Harris is a Strictly Financials fellow at this year’s Reynolds Business Journalism Week, so we had a chance to chat with her and get her top tips for gaining access to the business world’s elite. Harris’ experience on this beat offers great insight. For example, just take her suggestion of writing handwritten letters to executives to build relationships…see what we mean?

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    Day 2: Reynolds Week resources

    Resources – video recordings, slideshows and handouts – from Day 2 of Reynolds Business Journalism Week 2011, a four-day seminar for business journalists and business journalism professors.

    PROFESSORS SEMINARS

    Mission Possible: Assignments that Build SkillsPam Luecke

    Preparing Students for Business Journalism’s FutureRandy Smith



    Teaching the Effective Use of Data in Business CoverageSteve Doig



    Injecting Multimedia into Your Business Journalism ClassMark Tatge

    STRICTLY FINANCIALS SEMINARS

    Financial Statements IJimmy Gentry

    Financial Statements I and Securities and Exchange Commission FilingsGentry

    Financial Statements II: Tools for AnalysisGentry

    Financial Statements II: Tools for Analysis (Continued)Gentry

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    Watch live and get the stories behind this year’s Barlett & Steele winners

    Barlett and Steele

    Don Barlett and Jim Steele talk about investigative business journalism at the 2010 Reynolds Business Journalism Week.

    LIVE stream of award ceremony: VIDEO link

    This year’s winners of the Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism highlighted shady practices in the medical arena.

    From a piece that exposed a giant health insurer who targeted policyholders recently diagnosed with breast cancer to a series that uncovered conflicts of interest that can compromise a doctor’s judgment, the journalists who grabbed the 2010 gold and silver awards are examples of business journalism at its best.

    This afternoon, we’ll hear the stories behind the award-winning investigative pieces from Murray Waas, a freelance reporter who grabbed this year’s gold award for his story “Diagnosed with Breast Cancer, Dropped by Insurer,” and silver-winner John Fauber, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter whose dogged reporting produced a series of stores, “Side Effects: Money, Medicine and Patients.

    And you’re invited to follow along with us. We’ll have live video beginning today at noon of the panel discussion, which features a conversation with this year’s winners and Jim Steele. The group will talk about today’s investigative business journalist and offer advice on pursuing your own in-depth stories.

    To get you excited for this afternoon’s event, check out this video piece on this year’s Barlett & Steele winners.

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    Day 1: Reynolds Week resources

    Resources – slideshows and handouts – from Day 1 of Reynolds Business Journalism Week 2011, a 4-day seminar for business journalists and business journalism professors.

    PROFESSORS SEMINARS

    Deciding What to TeachChris Roush

    Organizing Your ClassRoush

    Case Study: Syllabus WritingRoush

    Resources and Keeping Students InterestestRoush

    STRICTLY FINANCIALS SEMINARS

    Video of Jimmy Gentry lecture: Understanding Markets
    Video of Jimmy Gentry lecture: Understanding Markets (Continued)
    Video of Jimmy Gentry lecture: Understanding Markets (Conclusion) and Sources

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    Reynolds Business Journalism Week: Photo slideshow

    Reynolds Week has kicked off. The fellows are hard at work.

    Come back often. We’ll add photos throughout the 4-day seminar.

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    2011: Diana Henriques on investigative reporting

    Diana Henriques, a reporter at The New York Times since 1989, kicked off Reynolds Business Journalism Week 2011.

    In about one hour, she gave an inspiring, thorough, specific tutorial on how to approach investigative reporting projects.

    Squirrel this away if you don’t have time to watch it now. It’s well worth the time.

    “Today’s Business Journalists as Investigators” from Reynolds Center on Vimeo.

    LUNCHTIME QUESTION AND ANSWER – with Diana Henriques

    2011 Reynolds Center Business Journalism Seminars: Boxed Lunch Q&A with Diana Henriques from Reynolds Center on Vimeo.

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    NYT’s Henriques: Most important investigative question is ‘Who cares?’

    Being efficient at doing investigative reporting is going to be even more important going forward and it’s extremely important now.

    And while you’re at it, efficiency may come in the form of keeping investigative stories shorter.

    “People are going to be reading the investigative features of the future on their iPhones.  If it’s gotta be long, make it readable.  If you can make it shorter, make it shorter,” The New York Times’ reporter Diana Henriques said as she kicked off Reynolds Business Journalism Week today.

    “Today’s Business Journalists as Investigators” from Reynolds Center on Vimeo.

    Henriques, who has been covering the Bernie Madoff scandal from the beginning and is working on a book about the case, spelled out ways reporters can be more efficient and effective as they tackle investigative projects.

    But first, she wanted to set everyone straight about what investigative reporting is to business journalists.

    What it’s not. Investigative reporting is not event-driven coverage. Although you can apply investigative techniques to daily journalism. It is not explanatory journalism, although it’s closer.  Explanatory journalism is the kind of journalism to which we all should aspire.

    What it is. As she has tried to practice investigative reporting, Henriques said, it is distinguished by its mission: “Holding people with power accountable for the impact what they do has on the rest of us.”

    “We’ve long been comfortable with this idea of investigative journalism in politics, holding politicians accountable,” Henriques said. “I contend that holding people with financial and economic power accountable for the impact what they do has on the rest of us is our mission.”

    Henriques has covered business governance and regulatory issues at The New York Times since 1989. She was a member of teams covering the aftermath of the Enron scandals and the near-collapse of Long Term Capital Management, a hedge fund whose troubles rocked the financial markets in September 1998.

    In 2004 and 2005, Henriques exposed deceptive practices used to sell unsuitable insurance, mutual funds and other financial products to young military personnel.

    She used the military personnel story as an example of the importance of having “an investigative eye.”

    “I encourage you to think about the opportunities for investigative reporting in a broader way,” Henriques told the 30 journalists attending a 4-day seminar in Phoenix. “How do you do that?  Developing an investigative mindset, an investigative eye.”

    Diana Henriques, Reynolds Week 2011.

    Diana Henriques coaches journalists on investigative reporting at the opening of Reynolds Week 2011.

    She urged her audience to ask “why things are the way they are? Why things are happening the way they are?”

    Cultivate and eye to identifying anomalies, she said. Anomalies in the system that look good, but you’re gonna ask why.  Start asking questions about the conventional wisdom.  Start examining the assumptions of common wisdom .. is a really good way to find some investigative stories.

    On the speed of things today. “What we lose today is the time to study how the system is supposed to function. You don’t know whether a system is working properly or not if you don’t understand how the system is supposed to work,” she said.

    But it is always worth the time it takes.

    “To too many reporters figuring out how a system is supposed to work and discovering it’s supposed to work that way is a dry hole,  but I encourage you to do that…  without understanding, you can’t start measuring the gap between what is supposed to be happening and what is happening.”

    The gap between what his happening and what is supposed to be happening is where you’ll find an investigative project.

    Time and source management

    Two highly underutilized skills are source cultivation and time management, Henriques said. “We don’t teach it and you can’t be an effective journalist if you don’t know how to do them.”

    Diana Henriques on PBS
    If you’re just starting out as a journalist, learning how to build that golden Rolodex is one of the most important thing you can learn.

    How do you get to know the regulators? Go out and meet them.

    How do you get to know the lawyers? Go meet them.

    How to organize a story?

    “We don’t drill down into the idea deeply enough so we wander all over creation,” she said. “The way to begin an investigative reporting project is to start with a working hypothesis.”

    Henriques’ story about deceptive practices used to sell unsuitable insurance and investing products to young miliatry personnel came as a tip.

    Working hypothesis: Military consumers were being touted to buy an archaic and unsuitable mutual fund by companies that were trading on their military connections. The hypothesis changes as reporting evolves.

    Assess what you already know about that t0pic: “I knew what I already knew… made a list. Then I thought about what am I going to need to know. Start making lists. Where might I learn the things I need to know? Then compare the lists. That helps manage expectations at the editor side. How big is that gap and how long will it take you to fill it?”

    Most important question. “The most forgotten question about an investigative project. Say I prove my thesis: Who cares? Does it matter? Would people care? It’s the essential question and the one we have to ask now.”

    Every element of this plan has a role:

    1. The thesis is your lead, your headline.
    2. What I already know is your source list.
    3. What I need to know is your to do list.
    4. And the ‘So what?’ is your nut graph.

    Last words: “Once you’ve done that exercise, go to it.”

    Start your reporting, revise your thesis, expand your source and to-do lists and keep asking that final question, So what?

    And don’t forget the reader. If you have 5,000 words, you’ve got 4,000 words of facts and 1,000 words to make it worth your reader’s time.

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    Reynolds Business Journalism Week gets underway

    Andrew Leckey
    Andrew Leckey, president of the Reynolds Center, kicks off Reynolds Business Journalism Week.

    After a weekend spent traveling from different spots all over the country, the 30 journalists and educators chosen for our Strictly Financials and Business Journalism Professors fellowships are finally in Phoenix.

    Andrew Leckey, president of the Reynolds Center, welcomed the group Tuesday morning in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s First Amendment Forum. He said their time at Reynolds Business Journalism Week is vital to the goal of improving business journalism worldwide.

    “Coverage of the economy and money and the training of the future business journalists are very important,” Leckey said.

    This year’s fellowship group boats veteran reporters and skilled academics. Combined together, they have decades of experience in a variety of aspects of business journalism – from bank regulation to graphic design. Even R. Thomas Herman, who just finished teaching a journalism seminar at Yale, joked that he had worked at a publication for 150 years. Herman, a 41-year-veteran reporter for The Wall Street Journal, is a fellow in this year’s professors group.

    The week kicks off with a conversation with Diana Henriques, a veteran business reporter at The New York Times who is writing a book about Bernard Madoff. Henriques speaks about investigating as part of the business beat. The fellows peppered Henriques with questions about ethics, procedure, team reporting and Madoff.

    We’ll also have coverage this week from the sessions right here, so bookmark our blog and follow along to grab resources and tips from all our fellows and presenters.

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    Don’t miss our live coverage of Reynolds Business Journalism Week

    The Reynolds Center is abuzz. Tote bags must be stuffed with schedules and books. There are stick drives to load with presentations, and a Barlett & Steele Award video of this year’s winners is in the works. We are gearing up, as we do every year, for Reynolds Business Journalism Week.

    From Jan. 4-7, the Reynolds Center will host 30 journalists for our annual Strictly Financials and Business Journalism Professors seminars. Our fellows are traveling from all over the country to spend four days with us in intensive study at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix.

    Throughout the week, the Strictly Financials fellows will dive deep into financial statements and SEC documents. The Business Journalism Professor fellows will get the ins and outs on teaching a university business journalism course. And during the seminars, we’ll honor the 2010 winners of the Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism with a luncheon and panel discussion featuring award-winning journalists Murray Waas, John Fauber and Jim Steele. We will live-stream that panel at 2 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Jan. 5.

    If you didn’t grab a fellowship slot, you can still tune in and learn along with our group. We’ll have live coverage of much of the event, including a seminar blog and videos of the lectures. The seminars kick off  on Tuesday, Jan. 4, with a presentation by New York Times reporter Diana Henriques on “Today’s Business Journalists as Investigators.” Henriques will speak at 11 a.m. EST, and you can watch it live.

    Throughout the week, tune in to our blog to grab handouts, PowerPoints and coverage tips from each of the sessions.

    To get a jump start on the sessions you want to follow, check out the agendas for the Strictly Financials and Business Journalism Professors seminars.

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