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Business reporting in the new administration: Challenges and opportunities

February 10, 2017

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The new administration provides plenty of rich angles for business stories. ("White House" by DC John via flickr, CC BY 2.0)
The new administration provides plenty of rich angles for business stories. ("White House" by DC John via flickr, CC BY 2.0)

The new Trump administration has turned politics-as-expected on its head. The Republican-dominated Congress has been close behind, intent on upending years of laws and regulations. As everyone adjusts to a new reality, business reporters will find both challenges and opportunities.

The big benefit to business reporters will be a source of story material and ideas that could keep you busy until the next election. Here are some of the main areas to consider.

Regulation changes on your beat

Both Trump and the Republican majority in Congress are interested in regulatory change and elimination. So far, we’ve heard of the executive order requiring the removal of two regulations for each added and a plan to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act. Now is the time to understand the main regulatory areas that affect companies in your coverage, and research proposed changes as they occur.

First, understand what the regulations do in broad strokes. You can often find summaries by third parties. Law firm Morrison & Forrster has a good summary of the “principal aspects” of Dodd-Frank, for example. Then search on Congress.gov for the regulations under current legislation to see what is happening. For example, House bill H. R. 238 would make many changes to the Commodity Exchange Act. House amendment 37 to that bill would exempt commodity transactions between affiliated entities from being regulated as “swaps,” a class of complex transactions that helped drive the Great Recession.

Trump’s businesses

Never has there been a president with Trump’s breathtaking scope of businesses. He has entrusted his sons to run his businesses, but that is different from selling them or having them controlled through a blind trust. His wife, daughter and son-in-law have businesses. See where these companies might intersect with your coverage areas and keep tabs on developments.

Although the Trump Organization is a privately held conglomerate, it’s difficult to operate in business without leaving traces. For an example, those covering the food industry in New York could search the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene restaurant inspection site to find the Trump Grill received 25 violation points on February 1, 2017. Although not yet a final grade, that would be enough for a B rating rather than an A.

Response of companies to new policies

Many companies will welcome fewer regulations, but the reaction to the activities of Trump and Congress aren’t something to take for granted. Recently I found material for two pieces, one on the criticism Uber received regarding a taxi strike at JFK International Airport over the immigration ban order and how the tech industry was challenging Trump on immigration. The relationship of companies and industries will offer many story opportunities. As part of that, watch contributions (Trump has already filed for the 2020 race) through OpenSecrets.org. See where companies and industries throw their support.


Reporter’s Takeaway

• Investigate the regulations that touch on the industries or companies that you cover, and understand how changes may impact their operations.

• While researching the scope of the Trump holdings is difficult, looking into specific businesses—restaurants, hotels, apparel—may uncover intriguing stories.

• Businesses will have differing reactions to new legislation, some positive, others negative. See where companies are directing their political support.

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