What should business journalists disclose?

November 8, 2010
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Jeff Jarvis, a friend and author of What Would Google Do? is writing a new book on the …quot;age of transparency….quot; It’s called Public Parts. A couple of days ago, he weighed in on MSNBC’s punishment of Keith Olbermann for donating to political candidates. His position:

Jeff Jarvis, a friend and author of What Would Google Do? is writing a new book on the …quot;age of transparency….quot; It’s called Public Parts. A couple of days ago, he weighed in on MSNBC’s punishment of Keith Olbermann for donating to political candidates. His position:

…self-respecting journalists should consider it an obligation to be transparent. Self-respecting news organizations should be honest with their communities and reveal the aggregate perspectives of their staffs. It…rsquo;s relevant.

So I wondered if it’s the obligation of business journalists to level with readers about which companies, and CEOs, they respect, and which ones they don’t. We had a back and forth about it in the comments on his blog. But my feeling is that business is different than politics, because information, in politics, is the industry’s currency. The reporters are actually participating in the market by choosing which stories to cover.

In steel, by contrast, the market is metal, and the information matters largely to investors. So the more relevant disclosure for business journalists would be their investment portfolio, not their votes. At BusinessWeek, we had to disclose our investments to the editor in chief, and were prohibited from writing or editing stories featuring companies we had a stake in. Should we have published our portfolios? Should I now? Got to say, I don’t much feel like it.