Tips for covering business stories

The hardest thing about business reporting isn’t the what, it’s the why. Journalists need to help their audience see why financial developments matter to them.

John Wordock, managing editor for the Marketwatch radio network, says that’s the key task facing any financial journalist. “We have to make it so people want to listen.”

Wordock’s answer is to add context to stories so they hit home for listeners. For example, when the Pentagon announced it was cutting programs, the reports Marketwatch filed for individual local affiliates reflected the impact on their markets. “In Boston, was Raytheon hurt?” Wordock asked. “In Washington, Lockheed Martin? In Chicago, Boeing?”

Whenever a company announces plans or is affected by government action, Wordock wants to know what the move could mean for jobs and for stock prices. He suggests that reporters make a habit of tracking the performance of local companies’ stocks so they can quickly add context to any story involving those firms. On sites like Yahoo! Finance and Morningstar, you can create a free “portfolio” to make it easy to keep tabs on local companies’ performance.

The challenge in broadcast, of course, is giving background quickly. “You have to study what’s going on when you’re off the air so when news develops you have context and research so you can report accurately and keep things in perspective,” he says.

Wordock is just one of the business reporters who’s contributed tips to the new RTNDA financial reporting guide, Money Matters, that I update several times a week.  Check it out for story ideas, strategies and background that you can put to use immediately.