June 17, 2024

Archive Event Highlight

Christopher Roush Laments Decline of Local Business News in New Book

by Chad Bouchard

Christopher Roush, veteran business journalist, author, and dean of the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University, said during an OPC book night on Oct. 11 that the decline of local business news coverage across the U.S. has left consumers, small businesses owners and employees starved for reliable sources of information they need to make key decisions such as when to buy a house or where to expand a business.

Roush, speaking to OPC Past President Paula Dwyer about his new book, The Future of Business Journalism, said expensive subscription services aimed at executives, such as Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, CNBC and The New York Times, have eclipsed local coverage as newspapers hemorrhaged staff or closed up shop over the last two decades.

“What they’re really doing is providing business and economics news to a very high-end clientele,” he said. “A clientele that can afford to pay $25,000 for a Bloomberg terminal on their desk or they can pay sometimes thousands of dollars for subscriptions to multiple publications.”

Roush said root causes of the crisis include the glut of free content that news organizations provided in the first years of exploding internet access, the loss of advertising revenue, and papers discontinuing their daily printed stock listings, which were once the backbone of local papers’ news sections.

He said increasing politicization of news coverage overall has also led to a diminished emphasis on business news, “and when business and economics news is covered in any depth, it’s often covered from a political angle.” He added that the rise of social media platforms has also distracted readers away from reputable news outlets.

Roush said the atrophy of local business coverage has also left many communities lacking in crucial coverage. “The vast majority of business journalists are white men,” he said. “But some of the most important business and economics news stories out there, at least at the local level, is what’s happening in minority communities, and for minority-owned businesses.” He added that minority-owned businesses fared better than white-owned businesses during the recession of 2007-2009, but that trend was virtually ignored by media at the time.

Roush also talked about how profiles and coverage of executives has focused increasingly on celebrity status and “CEO’s as rockstars” since the 1990’s.

“I think what’s happened in the last 20 years or so is that CEO’s have kind of gotten the upper hand in a lot of business news arenas. They feel like they can control or should control what is being written and what is being said about them,” he said. “They don’t really like the fact that sometimes negative things get written about them when they make a decision that doesn’t work out, or their earnings of the company fall flat or don’t meet analysts’ expectations.”

He said the relationship between media and executives is in need of repair.

“There’s no longer respect among a lot of executives for the work the business journalists do on a regular basis.”

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