Dean Starkman on the "CNBC-ization" of Business News

Dean Starkman

In the most recent issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, Dean Starkman, co-editor of the forthcoming The Best Business Writing 2012, writes about the development and the recent history of the business press

In the article, A Narrowed Gaze: How the business press forgot the rest of us, Dean Starkman argues that in recent years the balance between providing news for investors and providing news for the public interest has been skewed to the former.

Starkman terms this development the “CNBC-ization” of business news which has made coverage “more granular, insider-dependent, hurried and riveted on (short-term) needs of investors.” This type of journalism, Starkman suggests, focuses less on covering business and instead becomes an extension of the financial system. Placing this shift in a historical context, Starkman writes, “The shift also seems to represent something less modern: a return to the business press’s early twentieth-century roots as a servant to markets—and a retreat from its later role as watchdog over them.”

In concluding the article, Dean Starkman writes:

Investor-focused reporting was ascendant as the twenty-first century dawned, just as the financial system was entering a fateful phase. At the same time, the media business itself was undergoing a radical dislocation, one that continues. We have crossed over into a new media era, one in which the rules, norms, forms, and whole institutions are in flux. There’s reason for both hope and despair.

Still, the choice facing business journalism in the wake of the Crash of 2008 isn’t so different from the one facing the field after the Crash of 1929: you can shrug off the event and double down on market-serving news. Or you can step back, rethink the mission, and relearn the lesson of the great Barney Kilgore [former editor of The Wall Street Journal]: serve the market while also looking beyond it. That is to say, there’s really no choice at all.

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