Friday, 12 December 2008

From news to views

Just how much does the financial press know? Nils Pratley thinks it an "outrageous" slur the belief that the newspapers are the last to know anything.

City professionals have a withering line to describe the wisdom found in newspapers. "If it's in the press, it's in the price," they say, meaning that, by the time hacks have latched on to a trend, the peak can't be far away.

However, he admits that while the slur might be outrageous, "the trading strategy can be rewarding".

Looking at headcount gives a good illustration why. Excepting the Financial Times, the national newspapers, combined, probably have – at a guess – around 50 people working full-time as financial journalists. This may sound like a lot, but then there is a huge amount of duplication (and herd behaviour) and the word 'financial' covers not only companies and share prices, but personal finance too.

The majority of the editors of these newspapers have been focused on shares and share prices throughout their working lives. As such, the credit crunch came out of nowhere for them, and many have struggled to catch up. But still, there remains little credit or technical expertise on the desks of these newspapers, though some – again notably the FT (which is itself hamstrung by spending constraints) – are trying to make up for this lack.

But these attempts seem rather pitiful when compared with the scale of the task at hand. London's financial industry is probably the most complex and innovative in the world, as well as one of the leakiest. Without experience, and in the face of the challenge of the internet, many of the newspapers have given up providing comprehensive news coverage, leaving much of the hard news provision to the better-staffed agencies.

I wonder if this trend will change. Will newspapers like the Telegraph, Times, Guardian and Independent ever employ another two or three people to inform and entertain with stories of credit, structured finance and emerging market debt? Will they try to get across to people how the global capital markets work? How London sits at its centre, drawing in money and talent from around the world?

It seems unlikely. Instead, these reporters will too often feel they are the country cousins of their more glamorous political colleagues, perennially looked down upon in the office, and treated with a certain distain at parties.

Something will change this. The demand is there for high quality financial news and information. At the moment, I suspect this will be supplied by the internet, away from the established newspapers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bank of America and Mr. Higgins missing $millions, It can happen to you, my fellow Americans

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