Money Matters: The business side of finance reporting

October 12, 2018 11:00

Sponsored by NEFE

At Excellence in Journalism 2018 this September, three award-winning financial reporters shared why stories about money matters so often hit home with audiences: money impacts everyone at all stages of life.

Another reason to incorporate more money stories into your newscasts and tool to convince your station to do so: finance segments are a prime opportunity for soliciting sponsors.

Wait.

Isn’t there a hard line between the newsroom and the sales department?

Absolutely. Independence is a core value of the RTDNA Code of Ethics. Journalists should report “without fear or favor” and resist undue influence from anyone.

That may be best accomplished, though, not through avoidance but through transparency and communication.

According to RTDNA’s guidelines for balancing business pressures and journalism values, “Journalists, news managers and business-side managers must develop shared values, clear guidelines and practical protocols that serve the dual goals of journalistic independence and commercial success.”

Now more than ever as the economics of news are changing, it’s imperative for news staff to be aware of the business side of operations. When you are in the loop, you’re better able to spot opportunities and avoid pitfalls.

So what advice do winning finance reporters have for successfully navigating segment sponsorships?

Work with firms you respect
Do your homework. Use your reporting skills to evaluate potential sponsors. Look for reputable firms.

Set expectations up front
From RTDNA’s guidelines: “Content should be generated based on journalistic merits and not solely as an advertising vehicle.”

Segment sponsors should understand at the start what their role is and what it isn’t. Sponsoring a segment does not mean exercising editorial control or gaining a platform for employees, even experts, to be sole sources for the content.

Expand your sources
Financial firms who are sponsors may be able to provide helpful background. Many conduct market studies and research that can be valuable in informing your own financial knowledge and reporting. However, sponsoring firms often lack diversity and can provide just one perspective. Seeking additional, more diverse sources helps maintain independence and strengthens the reporting itself.
 
Standards for content-related decisions on air and online:
  • News operations should not show favoritism to advertisers. It should be clear to all advertisers that they have no influence over news content.
  • Content should be generated based on journalistic merits and not solely as an advertising vehicle.
  • The most important professional responsibility of an electronic journalist is to report the news. Everything else comes second.
  • News organizations should protect the integrity of coverage against any potential conflict of interest arising from station owners' commercial or other interests.
  • Coverage of a promotional or commercial event that an advertiser or station sponsors should be proportional to the event's newsworthiness.
  • Stations or networks should foster a high degree of communication, collaboration, respect and trust among station leaders and staff members. Business-side managers should be encouraged to understand that journalistic independence and credibility are among the station's most precious commodities.
  • Professional electronic journalists should tell their audiences why and how they made decisions, especially if the public might perceive that journalistic independence has been compromised.

Weekly Money Matters personal finance content for your newsroom is sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education