Newspaper stocks up over 3-month low


You heard me right: Publicly traded newspapers stocks have been doing quite well lately.”

Rick Edmonds the Poynter Institute‘s Biz Blog analyzes the stocks of publicly traded newspaper companies and finds some interesting results. Of the nine stocks listed almost all are up at least double from their 3-month low (the Washington Post Company’s stock, now at $370, isn’t because the stock price is so high, and McClatchy at 69 cents a share (finally more than the cost of a single issue of many its papers!) is up only 75% from its 3-month low). Many of the stocks are still quite low–well below 5 dollars a share–so they’re still considered risky buys. The news is good sign, however, after weeks and months of bad financial news for all media companies. And, if you’d bought any of these stocks in early March, you would’ve doubled your money by now. Long-term prospects, of course, remain dismal. Warren Buffett’s recent pronouncement that “For most newspapers in the United states, we [Berkshire Hathaway] would not buy them at any price,” does little to reassure.

Unedited. Unfiltered. Unreliable. (or, The Value of Editors and Fact-checking) CNN’s finds itself in the middle of the news today, and not in a good way. The site, one of the remaining bastions of the so-called “citizen journalism” movement, solicits videos and photos from the general public and shares them online and on the company’s television channels under the motto “Unedited. Unfiltered. News.”

An anonymous writer posted a rumor, citing “an insider,” that Apple CEO Steve Jobs suffered a major heart attack and was being rushed to a hospital. After the story was posted, Apple’s stock fell 10% and the company’s PR team rushed to reassure investors that Jobs, in fact, did not suffer a heart attack. The stock has recovered, but the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the matter. In short, an unaccountable “news” outlet evaporated nearly $10 billion with a b dollars, though much of that money was recovered. This is why we have editors. This is why journalism requires gatekeepers, editorial guidelines, and standards for fact-checking and attribution. Other objections to the rise of “citizen journalism” aside (the “journalists” aren’t paid, signal to noise ratio is low, investigative work has all but disappeared, etc.), there are very real consequences to letting anyone report the news without even a minimum of editing. Blogging’s great, it’s what I’m doing right now, but the News with a capital ‘N’ takes a little more rigor.

This comes on the heels of a story a couple weeks ago involving automated news aggregator Google News. The site uses algorithms to suss out the day’s news and pictures and present them in order of relevance and subject. A couple of weeks ago, the site’s code picked up on a hit on a 2002 Tribune Co. story about United Airlines facing bankruptcy. Other aggregators, including Bloomberg’s news ticker, picked up the story but didn’t include a dateline. Stockholders noticed, and shares dropped from $12.50 to $3 (making $1.14 billion disappear) in a matter of minutes. Trading halted, the company released a statement, and the stock recovered to $10.92, which is $300 million less than what it started with. While it’s tough to make the case the journalism saves lives, right here we have evidence that sloppy “journalism” can have tremendous consequences when treated as news. (both stories via Slashdot)