Investing in Business Journalism Pays Dividends

By Louise Nicholson

Long ago when I was a journalist working in Australia, I recall an editor commenting that “no-one cares about Business”.  In his view, the punters were interested in – in order – Sport, Crime, Celebrities, then Politics.  Not too much politics, mind you – circulation always took a dive during election campaigns.  Poor old business news didn’t get a look in.

How times have changed.  As media outlets struggle with the loss of advertising dollars to Google, business news is having a renaissance.

Turns out people do care about Business news.  And, the people who read business news are actually prepared to pay for it via subscriptions. 

This has led to media outlets investing more resources in business news, with healthy competition to recruit the best business news reporters.

We’ve seen new business media emerge and the standard of business reporting has never been higher.

For the past two years, I had the privilege of judging the New Zealand Shareholders Association business journalism awards and was impressed by the quality of the entries.  It restored my faith in the importance of independent journalism and was a refreshing break from the tiresome clickbait approach to “news” that has become the new norm.

Encouragingly, there were a number of in-depth investigations that shone a light on some of the more dubious transactions and characters operating in our capital markets.  This kind of journalism takes time so it was great to see journalists allowed to devote the necessary time to investigate and report on these often complex matters.

Entries are now open for the New Zealand Shareholders Association (NZSA) 2023 business journalism awards.  The winners will be announced in November.

The New Zealand Shareholders Association has supported the business journalism awards for a number of years, in line with its mission to represent the interests of retail investors.

A number of international surveys have shown that many people just don’t trust the sharemarket because they believe it is a boys’ club where a small clique of large investors profit because they have an inside track on information.

Of course there are laws to ensure that important company information is publicly disclosed in a timely fashion.  And social media has led to a tsunami of opinions being shared about which companies to invest in. 

This is designed to level the playing field for all investors but it’s a big job for a retail investor to sift through all this to develop an informed view on where to invest their money.

That’s why quality business journalism is so important. Good journalists are trained to report verified facts, ask questions and critically analyse company responses. 

They have a healthy skepticism baked into their DNA. While this sometimes makes them unpopular, this reportage benefits us all in a time of “fake news”.

At their very best, these journalists are calling company Boards and management to account for their decisions, exaggerations and errors. This might be uncomfortable for some companies but it’s exactly the kind of unvarnished truth investors need.

Ultimately, it supports New Zealand’s goal to remain a good place to invest your money.

And that should be something we all want.

Louise Nicholson

*Louise Nicholson is now a Director of the New Zealand Shareholders Association.  Given its commitment to independence, she will no longer be judging the business journalism awards this year. 

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