Business Journalism Professors 2014: Avoid Rookie Mistakes by Rob Wells
Avoid Rookie Mistakes
Rob Wells, Jan. 3, 2013
Adjunct Faculty, University of Maryland,
Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
Reynolds Visiting Professor of Business
Journalism, University of South Carolina,
Former Deputy Bureau Chief, Dow Jones/
Wall Street Journal, Washington, D.C.
Reporter for Dow Jones, Bloomberg,
The Associated Press
WHAT YOU WILL LEARN
Exercises For Business
How To Create A Basic
Business Reporting Class
Strategies To Focus
A Sample Finance Class
Rookie Mistake #1:
They Won’t Get It
The First Time!
Teach From Several
Focus on Financial Literacy
Explore The Business Journalism
Convey Practical Skills: Earnings
Don’t Expect Students to Produce
Print-Quality Work in First
My Course Objectives
1-Basic corporate ﬁnancial statements, SEC
2–Differences between stock, bond and
3—U.S. economic data, impact on markets,
4–Business regulation, documents, lawsuits
5—How The Fed, White House, Congress,
Corporations Shape Economic Policy
6—Quick Overview of Trade, International
Limit Your Lectures
Get Them Talking
Promote Active Learning
--Fact Boxes: Split Up
WRITE DOWN TWO ACTIVE
LEARNING EXERCISES YOU’VE
USED IN CLASS.
HOW WOULD YOU APPLY THESE
TO BUSINESS JOURNALISM?
—Extract and write a basic earnings story by the end of the
—Achieve basic ﬁnancial literacy and be able to understand
an income statement
—Know how to navigate and retrieve basic information
from SEC ﬁlings
—The concept of public disclosure and its role in the
1) Assign students companies to follow
during semester, ones they understand.
McDonald’s. Target, Boeing. etc
2) Check Income Statements for
3) Avoid Banks, Foreign Cos.
4) Stick To Four SEC Forms: Major Events,
Quarterly, Annual, Proxy (8-K, 10-Q, 10-K, Def
Go To SEC’s Website, Retrieve Apple 10-Q, Check Income
Statement, Management Discussion and Analysis
Discuss: Active Learning Ideas.
1) Jimmy Gentry handout on
2) “Guide To Money & Investing”
--Morris. 2011 Lightbulb Press
3) SEC Edgar website
4) Google Finance website
5) Investopedia videos
6) Daily WSJ, AP coverage
Rookie Mistake #4:
Tip: Set aside two weeks to drill and build
conﬁdence, a lightly graded test to focus their
attention and then the assignment.
Tip: Work with them on ungraded in-class drills.
Tip: Iterative Assignments: Split It In Two.
First assignment, a memo, 15% of assignment
grade. Suggest changes, ﬁx a few things.
Second assignment is 85% of grade
Students get opportunities to improve.
Rookie Mistake #5:
Use Free Websites
Tip: I showed them proprietary ﬁnancial
databases but Google Finance actually will ﬁt
your needs. https://www.google.com/ﬁnance
Assignment Idea: Calculate Percentage Change in
Stock Price for Apple Over Last Year, Compare to
S&P 500 and Microsoft Corp.
Main goals for this unit:
--Discover government economic data and
understand how it affects ﬁnancial markets and
—Extract and write a basic economic indicators
story by the end of the semester
—Understand why economic data
moves the markets
—Why bond and stock markets
react differently to economic data
Rookie Mistake #5:
Don’t Bite Off Too Much
Use Extended Discussion of
Employment Report To Make Broader
Points About All Economic Data
—Start with the employment indicator. Kids understand
—Drill in class, build to a deadline writing assignment
REVIEW LIST OF MAJOR ECONOMIC
IDEAS ON INDICATORS YOU MAY WANT TO
ALTERNATE WAYS TO TEACH TOPIC?
ACTIVE LEARNING EXERCISES?
Rookie Mistake #6:
Be Prepared: Bond Market
Students Struggle With Basic Bond
--Ratings, S&P etc
--Muni bonds ﬁnance schools, roads
--Yield moves inverse to Price
--Inﬂation is a bond killer
--For Floating Rate Discussion,
Discuss Credit Card Interest Rate
--Size of Bond Vs Stock Markets
PROPOSE YOUR OWN ECONOMIC INDICATOR,
COMPARE TO EXISTING DATA, DEFEND IT
--PROMOTES CRITICAL THINKING
--SLEEPING PILL INDICATOR
--BAR FIGHTS INDEX
--ABANDONED PUPPY INDICATOR
FIELD REPORTING: Blend the Economic Data and
1) Review consumer conﬁdence: Univ. of Michigan
Consumer Sentiment survey
2) Pick a publicly traded retailer, like Target, review
its SEC ﬁlings.
3) Go to store, interview customers.
Any parallels to the Univ. of Michigan Survey?
Differences?. Write a story that compares the Univ. of
Michigan survey to your company and what customers
are saying on the ground.