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The Name Game

Calling another kid by an unflattering nickname is a habit most of us left on the grade school playground. Of course, Donald Trump is not “most of us.” Donald Trump seems to take a particular delight in coming up with a derogatory nickname for people he is not too fond of. “Crooked Hillary” is just one example.

Some of the people he attacks don’t take the bait and engage him in this fashion. I admire them. I don’t think I would capable of that much self restraint. If a punch in the nose wasn’t an available option, and the guy is of course surrounded by Secrete Service agents, I’d at least resort to the obvious retorts. “Donny Draft Dodger” is a good fit. And “Pussy Grabber” would work for an adult audience.

But I am happy to see two of our most recently announced candidates for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 have found a way to meet the Trump insults forcefully, while stopping short of my tendency to stoop to his level.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a frequent Trump target, took a broadside from the Tweeter in Chief after she made her announcement:

Not only did Trump employ his usual nickname for Warren, “Pocahontas”, he took a direct shot at her unfortunate claim of being Native American, something for which she has apologized repeatedly. To that he adds a reference to the campaign TRAIL. The capitalization has prompted critics to charge he is referencing and trivializing the “Trail of Tears”, a series of forced relocation of Native Americans which drove the Natives from their historical lands and cost thousands of them their lives. In his defense, some of his supporters have argued that Trump is not knowledgeable about this history and so could not have intended to make light of the tragic events. Think about it. Using ignorance as a defense.

Without resulting to direct name calling herself, Warren called out Trump for posting tweets she said are “racist” and “hateful.” And at a campaign rally in Iowa she added, “Here’s what bothers me, by the time we get to 2020 Donald Trump may not even be president.” “In fact”, she added, “he might not be a free person.”

Warren is not the only one drawing a barb from Trump. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar recently announced her candidacy for president in the middle of a typical Minnesota snow storm. From the comfort of the White House Trump tweeted:

I could do a whole hour explaining the difference between climate and weather and how Trump just cannot see the difference. We already know he melts in the rain and can’t operate an umbrella. So instead we’ll just let him play the ignorance card again and move on to Klobuchar’s classic response:

Once again a candidate proves she can give even better than she gets, making her point without resorting to the name calling that passes for debate.

And debate is what we need in these troubled times. Debate on the issues of the day and the policy choices we must make. Night after night in 2016 Donald Trump led the evening news by saying the most inflammatory thing he could think of while his opponents, trying to stick to civil discourse and policy based argument, got far less coverage if any. And the media is already at it, focusing its attention on Warren’s claims of native heritage, asking if Klobuchar is too tough a boss, if California Senator Kamala Harris is black enough and does New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand know how to eat chicken.

It would be nice if in 2020 voters demanded better of the news media, and of all the candidates.

Going Public: Reporting on IPOs

A few months ago I moderated a training teleconference for reporters as part of the continuing education program of SABEW, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. The teleconference focused on Initial public offerings—the first sales of stock issued by a company to the public.

The teleconference is now available as a podcast you can play at any time to hear a panel of experts decipher the language of IPOs and discuss how reporters should cover companies as they prepare to go public. We talked about how reporters can use the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR database to access IPO prospectuses and which nuggets of information and red flags they should look for in SEC documents when researching companies that are about to go public.

On the panel was John Divine, an investing reporter at U.S. News & World Report, Lauren Hirsch the deals team leaders and correspondent at Thomson Reuters in New York, Tom Taulli who has been involved in the IPO market since the mid-1990s when he co-founded Web IPO, and Jack Willoughby, a senior editor at Barron’s who wrote the financial publication’s “Offerings in the Offings” column.

You can hear the podcast here.

Trump and the Employment Report, fact and fiction, Pt. 2

Numbers are funny things. Even though they appear to be absolute, a clever manipulator can twist them to make pretty much any point he wants to make. Take President Trump’s statement from February: “Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.” It might seem preposterous but it is correct, as the great sage Obi-Wan-Kenobi once said, “from a certain point of view.”

It is the number you get if you take the total U.S. population 16-years of age and older and subtract the people the BLS says are in the labor force. That number includes everyone who is retired, and most high-school, college, graduate or vocational school student. It also includes the disabled, homemakers, some self-employed and those living off their investments.

My guide to reporting the employment report continues at businessjournalism.org….

Trump and the Employment Report, fact and fiction, Pt. 1

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Employment Situation Report for February on March 10, showing a healthy 235,000 gain in payroll employment. Asked what President Trump thought about the numbers, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said, “I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly,” Spicer said. “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”

Many of the reporters present laughed. I cringed.

Over the years on public television’s Nightly Business Report, I filed countless “numbers” pieces. The monthly employment reports were most closely watched. For better or worse these reports often had an immediate financial market moving impact, making them lead stories for a market driven broadcast.

I cringed because I believe attempts to undermine the credibility of these reports do a great disservice.

Continues at businessjournalism.org….

Financial Market Reporting, Part 6: Derivatives

Chicago Board Options Exchange

Chicago Board Options Exchange

My series at the Reynold’s Center continues with thoughts on reporting the derivative markets. These are investment vehicles that are derived from others, appropriately called derivatives. Investors do not own the underlying asset, but bet on how that asset will perform.

Options are a common type of derivative. In 1973 the Chicago Board of Trade created the Chicago Board Options Exchange, which at first operated out of an old cloak room off the CBOT trading floor. The CBOE traded listed stock options. Unlike futures, options were not a commitment but gave the buyer an option to buy a stock for a certain period of time.* The option is based on the stock, called “the underlying.”

Continue at businessjournalism.org….

Lunch with Paul Kangas, Nightly Business Report

Paul Kangas

I remember one specific lunch with Paul Kangas. Silly, isn’t it? I spent a fair amount of time with Paul during the many years I was associated with public television’s Nightly Business Report. That included several meals with a man who, among many other things, appreciated good food and drink. Why would one particular lunch stand out?

It was 1990. A year before I had moved from Chicago, my hometown, where I worked for CBS, NBC, and as a freelance contributor for NBR, to New York. Here I was NBR’s New York Bureau Chief and Senior Correspondent. Paul had been with NBR since it first went on the air in 1979. A former stockbroker, Paul was at first the broadcast’s stock commentator. Later he added co-anchor to his role.

But Paul was so much more than his title implies. On a broadcast that itself defined a new role for business news on television, Paul set the standard for both the program and the industry.

Continue reading…

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