22 septiembre 2006

Cómo leer la prensa económica

Duncan Stewart, columnista del diario canadiense Financial Post, ofrece esta semana algunos consejos para la lectura de la información económica. :

- The most dangerous stories are the one or two paragraph items. Most journalism is written to some sort of deadline, and the very brief stories are usually not much more than a corporate press release that has been put into the paper to fill space. Editors get thousands of press releases daily, and select only a few as worthy of inclusion, so they are worth reading … but they usually haven’t been analyzed, checked or put in context.

- Longer is better than shorter. For special features or articles, reporters have usually talked to numerous sources, educated themselves on background information and history, and have made an honest attempt to give readers as complete a picture as possible. But even a 400-word story is likely to be more useful to investors than a 200-word story. It’s funny — many readers look at a long piece and decide to skip it because it is too time consuming, but those are usually the most reliable articles.

- Bylines are not a 100% guarantee of quality — but they are meaningful. Any time reporters have their names attached to a piece, I know that they have worried about their reputations and (maybe) being sued. Paradoxically, this doesn’t apply to sources quoted in news stories — many well-informed and reliable sources can’t or won’t go on the record, but their comments can still be useful, even if anonymous.

- Plus, those bylines allow you to build a database on reporters. Not all are equally skeptical or knowledgeable about the industry they are reporting on. There are some reporters who see their job as challenging what management or analysts are saying — and I read their stories first. There are billions of dollars at stake, and I want a reporter to always ask on behalf of the investor: “Could this CEO be misleading me in order to make money?”

- Some reporters are also more experienced than others. Everybody has to learn somehow, but I have seen some terrible articles written by journalists new to a beat that have completely misled investors. Tech and biotech are particularly vulnerable to that sort of error — they have their own esoteric language and rules and novice reporters can’t interpret the game if they don’t know those rules.

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