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Local business is a topic of major interest to your viewers. In a NewsLab survey, two-thirds of the people we talked to said they'd watch more local news if it covered more local business activities and jobs. With the economy in trouble and the US in a war on terrorism, there are hundreds of stories you could be doing on the local business front. To do them well, what do you need to know?
  • Financials: Check for all publicly available records on each business you cover. Begin with general business sites like Yahoo Finance, Hoover's (advanced searches require a fee) or Bloomberg to find stock offerings, stock price, etc. Your state department of revenue may have corporation filings online. Review SEC filings to find officers and top shareholders, sales and earnings, profit/loss statements, annual reports. Look for trends over time, not just snapshots of current conditions. Check the company's own Web site. Not sure how to read financial reports? This guide from IBM can help.

  • Product: What does the company produce? How is it used and by whom? Track down users or consumers and ask them to evaluate the product or service. Get B-roll at the same time! Check Better Business Bureau, consumer and regulatory agencies for complaints and actions.

  • Industry: What sector does the company belong to? Where does it rank in that sector--locally or nationally? Check trade groups, business associations, economic analysts, academics. What are the company's major competitors? How are the companies different? Ask how the competition would evaluate the company.

  • Economic impact: What does this company mean to the economy of the town, region or state? Where does it rank and what does it contribute? Check number of employees, payroll, growth trends, future plans. Consult chamber of commerce, local political leaders, census data.

  • Winners and losers: Who is helped by this company's success or failure, and who may be hurt by it? Who is included and who is left out?

  • History: What is the company's track record? Check for bankruptcy filings, reorganizations, past layoffs or labor disputes. Any skeletons in the closet? Search business web sites and chat rooms like Raging Bull or Motley Fool for what's being said.

  • Who cares? What makes this company or program worth the viewers' attention? Is it unique in some way--a first or the only one of its kind? Look for specific details that distinguish the company from others in the same field or region.

  • Other resources: FACSNET has reporting tools for covering business. Check out the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, and the National Center for Business Journalism.

Page Last Updated
January 15, 2009

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