How Joe Weisenthal brings a bit of Business Insider to staid Bloomberg

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When Bloomberg hired Business Insider executive editor Joe Weisenthal last fall, it seemed an odd fit. Weisenthal’s obsessive, nearly fanatical coverage of market movements — and ubiquitous Twitter presence — made him a standout among business reporters, but his style felt incompatible with Bloomberg’s buttoned-down ethos.

Eight months later, Weisenthal, 34, seems to have adjusted well enough. Bloomberg, still on the hunt for a larger general interest audience, gave him his own television show, “What You’d Missed,” and charged him with leading its markets coverage online. His big mandate: Help Bloomberg develop new ways of telling its bread-and-butter business stories.

“All I’m thinking about is how to express the things I’m excited about in a new medium,” he said on this week’s episode of the Digiday Podcast. “We’ve put a ton of effort into figuring out how take all our interesting data and visualize it for people so that they can really understand these stories in a way that no one else can tell them.”

Here are some highlights of the discussion, edited for clarity.

Making business stories interesting to normals shouldn’t mean dumbing things down.
There’s a tendency in financial news circles to ask how big business stories such as China’s stock market meltdown and Greece’s banking crisis affect the lives of the Average Joe. But simplifying stories so that they’re more digestible often doesn’t do justice to the stories — or serve the readers.

“I don’t know what what’s happening in Greece will mean for your mortgage or even whether it will affect anything about your financial situation at all — but I will tell you why it’s a great story on its own merit,” Weisenthal said. “The challenge for us is to make the stories exciting and imbue them with the appropriate drama. We have to be good storytellers.”

Business coverage, when done right, can be as compelling as sports.
The overlap between coverage of market movements and professional sports seems minimal. On the other hand, finance watchers obsess over the moves of people such as Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, making her a bit like the industry’s LeBron James. And then there are the movements in financial markets, all of which tell their own stories

“Talking about market movements is the equivalent of highlighting an amazing play in a game. “It’s not just the final scoreboard but also this thing that happened at 1 o’clock, right when the jobs data came out and all these markets went nuts.”

Reporters should ask dumb questions.
While reporters are in the business of asking questions, they’re loathe to sound stupid while doing so. But there’s an argument to be made that reporters, especially those on TV, should often err on the side of simplicity when it comes to interviews.

“Part of the job is to ask the questions that the people at home have,” Weisenthal said. “It’s really important to keep that in mind and not be embarrassed or feel that you’re so sophisticated that you can’t ask the really simple questions.”

For reporters, there’s nothing more valuable than knowledge.
Today’s media climate has made it effortless for reporters to get by with only a superficial knowledge of what they’re writing about. And while there’s value to knowing a little about a lot, there’s arguably more value in being able to go deep on and owning a topic — no matter how obscure it is.

“There really is no substitute for knowledge. That’s the building blocks of where you make connections,” Weisenthal said.

There should be fewer tech reporters, more markets reporters.
Thanks to tech’s accessibility and influence, its never been easier to find people willing to cover the minutiae of Google and Apple. It’s the opposite case in the markets space, where the relative lack of candidates means there’s plenty of room for new entrants.

“I wish more people were into it because it’s never easy to hire in markets coverage. It’s a seller’s market for talent. If you’re looking to get into something, get to know that,” Weisenthal said.

Podcast edited by: Tanya Dua

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