The decline of business reporting

It’s easy to beat up on the government.


Thanks to a series of hard-fought public-records laws, government entities in Oregon are mostly held accountable by the media, watchdog groups and the public. When the state tried to set up a healthcare exchange under the Affordable Care Act that turned into a $300 million boondoggle, Oregonians found out about it.

Privately held companies in the state are far less scrutinized. That’s partly a function of the dwindling resources media publishers have to investigate the private Unmasked 06 Reportingsector, but it’s also a product of the dearth of public records laws that apply to businesses that aren’t publicly traded, and thus exempt from disclosures mandated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

That, argues business and financial advisor Mark Gardiner, is at least in part because there aren’t as many reporters investigating the business world as there once were.

“There are fewer investigative reporters, fewer people who really understand the business and finance beats,” Gardiner says.

“So there’s less transparency because there’s not the examination and pursuit of these issues there used to be. With all the attention to [the Public Employees Retirement System] and how much people in the public sector make, there’s virtually none of that discussion relating to these large corporations. Companies put out press releases, or there’s an SEC filing, and maybe a reporter picks it up and does a story but the story says pretty much what the press release said.”

The result, here and across America, is that business leaders are often left to make up their own minds about what should and shouldn’t be shared with their employees, their customers and taxpayers, who invest millions of dollars in subsidies in Oregon companies in exchange for the promise that they’ll do the right thing with that investment: provide jobs, create wealth, do good.

Here again, Trump is a wild card. Many news outlets have around the country have reportedly ramped up hiring since the election of the 45th president.

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