Financial journalists bullish on outlook for economy and financial services industry

Financial journalists are increasingly bullish on the economy and the prospects for the US financial sector and, while they are growing a little less concerned, they have mixed views on the outlook for their own profession, according to a new report based on the results of the 2015 Gorkana Survey of Financial Journalists.

The survey of more than 400 US-based financial journalists, which was conducted in partnership with professors Matt Ragas, PhD and Hai Tran, PhD of DePaul University, represents one of the largest studies of the opinions and practices of financial journalists. It provides unique insight into changing perspectives and industry trends, and follows prior studies in 2014 and 2012.

The 2015 Gorkana Financial Journalists Survey Report shows that nearly three out of four (74%) of the financial journalists who responded have a positive outlook for the next year for the US economy. This is the most optimistic financial journalists have been about the health of the US economy in the three years this survey has been conducted.

In 2012, the year the survey was first conducted, only 18% held a positive view, almost half were neutral (46%), and more than a third (36%) were negative, underscoring a dramatic turn-around in perceptions.

Financial journalists are also optimistic about the health of the US financial services sector over the next year, with a solid majority (57%) feeling positive. Underscoring the dramatic difference in sentiment over the last three years, in 2012 only 15% were positive about the financial services sector, with 44% negative and 41% neutral.

“This year’s survey results represent the most bullish perspective on the economy and financial services industry by financial journalists since 2012,” said Jeni Chapman, managing director, Gorkana US. “After so much bad news, it is significant that financial journalists, who do so much to shape perceptions of the economy and have the benefit of talking to a broad range of informed commentators and business leaders, have a broadly positive outlook for the economy and sector.”

Financial journalists have a decidedly more mixed outlook for their own profession. While many are positive (44%), most are neutral (28%) or negative (28%). These numbers reflect a significant improvement over the 2014 survey, in which only one in three (32%) were positive, four out of ten (42%) were neutral, and around a quarter (27%) of respondents were bearish. These results reflect not only an improved economic environment, but arguably the perception of a more stable environment for financial journalism overall.

The survey also shows financial journalists’ trust in the credibility of key sources is improving. Financial journalists’ perception of the credibility of company CEOs was 61%, an increase from 51% in the 2012 survey. Similarly, journalists’ sense of the credibility of company technical experts (58%) and financial/industry analysts (53%) has improved and is the highest it has been since the first survey was conducted in 2012. Of concern for those in the public relations profession, few financial journalists consider company PR professionals (13%) to be highly credible sources.

“It is clear that the trust in CEOs and other key sources that was lost during the financial crises in financial institutions is slowly returning,” added Chapman. “But there remains a significant gap in credibility and an opportunity for the corporate communications and public relations industry to strengthen relationships with financial media.”

The survey shows an evolution in sources for story ideas since 2012. The most often cited source of stories are subject matter experts (71%), reading newspapers or other publications (67%), and research studies from public or private institutions (60%). The study reveals an increasing number of journalists both drawing upon their own personal interests when it comes to writing, along with a greater use of press releases (46%), corporate newsrooms (26%), and corporate social media sites (16%) as a news sources. The survey also shows an increase in mentions of PR professionals’ pitches (21%) as a story source.

The survey also provides perspective from financial journalists on what corporate communications and public relations professionals need to do to build better relationships with them. The most frequently cited areas included, first, the need to tell the truth (90%), second, to have a better understanding of journalists’ beats, publications and audiences (88%), and, third, to develop greater knowledge of the subjects, companies and industries they (PR professionals) represent (84%).

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