Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Business reporting 101


Business reporting is getting competitively better in Nepal. There are already two broadsheet dailies that focus solely on business and the economy. Recently, I had a chance to sit down with a few young reporters and talk about how they might want to practice their craft. Here's a list of what came up:

1. Learn to read, interpret and analyse the basic financial statements Ė cash flows, profit and loss statements and balance sheets Ė of a company. If you can add and subtract, you can pretty much learn all the accounting that you need to know to do your job.

Few Nepali business reporters seem to know how to take apart a company's financial statements, and they do their readers a great disservice when they lack this skill. Mastering basic accounting (and this can be done by taking a course for a month at any institute in Putali Sadak) is one way an ambitious reporter can differentiate herself when reporting on public limited companies.

2. Decide what kind of a reporter you want to be. If you want to be taken seriously, leave the lifestyle reporting to your less ambitious peers. Often, I see Nepali journalists being taken for a ride by CEOs and business managers. It's no use wasting your time interviewing business heads about their villages, their schooling, their favourite gym, the music they listen to, their spouses, their hobbies, their self-reported early struggles, and then using such details as the meat of your reporting.

When you ask a business manager to tell his story, his tendency is to put a nice spin on the story to make him a great hero, when the verifiable truth could be utterly boring. Sure, your publication needs those lifestyle stories to get the advertisements. Still, tread carefully. There is a line between being known for writing only puffery and for good reporting.

3. Do not rush to ask a banker or an accountant questions related to macroeconomics (GDP, trade, employment, etc). For macroeconomics, first ask several economists, who may well disagree with one another. Ask them for data and data sources. Ask them to explain their reasoning, and understand it yourself first. If the economists cannot explain their reasoning in clear, logical language, then don't be intimidated: chances are they themselves probably don't know what they are talking about, and are using jargon to fool you. Do not be intimidated by titles, fancy university degrees, and expert knowledge.

You'd be surprised how many so-called experts bluff about topics they have no idea about. In any case, your job, as a natural self-learner, is to translate the complicated world of business for your readers. So, push your 'ask follow-up questions' button repeatedly until you understand what is what.

4. Always ask yourself: how is this story in the interest of the reader? Always try to have that 'what do the consumers think' angle. This helps break 'big' stories down to the level of the 'ordinary' individuals who are your readers.

5. Never publish anonymous letters and allegations. In any town, there is no shortage of people who have scores to settle with one another. Often, they use you to get even with their enemies. You can add fuel to the fire, and revel in self-serving wah-wah. Choose a higher road: focus on your credibility for the long, long term.

6. Never write an entire report based on one person's remark or a press conference put out by a company that wines and dines you. Take a skeptical approach, dig deeper. Talk to analysts, competitors, suppliers, regulators, and report in ways that you'd be proud of five years from now.

Yeti comes home

1. who cares
1: its just basics, but should not take seriously especially in nepal.

2: good one.

3: superb

4: good advice, but honesty is the best policy, not just what reader want to hear. this will work on longer term. people may not like you earlier but you will become hero later if you have ability. 

5: totally false, should analyse the content not title/name. analyse yourself/expert then publish.

6: serious advice. since in nepal, nepalese tend to make their mind or should i say, keep on changing with ever meeting/info. 


2. Chandra
Good advice, especially no. 1.

3. puasda
This comment has been removed by the moderator. For those readers who have been wondering why their comments have not been featured or have been removed, please read our Terms of Use below.

4. Manish, good job. attack not the validity of the ideas, but the person behind the ideas. nepaliko gorkhay santanko classic tactics. you may have a bright future not in business reporting but in nepali politics advising the likes of pu.ka.da. what was number 5 again?  

5. Lalmani

NGO is business. Even Bill Gates gave up running his profitable business to run an NGO. 16 billionaires signed a pledge to give their wealth to NGOs. 

6. who cares

you mean as ashutosh tiwari, is a ngo wala.

i dont like ngo wala too. 

if they think they know everything then why dont they join something productive instead of milking donor just to spent or should i say waste. cause, that wealth in the right hand can multiply, bring a lots of jobs, expand economy.


7. Sagar Onta
In Nepal, it is easy to dismiss people without knowing the whole story. Just because one hates NGO does not give them right to criticize everyone who works in that sector. Ashu has proven again and again, through his work, that he does have the business acumen. I believe he has the mind of a business and heart of NGO. He is instrumental in establishing the Entrepreneurs For Nepal group, which support small entrepreneurs and publish documents with their stories, so everyone can learn from them

Keep up the good job, Ashu.

8. wildpig
the terms of use..mentioned below is to - not to write a comment on article that is against the views and the biased terms of the editorial team of nepali times. The best option is to stop reading Nepali Times.

9. Sagar
Wildpig, when I saw you comment, I read the terms of use and I did not find anything that says we are not allowed to write against views of the author. This shows you are biased against Nepali Times. I find that to be a normal attitude of people who just don't like something to dismiss that thing without looking into it deeply. 

10. Ujwal Thapa
Good write up Ashu, 

These tips would be of substantial help to people who want to improve the level of journalism that targets the business environment of Nepal.

As a serial entrepreneur, I would welcome more quality business /economic analysis and reporting in our media rather than political ramblings that go on and grab central headlines instead these days.

-->Your points are a good addition to any journalism reporter or student who want to focus on business reporting (and help focus on Nepal's positive rather than the negative)


11. Brajesh Vaidya
Good work Ashu,

Young journalists who are aspiring to be professionals certainly need this kind of teaching. They do not teach you these sorts of things in the school.

Adding common sense to numbers and figures will make polish reports.


(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)