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BusinessWeek’s Core B-School Team Out

Lou Lavelle

Lou Lavelle

The two top editors of Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s business education team left the magazine yesterday (Nov. 7), Poets&Quants has learned.

Associate Editor Louis Lavelle, who has been the magazine’s business schools editor since 2005, and Staff Editor Geoff Gloeckler, who has covered management education since March of 2005, are no longer employees, according to another BusinessWeek staffer.

The pair, who together had 16 years of experience covering the business school beat, left on the day Bloomberg BusinessWeek published its latest rankings of Executive MBA and part-time MBA programs. The stories were authored by Gloeckler who reported to Lavelle. Their departure deals a serious blow to BusinessWeek’s coverage of business education. It also follows the decision this year by long-time business education staffer Alison Damast to quit the magazine following a maternity leave that began last December. Damast had covered MBA issues for six years.

It is not clear whether Lavelle and Gloeckler quit or were dismissed. Both journalists declined to comment. But their leaving occurred only two days after Poets&Quants disclosed significant revisions in BusinessWeek’s 2012 MBA ranking. Those revisions, quietly published last month online, were made because BusinessWeek said it had erred in compiling the intellectual capital portion of its ranking.

Geoff Gloeckler

Geoff Gloecklerdisclosed significant revisions in BusinessWeek’s 2012 MBA ranking. Those revisions, quietly published last month online, were made because BusinessWeek said it had erred in compiling the intellectual capital portion of its ranking.

‘LOOKING AT WAYS TO REVAMP AND RE-ENERGIZE THE RANKINGS’

The departure of Lavelle and Gloeckler could signal some significant changes ahead in how BusinessWeek ranks business schools. “The Bloomberg Businessweek rankings are now 25 years old and we’re looking at ways to revamp and re-energize them,” Assistant Managing Editor Janet Paskin told Poets&Quants. “We want to make sure we’re gathering the information that matters most to prospective students and employers. We’re generating ideas here, but are also reaching out to business schools to get their critical ideas and opinions.”

Paskin, who did not return a phone call seeking comment on the loss of BusinessWeek’s primary journalists who do its various business school rankings, had made the earlier remarks to Poets&Quants in an email response two days ago.

The BusinessWeek rankings are used by more MBA applicants than any other published list of the best business schools, according to a survey of last year’s applicants by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC). Some 69% of the responding applicants said they consulted the BW list, compared with 61% for The Financial Times, 54% for U.S. News & World Report, and 41% for Poets&Quants. Some 40% said they consulted The Economist, while 31% referred to Forbes‘ biennial ranking.

The shakeup occurred after the magazine’s mistaken calculations changed the overall numerical rank of a dozen schools–10 in the U.S. and two non-U.S. schools. More significantly, the “intellectual capital” rank of some schools moved by as many as 10 positions. Harvard Business School, for example, fell to 19th from 9th in intellectual capital as a result of the revision.

While something of an embarrassment for Bloomberg Businessweek, which prides itself on accurate reporting and writing, the mistake was easy enough to make. Each ranking cranked out by the magazine involves the collection and analysis of thousands of data points. It takes many months of tedious work to complete the project from start to finish.

CORRECTION MADE WITH LITTLE FANFARE OR NOTICE TO READERS

The errors that led to the revisions, moreover, were less serious an issue than the way the magazine disclosed the mistake and the corrections to readers. The magazine quietly revised its rankings online a month ago with little fanfare or notice. At the top of its corrected table, in small hard-to-read type is this rather vague, less-than-clear statement: “(Corrects to revise 2012 overall rankings, Ranking index and 2012 Intellectual Capital rankings following errors in the calculation of the Intellectual Capital score.)”

Even BusinessWeek’s updated article on its rankings methodology failed to acknowledge the mistake. Instead, the magazine simply crossed out part of the description of the methodology.

Oversight for the way the publication handled the issue would have fallen to Lavelle’s boss, Paskin, a relative newcomer to the organization who also serves as BusinessWeek‘s online editor. Paskin joined BusinessWeek from The Wall Street Journal on Nov. 12, just three days before the 2012 full-time MBA rankings were released.