The financial writers at the WSJ and NYT have suffered a string of embarrassments lately.
Here they are:
- The Dealbook plagiarism scandal.
- The ridiculous hedge fund conspiracy story peddled by the WSJ.
- Gretchen Morgenson’s swap confusion.
We hate to say it, but in each case it’s owed to the influence of blogs.
— In the case of Dealbook, the writer Zach Kouwe found himself, in the words of ombudsman Clark Hoyt, in a “hypercompetitive news blog,” where the thinking was: hoover up as much as possible and be as fast as possible. Unfortunately, as Felix Salmon eloquently pointed out, what you ended up with was a bad clash between a traditional reporter and a blog environment and it didn’t work out.
— At the WSJ, the paper opted for sensationalism and hedge fund conspiracies — both favourite topics on financial blogs — to turn an interesting story into a scandalous story. Unfortunately the piece fell totally flat.
— And Gretchen Morgenson, this weekend in the NYT, opted to go for scandal and flash, at the expense of accuracy.
Now in theory competition is supposed to make everyone better, so in theory competition from blogs should elevate the performance of mainstream financial journalism (and in some cases that happens, such as FT’s Alphaville, which gets the medium perfectly).
But in many cases it seems as though publications are pursuing a blog caricature: scandal, more scandal, and stealing content. If that’s how publications feel the need to compete, it won’t make anyone fitter.
Conversely, there are a few things that the mainstream media should draw from blogs, namely: speed, willingness to generously cite other publications, a running conversation with the readers, and yes, even a willingness to wing it a little bit more on stories that aren’t yet 100% fully-baked.