Audit Notes: Animal Farm Webified, Murdoch’s Paradox, Reform Hype

Speaking of the Web and hyped headlines, McSweeney’s has probably the best satire of the genre yet.

Mike Lacher’s piece
, called “Great Literature Retitled To Boost Website Traffic,” includes these gems:

7 Awesome Ways Barnyard Animals Are Like Communism


6 Shockingly Evil Things The Turn-Of-The-Century Meatpacking Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know


— The FT’s John Gapper makes some good points in a column on how Rupert Murdoch’s Internet strategy collides with his longstanding tendency to dumb down his top papers.

The future of general online news is in doubt. But if any titles are to survive, they will have to be more like The Times Mr Murdoch bought in 1981 than the title he publishes today – more focused, deeper, with rarer data and information…

The Times and The Sunday Times are right to try it – there is little alternative – but success depends on consumers finding sufficient value behind the wall. The irony is that Mr Murdoch has broadened the intended audience of his titles so heavily over the past three decades that it is not obvious they will.

The pre-Murdoch Times was, to employ today’s jargon, a largely “vertical” publication. There were few crime, entertainment or general news stories, and a lot of specialist coverage of politics, Whitehall, the law, education, the City, and so forth. It was a working paper for the establishment elite.

Since then it has followed social trends in broadening its scope along with the rise in the number of people going to university.

That sounds awfully familiar stateside, and it’s yet another reason it’s not a good idea to move The Wall Street Journal toward general news. As I said last summer:

Bizarrely, at a time when we’re all talking about “commodity news” and how to distinguish your content and make it valuable, the Journal has emphasized standard news reports, while de-emphasizing in-depth reporting and long-form journalism. It now encourages its staffers to be more like their cousins at the Dow Jones Newswires.

— Joshua Green of The Atlantic has an excellent memo for the press on financial reform: Quit hyping a bill that’s pretty milquetoast:

Three points in particular are likely to be underplayed. First, the new financial regulations are the most profound since the Depression chiefly because most of what Congress did in the interim was to eliminate regulations, which brought on the recent crisis. Nobody’s clearing a very high bar.

Second, whatever Obama signs into law will be modest given the scope and severity of the crisis, nothing like the New Deal reforms. No bank will be broken up, no government agency punished, no Wall Street executive denied his bonus.

The thrust of both the House and Senate bills is to repair and preserve the current system rather than reform it root and branch…

The third point likely to be underplayed is that this unusual dynamic owes nothing to the integrity of the senators and everything to the anger of the American public.

Excellent stuff.

By the way, I think he’s looking at you, New York Times, with your over-the-top “Dodd Prepares to Depart in Triumph” story.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.