Audit Notes: Those Pricey Reporters, Business Press Critique, Wolff’s Idealism, etc.

—What’s a story cost? Ken Doctor asks Clark Gilbert, CEO of the Deseret News’s parent, who gives this breakdown:

*$250-$300 per staff-written story;

*$100 per stringer story;

*$25 per Associated Press story;

*$5-12 for “remote” stories, largely written by the emerging class of bloggers.

And Gilbert includes this reasonable admonition:

“You better know your cost per story,” he says. “That’s the kind of rigor you need.

In the comments, CUNY’s C.W. Anderson asks the logical question: where’d that staff figure come from?

Unfortunately, there’s no there here. Despite the length of the post, the meat of it—Gilbert’s breakdown of story cost, ranging from $250 for a staff story to 5-12 for remote stories—appears to be backed up by little than Gilbert’s word. How do we know this is how much these stories cost?

Good question. Still, it’s hard to argue against counting things, and let’s say the $250 figures is in the ballpark. Inevitably, though, Demand Media, is invoked.

The metrics-driven thinking may have been first demonstrated by Demand Media, with its $10, $25, and $50 stories (“The newsonomics of content arbitrage“), but once opened, that Pandora’s Box won’t be closed.

I understand the need to be hard-headed about news costs, and Demand Media’s nightmare model may be worth studying, if only as a cautionary tale. The question becomes whether we consider what Demand does to be journalism. Demand itself makes no such claims. To the extent that you don’t believe it’s journalism, the comparison becomes less apt and its model less relevant.

—Charles Ferguson’s largely negative review of the Times’s Diana B. Henriques’s new Madoff book, The Wizard of Lies (excerpt), was notable first because it appeared in the Times itself, and second because of Ferguson’s stature as a business-news outsider who produced one of the most important journalistic documents—print, Web, or book—on the financial crisis to date, the Oscar-winning “Inside Job.”

I haven’t read the book, but Ferguson’s review contains a passage that I think applies to the journalism subculture that is the business press generally.

But while the book does an excellent job of recounting the Madoff story, it is all trees and no forest, focusing repeatedly on details while skipping over enormities.

This has been our view of business coverage of the crisis. too.

The New York Observer has a fun read on financier Bill Ackman, the human chutzpah-machine:

Almost everyone who has met Mr. Ackman has either been complimented or insulted regarding his or her appearance, and those falling into the latter group usually find themselves with an appointment to see his nutritionist and sometimes his personal trainer, too. He has been known to stop people on the street corner and give them advice or even find them a job in the time it takes for the light to change.

—I can’t remember the last time I agreed with Michael Wolff about anything, but I found this video tribute to the magazine as a form to be heartfelt and affecting.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman. Tags: , ,