Audit Notes: Columbia navel-gazing edition

A tech site takes down Michael Wolff's thoughts on Twitter

It’s always fun to see a Michael Wolff trolling get demolished. This one’s at the hands of PandoDaily’s Hamish McKenzie.

In his USA Today column, Wolff criticizes the Columbia School of Journalism’s selection of Steve Coll to be its new dean, writing that it’s a backwards choice because Coll apparently has never tweeted:

But hiring another New Yorker writer, one who, of note, has never tweeted in his life, is yet quite an audacious statement about news values and direction. It is an opposite point of view, and almost as audacious as just hiring the journalist with the most Twitter followers.


The first is that it takes about 40 seconds to teach someone how to use Twitter, but the skills of journalism are acquired and honed over a lifetime. Being adept at Twitter does not make you a good journalist, just as being a good journalist does not make you an adept Tweeter…

Coll might not have ever written a Tweet in his life, but he has won two Pulitzers, authored seven books, and spent the last 28 years writing for the best publications in the US. Does that qualify him to head up a school of journalism? I think so…

Give me a good journalist over a social media guru any day.

— Speaking of my employer, Demos finds Politico running an op-ed from Columbia Business School professor Charles M. Jones that talks up the benefits of high frequency trading and downplays its pitfalls. Undisclosed: Jones’s paper was funded by Citadel, the giant high frequency trading hedge fund.

Demos’s Wallace Turbeville:

Citadel’s largesse does not mean that Professor Jones’ work was biased. But the very fact that he published an opinion piece in Politico, overtly entering into the political discourse over HFT, is concerning, to say the least. And the Columbia Business School connection can only raise the level of curiosity. Who can forget the image of Professor Jones’ colleague Glenn Hubbard squirming and terminating an interview that questioned his earnings from the financial sector in the film Inside Job?…

Studies that support HFT are praised and contrary studies are dismissed almost derisively. The article concentrates on conventional concepts of market liquidity and the narrow measure of value, transaction costs. Perhaps the support from Citadel was insufficient to fund deeper analysis.

Jones and Politico should have disclosed that funding in the op-ed.

— Steve Lohr writes for The New York Times on the downside of MOOCs—Massive open online courses and the similarities to the media industry’s original sin.

“My fear is that we’re plunging forward with these massively free online education resources and we’re not thinking much about the economics,” Mr. Cusumano said in an interview…

In the media world, Mr. Cusumano contends that newspaper and magazine companies — including The New York Times Company — made a strategic mistake by giving away their publications free on the Web. The online pay walls that publications have since put up, he said, seem to be helping to stabilize things, but only after a precipitous decline.

Give-away pricing in education, Mr. Cusumano warns, may well be a comparable misstep. The damage would occur, he writes in the article, “if increasing numbers of universities and colleges joined the free online education movement and set a new threshold price for the industry — zero — which becomes commonly accepted and difficult to undo.”

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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. Tags: , , , ,