Audit Notes: Marketplace Filleted, Window Dressing, Scotland Yard

Jay Rosen just takes the fillet knife to public radio’s “Marketplace Morning Report.”

The problem with this report is that it cannot decide if it wants to be the audible Wall Street Journal or Adam Smith for Dummies, a business person’s show, or a show for people who only know about business from the consumer or lay person’s side. Deciding on this is too hard a problem for the mush minds at Marketplace, so it tries to be both. It wants to impress us with some taken-for-granted knowledge and also treat us like morons who don’t know their interest rates from their Nielsen ratings.

That is what I hate. I would rather 1.) listen in on a sophisticated conversation that is sometimes over my head, or 2.) have a show that is specifically made for me as a consumer and occasional victim of big business. What I do not want is a program that splits the difference. But that is what Marketplace is. It is controlled by a weak and condescending idea: You’re don’t know crap about business… oh and by the way Japan’s Nikkei index climbed .7 percent to 9,582.22.


The Wall Street Journal reports that the SEC will try to rein in window dressing, the practice of artificially sprucing up balance sheets just before quarterly reporting periods. The paper (and Dow Jones Newswires) takes a deserved victory lap on page one:

The action follows a Wall Street Journal investigation into the practice, which isn’t illegal but masks banks’ true levels of borrowing and risk-taking.

A Journal analysis of financial data from 18 large banks known as primary dealers showed that as a group, they have consistently lowered debt at the end of each of the past six quarters, reducing it on average by 42% from quarterly peaks.

The agency are proposing to tighten disclosure rules on debt levels.

— The Guardian reports that Scotland Yard isn’t exactly trying to reform its ways on the News Corp. News of the World hacking scandal, which it has helped News Corporation keep under wraps.

Two critical witnesses that have come forward on the record in the press, have been approached by Scotland Yard for questioning but told anything they say could be used to prosecute them.

Following stories in the New York Times and the Guardian, police agreed to interview journalists who were named by newspapers as sources, but have chosen not to find any witnesses of their own.

MPs have expressed concern that the decision to interview Hoare and McMullan under caution might intimidate other potential witnesses who may have considered speaking out. David Winnick, a Labour member of the House of Commons home affairs select committee, said this week: “All this seems very strange. I can well understand that those who thought they could put their part of what happened, may now say to themselves they do not want to find themselves being questioned by police under caution.”

Makes you think these guys don’t want to get to the bottom of this thing.

(h/t Jack Shafer)

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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.