Audit Notes: The Guardian, LAT on the OCR, Google bus piñata

The fallout continues from the paper's latest revelations

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s bombshell column Monday night was one of the biggest pieces of media news in recent years.

But as the HuffPost’s Michael Calderone points out, the paper stuffed it on page 28 with just a teaser on page one.

It’s impossible to criticize Rusbridger, though, who has become the premiere editor of his generation with the paper’s fearless work on News Corporation, Wikileaks, and the NSA—world-shaking stories that have all come in the span of three years.

And as Jay Rosen is shrewd to note, Rusbridger sat on the smashed-hard-drives story until just the right moment:

Those who would expose and oppose the security state also need good judgment. What to hold back, when not to publish, how not to react when provoked, what not to say in your own defense: alongside the forensic, the demands of the prudential. All day today, people have been asking me: why did The Guardian wait a month to tell us about, “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back?” Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post asked Rusbridger about that. His answer:

“Having been through this and not written about it on the day for operational reasons, I was sort of waiting for a moment when the government’s attitude to journalism — when there was an issue that made this relevant,” Rusbridger said.

Hear it? The holding back. The sensation of a political opening, through which the story can be driven. The alignment of argument with information. The clear contrast between a terror anyone can identify with — being detained for nine hours while transiting through a foreign country — and the state’s obscure use of terrorism law. These are political skills, indistinguishable from editorial acumen. In a conspiracy to commit journalism we must persuade as well as inform.

— The Los Angeles Times runs an excellent, newsy profile of Aaron Kushner and the Orange County Register as they launch a newspaper war with John Paton’s Digital First Media in Long Beach.

Jason Felch reports that Kushner is in talks to buy the Riverside County Press-Enterprise and that every category of its local advertising except legal notices is rising. Kushner, whom I wrote about a few months ago, is willing to experiment—something that crossed a line with his recent deal to become the city of Anaheim’s agent on naming rights for a big transportation project.

But this sounds like a fantastic idea:

Several advertisers said they were drawn to the Register by a pay-for-performance system in which the cost of advertising is based on how many phone calls from potential customers an ad generates. Calls are tracked through a special phone number monitored by the newspaper.

LifeSource Water Systems in Pasadena has paid about $8,000 for eight to 10 Register ads over the last month under the pay-for-performance arrangement, marketing manager Cherie Harris said.

“And this seems to be pulling better than other newspapers we’ve used,” she said.

Paton tells the Times that, “He’s going to spend a lot of money, we’re going to spend a lot of money, and then he’s going to go home a loser.”

We’ll see. In the meantime, Long Beach readers win.

— The LAT had another good piece last week on how the massive wealth pouring into a relative few pockets in San Francisco is causing social tensions:

Anti-Google graffiti has turned up here, and activists recently held a small anti-gentrification rally at which they smashed a Google bus piñata…

Unlike in previous booms, the tech industry isn’t creating as many middle-class jobs or as much goodwill. The gap between Silicon Valley’s high and low earners is widening, with average per-capita incomes going up while median household incomes have fallen for the third consecutive year, according to Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a private group that publishes an annual report card on the region.

In a region that lays claim to some of the world’s wealthiest companies, food stamp participation has hit a 10-year high, and homelessness has increased 20% in the last two years, the group found.

But the money quote is from a multiple startup founder who talks about how the tech crowd isn’t really an out of touch elite:

“We have a bit of a different culture here that kind of frowns on that,” he said. “We don’t wear Prada, and we’ll drive a Porsche but not one we own. Who wants to own a car? We drive Porsches on track days at Laguna Seca.”

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. Tags: , , , ,