Audit Notes: Whither The Guardian, Blodget breathes fire, CNBC flop

The New Statesman profiles editor Alan Rusbridger

This long New Statesman profile of Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, which also delves into the financial woes of his paper, is very good:

The Guardian of today is almost entirely Rusbridger’s creation. Not in the sense that he strides around the office in the style of the Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, issuing orders, remaking front pages and dictating captions - on the contrary, his style is unusually light-touch and relaxed. Rather, he has recruited and promoted, with a few exceptions, people much like himself (or who have become so): urbane, metrocentric, cosmopolitan, cool, gently ironic, contemporary (some would say modish), culturally eclectic, and middle-class. “On the Guardian,” said a veteran staff member, “even the black girls are called Emma.” Another long-serving reporter said: “Alan is good on race, but not so good on class. He sometimes seems nervous about exposing rough edges to the great and good.”

There is a distinctly knowing and superior Guardian tone, which always infuriates the right and sometimes the more traditional left, too. Alone among British newspapers, it has contributed a noun to the English language - Guardianista - and although a precise definition is elusive everybody knows what is meant…

What silenced Rusbridger’s critics more than anything else, however, was his record on backing investigative journalism, and his coolness under legal fire. Early in his editorship, the Tory cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken sued the paper, along with Granada Television, over an allegation originating from an investigation launched by Preston. The Guardian was on the brink of losing the case, with potentially disastrous consequences for its reputation and finances, when it produced incontrovertible evidence that the allegation was true. Aitken ended up in jail.

The financial problems The Guardian has are very real, but it has something almost no other newspaper does: It’s a nonprofit with a giant, valuable trust to support it. That gives it more leeway to gamble on figuring out a business model that doesn’t involve subscriptions than just about anyone else has.

— That great populist Henry Blodget has a post up at Business Insider with charts galore on inequality and oligarchy in the American economy. You should give it a look-see.

Then there’s this:

In the never-ending tug-of-war between “labor” and “capital,” there has rarely—if ever—been a time when “capital” was so clearly winning.

And that’s not just unfair.

It’s un-American.

As a rule it’s generally unwise—not to mention untrue—to call things un-American, particularly when it’s something like the the dominance of capital.

— Here’s a journalism lesson for you: If someone random dude emails you with info for a story, it’s not a good idea to run with that information unchecked. Particularly if this guy tells you his prostitution business is down a third or so because NBA players are locked out.

That’s what CNBC’s Darren Rovell did, and it turns out an 18 year old was pranking him, Deadspin’s John Koblin reported. That resulted in a nasty correction saying “Fabricated material originally included in this story has been removed,” as well as an apology from Rovell:

The upside of Internet is that it gives a voice to millions of people that otherwise might not have a platform. In this case I used Twitter to crowd source a story about the real people affected by the NBA lockout. I got hundreds of responses from ballboys to ushers who chose to share their very personal stories. I tried to verify all stories by peppering people with questions to test their knowledge. The downside of Twitter is that the voice can hide behind a wall of anonymity.

The escort story made the cut because I thought it was different. As you can see in the published exchange I went back and forth with “Tim” in an attempt to ascertain whether his story was genuine. Feeling satisfied that the answers seemed real, we included it in the story.

He duped me. Shame on me. I apologize to my readers.

Ouch. And a correction of this magnitude shouldn’t be posted at the end of the story, as CNBC has done. Put it up top.

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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: , , , ,