Audit Notes: WSJ goes long, Valleywag, Boston Globe paywall

With a Boston bombings story, the paper shows what it can still do

This Wall Street Journal piece on the suspected Boston terrorists is a deeply reported (18 bylines and taglines) and convincing portrait of the Tsarnaev family and how setbacks coincided with a turn toward Islam, particularly for Tamerlan and his mother:

Then Tamerlan hit headwinds. His ambitions to be a champion boxer stalled. Community college proved costly, and he didn’t have a job. He also had problems in his love life that included a frantic 911 call that a woman, identified as his girlfriend, made in July 2009…

Meanwhile a friend of Tamerlan’s, Brendan Mess, was murdered in the Boston-area city of Waltham on Sept. 11, 2011, in a case that has remained unresolved. And Tamerlan’s father grew increasingly ill.

During this turmoil, his mother encouraged him to turn to Islam. “I told Tamerlan that we are Muslim, and we are not practicing our religion, and how can we call ourselves Muslims?” Mrs. Tsarnaeva said. “And that’s how Tamerlan started reading about Islam, and he started praying, and he got more and more and more into his religion.”

Relatives and friends say they saw a shift in the young man. Neighbors noticed that the parties stopped. “I’m telling you, something turned,” said Mr. Vasquez. “And it was dramatic.”

We’ve long criticized the Murdoch era diminution of the paper’s longform journalism, but this story comes in at about 2,700 words. Look what the Journal can still do when the powers that be give its newsroom a few extra column inches.

— Gawker is relaunching its Silicon Valley site Valleywag and Sam Biddle’s intro is a swaggering shot across the bow:

You’re doing it again. It’s only been a few years since we last met here, but you, Valley venture capitalist and Alley opportunist, are worse than ever. There will come a day when all the coddling and cheerleading you’ve become accustomed to curdles into rage and recrimination in the wake of another burst bubble, and we’d like to jumpstart that process. So welcome back to Valleywag…

Today’s tech boom isn’t an economy of ideas, but an economy of fantasy: the fantasy that anyone wants a company to digitize their paper junk mail, the fantasy that Pictionary on your iPhone is worth a $180 million acquisition, the fantasy that any half-baked idea will eventually lead to a job at Facebook, and whatever status that lends at a bar in Palo Alto. Fad economies are nothing new, but never has so much cash floated atop so little: at the end of the day, tulips still looked pretty on a table. Hawked above all is the fantasy that all of this posturing and programming represents the American best and brightest, some new pixel-industrial vanguard. That insane dream that our national future has little to do with creating, building, or even selling, and more to do with… Chat Heads? At least Wall Street bankers have the decency and self-awareness to hate themselves.

The days of reckoning for the silicon wunderkind are near, and so here we are: to watch them stumble, catalog their hypocrisies, their excess, their layoffs, and the gradual abandonment of their dreams.

If any industry needs something like this, it’s Silicon Valley.

The Boston Globe dropped its paywall last week as a public service during the aftermath of the terror attacks and the manhunt for the bombers.

But the kind of journalism the paper has put out during the last week is expensive and it can’t be supported by digital ads alone. So today, the paywall is back up.

The paper’s reporting has been essential to making sense of the events of the last week and is what a newspaper website should look like, so here’s hoping they get a spike in subscriptions. The paper’s finances aren’t exactly solid these days.

A sub is 99 cents a week for the first four weeks. I know I’m subscribing for at least a couple of months to show some support.

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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: , , , ,