Big Wheel Keep on Turnin’

Hamster for the holidays from the NYT, WSJ, and Politico

Audit boss Dean Starkman wrote a CJR cover story a couple of months ago called “The Hamster Wheel,” decrying journalistic “motion for motion’s sake… news panic, a lack of discipline, an inability to say no.”

Haven’t read it yet? It’s some 3,500 words. Put down your crackberry, stop live-tweeting the 11th season premier of Dancing With the Stars, and give it a try.

But until then, how about some more pellets?

Fellow Auditeer Felix Salmon passes along this New York Times nominee for the Hamster Hall of Fame. It’s really something special. Here’s the headline:

Live Blog: The Race to Grandma’s House

Here’s the hook:

Today we’re off to Athens, Ga., to spend Thanksgiving at my parents’ house. This year, the holiday-travel hassle factor is compounded by the Transportation Security Administration’s new full-body scanning machines, more thorough pat-downs and expected protests against the scans.

Our flight departs La Guardia at 10 a.m. All morning, or as long as it takes, I will live-blog our odyssey.

Could there be anything less interesting in the entire world? Flying with kids these days is excruciating enough.

Here’s the latest entry:

We’ve landed. Delta must be good to its flight attendants, because they’re still chatting away happily. We have not made any lifelong friends on this flight, and my seat is covered in cereal.

I just… (sigh).

As commenter Mike Matulis says about the “Race to Grandma’s”:

This is the equivalent of and about as interesting as the hackneyed Black Friday crowded shopping mall story that every media outlet in America feels the need to do each year. Have a nice trip, but really, do we need to read about it?

Next up, sports!, and The Wall Street Journal’s “Stoops vs. Stoops in the Complaining Bowl”:

To see which brother is more likely fuming at any moment, we watched both Mike, the coach of Arizona, and Bob, of Oklahoma, coach a losing game this season and analyzed how often TV cameras showed them arguing or yelling, and whether they were upset with their team or with a referee. The cameras focused on Mike Stoops 37 times in the Wildcats’ loss this month against Stanford, and he was complaining 51.4% of the time. Among those instances, he was upset with someone on his team almost twice as often as with a ref.

Meanwhile, even though the study analyzed Bob Stoops when his then-No. 1 Sooners lost to Missouri, he was only upset 15.2% of the 46 times the cameras focused on him, yelling at his players or assistants three times. Both brothers declined to comment through school spokesmen.

Fifteen point two percent, huh? Well, precision is a WSJ hallmark. Now, I’m about as big an OU football fan as they come (Hey, Bob: Quite running the dadgum bubble screen every other play!), but even I can’t work up a lick of interest in this, which is an example of when attempting to be clever just ends up being kinda dumb.

I used to wonder as a college reporter at The Oklahoma Daily why Bob thought we press folks were a bunch of pointless jackals. I’m beginning to get it.

The question for us is: Why is this worth a reporter’s time, much less one working at The Wall Street Journal? As Dean said in “Hamster” about another iffy Journal editorial decision: “Perhaps there was nothing else to look into that night—in the whole world.”

Meantime, the Journal still hasn’t been able to muster the resources to report last week’s news that Fed Chairman Bernanke called on Congress and the president to pass new fiscal stimulus to boost a dire economy.

As Thomas Frank wrote in his nifty expansion of the hamster concept in his first essay (so worth paying for) of his new Harper’s gig:

Let the hamsters compete to make the wheel spin, cranking out their $15 stories and tweeting their little tweets while the Republic goes to hell.

Finally, what would a Hamster post be without Politico? And specifically Politico CLICK, home of the infamous What A Congressman’s Flack Put In His Omelette This Weekend piece.

Today, we have Politico reporting that Obama might not go to Prince William’s wedding in May, but the First Lady just might.

Actually, Politico doesn’t really report this. It reports that CBS News reports it, and it adds neither new information nor insight. It’s pure rewrite:

President Barack Obama may not be on the guest list at next spring’s royal wedding, CBS News reports.

Neil Sean, a contributor for the network, says Buckingham Palace insiders tell him that the first lady may be there when Prince William marries Kate Middleton in April.

“The story I’m hearing from insiders is that we don’t actually anticipate the president to attend the wedding,” Sean said. “But we do think, for that extra type of glamour, the gorgeous Michelle Obama will be making an appearance.”

Must… keep… running…

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: , , , ,