Carr Has a Point about Business News In the Dumps

David Carr looks at the business press and sees a connection between staffing cuts at business news outlets and the diminished standing of businessmen, and business in general, in the eyes of the public.

He says it’s more than just the economics of the media industry.

But it isn’t just that Cadillacs aren’t selling like they used to. It’s also that the people who made them, bought them and drove them seem far more mortal and less interesting than they did just a few years ago.

And the fact that they needed billions and billions in taxpayer money to bail them out has left the former Masters of the Universe with all the social cachet of welfare recipients. In fact, people on welfare seem more deserving now that some of the rescued have come roaring back just in time for year-end bonuses.

Business journalism loves epic scale, but if you want to read a magazine about the biggest player in the financial industry or the auto industry, best pick up an issue of Governing or Congressional Quarterly.

It doesn’t all hold together very well. It’d be nice to know, for instance, what readership levels at the publications are if the point is that the public’s appetite for business news is diminished.

But Carr I think does hit on something interesting, and I wasn’t sure if it was just me. As a business-media critique I hate to say it, but there is something that feels diminished about business news these days. The heads of big financial firms, in particular, just don’t have the cache they once did, and that’s perhaps why the tick-tocks that recount inside-the-boardroom conversations between A-list financial titans, such as those that fill Andrew Ross Sorkin’s new book, come across, to some of us anyway, as a bit flat. If the characters have already shrunken in readers’ estimation, accounts that take us inside their lives lack the revelatory feel that this kind of reporting might have had a generation ago. Through no fault of the journalist, the reader feels less privileged to be in on it.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.