Friday Links: Wolff, Shirky, Veterans for Socialism

Michael Wolff, whose Newser depends on free news for its existence, rips Rupert Murdoch in Vanity Fair for planning to charge online, rightly pointing out he’s been a failure in online media. But in so doing Wolff writes this: “One theory about the decline in the fortunes of The Wall Street Journal (which allowed Murdoch to buy it) is that, because of its paid wall, the Journal was not a factor in Google searches, causing a fundamental decline in its importance, impacting its brand and standing with advertisers.”

That’s just nonsense. The reasons for the Journal’s economic decline are obvious and well-known, as Audit Senior Analyst Dean Starkman wrote a couple of years ago. The WSJ, like every other newspaper in the country, has seen a plunge in print advertising. Dow Jones, its parent, was a bumbling mess that made disastrous moves like the billion-dollar Telerate debacle.

Clay Shirky has an excellent post on the core of a newspaper. Looking at his hometown Columbia Daily Tribune, he finds of its fifty-nine employees, it has six reporters covering local news (not including sports and the like). This idea ought to be a conceptual shift for some. Despite that small number, Shirky calls it a “pretty good paper” and says the fact that only a dozen or so editors and reporters do the core fact-finding work makes it much more likely that a nonprofit model, freed of having to float a huge sports and lifestyle staff, could work.

— You don’t see many headlines like this: “Vets Loving Socialized Medicine Show Government Offers Savings”—or stories like the one that accompanies it over at Bloomberg. It reports that—surprise!—polls show VA users are happier with their medical care than those in the private system, despite the fact that the VA spends far less per person. Of course, I’d be happier with all my health-care visits if I didn’t have to pay anything, too. Bloomberg, alas, doesn’t spell out the savings its headline promises.

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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.