Audit Notes: Obama, Labor Buster; BP Board’s Blame; Google Pollution

The Washington Post had a good story last week looking at the striking disparities between autoworkers who were on the line before the crisis and those who started after unions agreed to slash wages for new hires.

About half make $28 an hour or more, while the rest, the recently hired, make $14.

And the “liberal” Obama administration, which didn’t do much of anything to the bankers it bailed out so luxuriously, was tough as nails with blue-collar workers:

The administration proposal also called for all new production employees to be paid the $14 rate, expanding a 2007 labor agreement that set up the lower rate, though only for some “non-core” jobs. In doing so, the administration went well beyond the pay cuts the automakers had envisioned, sources said.

“From the manufacturer’s perspective, the line workers were always going to be getting $28 an hour,” said a source familiar with the negotiations and the auto manufacturers’ thinking.

Good labor coverage by the Post.

— Well, how about that? Fortune Geoff Colvin gets tough with BP’s board with a piece that says it’s to blame for the Gulf oil spill. Here he quotes a BP-ordered report on its safety practices:

The panel’s report, published in January 2007, is brutally direct. While its immediate focus is BP’s five U.S. refineries, its findings go far beyond them. Calling for “leadership from the top of the company, starting with the Board and going down,” the report found that “BP has not provided effective process safety leadership.” Time and again the report notes that BP has the right standards and programs but cannot make them work. It cites specific areas in which the company failed to enforce standards, including “critical alarms and emergency shutdown devices.”

The report emphasizes that the many failures it cites were “not isolated.” Repeatedly it notes that “the lack of effective leadership was systemic, touching all levels of BP’s corporate management.” While it is management’s job to implement effective safety practices, the report says, “BP’s Board did not ensure, as a best practice, that management did so.”

Here they are.

— Danny Sullivan raises some good points with a post on “Google’s Sewage Factory.” He looks at all the junk that shows up in Google News results and how non-news sites are getting into search results by abusing popular search terms in a bid to pick up cheap ad hits.

“The pollution within Google News is ridiculous,” he says.

It’s true, and it’s worse in Google Blog Search, as Sullivan points out. How many splogs can that thing pick up? One thing I’ve noticed is when searching for terms, Google News will pick up results based on commenters’ replies—not just the actual text of the story. Needless to say, that’s not helpful if you’re trying to find specific coverage of news.

These sound like good recommendations to me:

It shouldn’t be that hard for Google to police what shows up in response to what it publishes on Google Trends. Spam sites ought to be nabbed. AdSense sites ought to be shut down. News publishers abusing the very lucky position they have of being in Google News, by routinely tapping into Google Trends topics that aren’t relevant to their publications, should get the boot.

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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.