Policy makers have criticized ratings companies because their ratings of structured products failed to reflect their true risks, particularly under stress. Critics say there is an inherent conflict of interest in the business: an issuer of debt pays the agencies to rate its product and sometimes, in the case of structured credit, to help design the product, too.

“Critics” might say that, but it’s just a fact. Maybe the Journal can just write it as thus without attribution from now on and attribute any opposing view to “fools and lackeys.”

Saudis bend on oil output

The Journal and FT follow the NYT’s weekend report that Saudi Arabia is planning to pump more oil to reduce prices and ease the heat from its trading partners like the U.S. The Journal says on A8 that the kingdom may sell its oil at a discount, as well, to get refiners to take it because it says “the market isn’t hankering for additional oil.”

The fear within Saudi Arabia is that sky-high prices will both rattle the world economy and spur efficiencies and new technologies that could undercut demand for oil in the future. Some other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries share that concern, but only Saudi Arabia has played the role as a buffer against excess price jolts. The kingdom remains the only country with sizable excess capacity, though that has shrunk in recent years to slightly less than two million barrels a day.

Bloomberg says the 200,000 barrel boost (others have reported it will be up to 500,000 barrels) will lift global oil supplies by 0.2 percent. That oughta do it.

Russert wore many hats at NBC

The Times on its Business Day front looks at the huge hole the shocking death of Tim Russert leaves in NBC News’ operations.

Mr. Russert was not only the moderator of “Meet the Press,” television’s most successful political talk show, he was also the chief of NBC’s Washington bureau, responsible for the hiring of staff members and directing its operations. More significantly, he was NBC’s public face on politics, appearing regularly on the network’s full range of programs, including the “Today” show, NBC’s “Nightly News,” and on its cable news channel MSNBC.

How did one man do all that and still manage to be perhaps the best-researched interviewer on television?

“Meet the Press” made tens of millions of dollars annually for NBC. There isn’t a clear candidate to replace Russert, though the paper mentions Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, and Andrea Mitchell as possibilities.

The Times on C7 reports that The Associated Press is preparing new guidelines for Internet fair use of its content. A crackdown last week on a liberal site led to a fairly predictable backlash that caused the AP to back down.

WaPo’s credit debacle series looks a People’s Choice

The Washington Post continues its three-part series on the credit meltdown with part two on A1. The series is weirdly broken into “chapters” that are about 700 words or so.

In this edition, the paper gets inside a now-bankrupt subprime lender called People’s Choice, which saw the bust coming but couldn’t get off the fees treadmill.

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 rc2538@columbia.edu.