The Celebrity Journal

Stars are turning up in the once-august paper for little or no reason

I noticed The Wall Street Journal’s “The Experts” back in March when the advertiser-friendly special section ran a story on personal-finance advice from noted gurus Pat Sajak and Morgan Fairchild.

But I’ve noticed that the once-and-still-somewhat-august Journal has become an awfully celebrity-friendly place lately. For a few days recently, plugged the “WSJ Startup of the Year” quasi-reality show with a video that featured, the annoyingly named leader of the awful pop group Black Eyed Peas, “mentoring” some startup founder who has an augmented-reality app and thinks “the language of the future is a visually-based language—universal, democratic… everyone can rally around something. And so we’re doing a lot in the entertainment space.”

A few weeks earlier, the Journal had a startup called ‘ZinePak mentored by MC Hammer, “pop rap pioneer” and notorious bankrupt. ‘ZinePak is “trying to bring innovation and revolution to the recorded entertainment industry” by making tickets into souvenirs, but the Hammerman had zero advice or mentoring to offer.

And Morgan Fairchild and Pat Sajak are still hanging around the WSJ Experts lounge, offering advice on questions like “What would your ideal retirement party playlist be?” Suzanne Somers also got that one.

The WSJ asked Fairchild on another occasion, “What will surprise people the most when they retire?” She replies, “Since I’m not retired yet, my view of what the biggest surprise will be may be a bit skewed. However, many folks seem to find time on their hands is not all it’s cracked up to be. They get bored!! To that end, learn things and/or volunteer!” Experts, indeed.

The Experts even asks Robert Plant about what “top two global risks that you think companies should be prepared for?” Err, wait. That’s Robert Plant of the University of Miami, not the Robert Plant:

But I look forward to the WSJ interviewing the real Robert Plant on how to rock—even if it’s how to rock in your retirement.

Rupert Murdoch has clearly been big on celebrity coverage across his empire, the moneymaking parts of which are interdependent on the publicity machine of the press. An extremely unscientific survey of WSJ clips in Factiva (I searched for “celebrity” or “celebrities”) seems to show that these stories have increased significantly under Murdoch (after actually declining slightly his first two years), perhaps as part of his initiative to morph the Journal from a smart business-focused newspaper into a not-as-smart general-news paper:

Those are hits in the newspaper. Not included in that count are the blog posts proliferating on

For instance, WSJ’s Speakeasy, which gives us such gems as the Emmys liveblog: “if Kerry Washington and ‘Scandal’ don’t come away with some hardware, will it be a true scandal?” One commenter responded, “Old man Murdochs tabloid credentials are really spilling into the WSJ. This is now a Republican version of the national Enquirer.”

Then there are the TV recaps like this one of “Nashville” Season 2, episode 2. If you don’t know what TV recaps are (or at least WSJ-style ones), think 8th grade book reports, but about episodes of TV shows:

Rayna isn’t sure she’ll be able to talk to Deacon again. She says she’s just done but we’ve heard that before.

Scarlett is chatting with Gunnar about nothing. Gunnar wants to know if she wants to get together. She says not so much. Also, she wants to know where her couch is (whoops!)


I didn’t have the heart to read “‘Project Runway’ Recap: Season 12, Episode 6, Elementary,” but be my guest.

Here’s a post called “Miley Cyrus Sings ‘We Can’t Stop’ with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots,” which got a single comment:

Why is this on the site? This is not what i come to WSJ for, in any form or fashion.

Good question, “razorbacks.”

There’s nothing wrong with covering pop culture, of course, but too much of this stuff is just not very smart:

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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. Tags: , , , ,