We often report on reporters reporting on reports from reporters, and we occasionally flog mediocre articles about Wal-Mart. Now, thanks to a couple of dispatches that came off the wires yesterday, we get to do both.
“Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is pushing to create a cheaper, more flexible work force by capping wages, using more part-time workers and scheduling more staff on nights and weekends, the New York Times reported on Monday,” Reuters reported on Monday. Two small stylistic word choices aside, that would have been a precise copy of the Times’ lede were it not for the attribution and Reuters’ decision to leave out the information that Wal-Mart is “the nation’s largest private employer.”
Now, there would perhaps be some merit in a wire rehashing an original Times scoop if it were to contain information that is of considerable importance to the well-being of the republic. But this Reuters story, which was posted by ABCNews.com, is about a New York Times story that wasn’t exactly groundbreaking material.
“Wal-Mart executives say they embraced the new policies for a large number of their 1.3 million workers to better serve customers, the newspaper said,” Reuters next reported, quite correctly, because that is what the Times said — almost verbatim.
Somewhat more ambitiously, Reuters chopped off a complete sentence from the third paragraph of the Times story — and then split paragraph four into two separate paragraphs.
To be fair, Reuters apparently did call Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Clark, who said the company has no specific target for hiring part-timers and also added this tidbit: “… it is important that Wal-Mart staff are working at times when customers want to shop.”
In the interest of media diversity, Dow Jones Newswires offered a separate take on the New York Times story about Wal-Mart. Dow Jones’ lede contained two words that were different from those in the Reuters lede. But while Reuters excised the second half of the Times’ second graf, Dow Jones reprinted it in full (adding “the nation’s largest private employer,” no less). The same went for graf three. And while Reuters dared to split up the Times’ paragraph four, Dow Jones kept it together.
And there you have it: sound proof that competition increases efficiency and productivity.