WSJ Tinkers With a Perfectly Good Story

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting front-page story on tinkerers this morning, but the paper undermines it with a silly reach and a misleading headline aimed at newsifying the piece.

Who doesn’t want to read about inventors clinking away in their garages making absinthe-cocktail-mixing “Barbots” or 3D printers? But the paper has to awkwardly force a news hook on the story, which as far as the reader can tell from the rest of the story is just completely bogus.

The WSJ doesn’t really do the off-the-news thing so much anymore, so slap a recession headline on it and motor on!

Tinkering Makes Comeback Amid Crisis

So what’s the evidence for that?

The financial crisis played a role in taking a nascent trend and giving it increased urgency, says Michael Cima, an MIT engineering professor. “I’ve been here 23 years and I definitely see this trend back to hands-on,” he says. “A lot of people are pretty disappointed with an image of a career in finance and they’re looking for a career that’s real.”

That’s it—one dude saying so. That does not a headline make in a 2,100 word story.

It’s too bad because there really does seem to be a trend toward making physical stuff as opposed to 1s and 0s stuff.

But the real reason would be, as the story reports (it’s not hard to imagine this perfectly fine story sitting there well and good before an editor came along to screw it up), that the tools for making said stuff have been democratized.

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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.