Sunday, March 18, 2012

What the devil has gotten into Barron's?

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Maybe the Devil himself, operating in deep cover under the name "Rupert Murdoch"?

Before Murdoch's News Corp. took over the Wall Street Journal, it was one of the few newspapers in the United States worthy of the name. While I disagreed with some of its corporate-centric positions (particularly its open borders advocacy), it was notable for depth of research and thought-provoking op-ed articles.Now, three years post-Murdoch acquisition, the Journal has devolved into a USA Today targeted to a richer demographic. The paper's coverage is heavy on fashion, entertainment, expensive wines, and sports.

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Let us turn our attention to Barron's, also bagged by Murdoch's company. Barron's is by a long stretch the best mass-circulation periodical devoted to investing, streets ahead of grade-school tripe like Money, Kiplinger's, and SmartMoney. I'd almost say that if you manage your own investments, Barron's is necessary reading (although of course it should be supplemented by other sources).

But what hath Murdoch wrought on Barron's?

There's no way an outsider can tell how much the reporting side of the paper has been affected by the influence of the Murdoch dynasty. But any reader can twig that orders have gone out from Supreme Headquarters, Murdoch Expeditionary Force to Barron's copyeditors who write the headlines: "You shall invariably find a metaphor related to the business of the company, even if you must scrape the bottom of the barrel deeper than mankind has yet ventured."

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Examples from the past two issues:

"Harman [maker of car stereos] Pumps Up the Volume."

"A Total Opportunity for Growth" [Total, the French energy company]

"Some Healthy Respect for Novartis [pharmaceutical company], Please"

"It's Time to Put Tesco [grocery chain] in Your Basket"

"New CEO Is Nice Fit for American Eagle" [apparel marketer]

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Please. I enjoy wordplay, probably too much, but there is nothing of play in headlines like these; they're just a formula, and quickly tire one to the bone.

The day Barron's starts running articles about what the fashionable investor will wear to a meeting, I'm outta there.

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3 comments:

David said...

Wait till they write something about railroads. They won't be able to resist a headline like "CSX still chugging along"

Rick Darby said...

Or airlines. "X Airline Hits Turbulence." "XJet Makes Hard Landing."

David said...

At least turbulence and (sometimes) hard landing are actually things that really happen in today's world...I doubt if the typical journalist has ever in his life heard a train "chugging" (or seen/heard one "getting up steam," to use another favorite metaphor).