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Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Wall Street Journal Bay Area Section Debut Looks a Lot like the New York Times Bay Area Section

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 4:30 PM

We'd like to award the Wall Street Journal's Bay Area section with an even slightly less enthusiastic response than we gave the New York Times. And here it is:


We have our reasons. 

At first, the the addition of Bay Area sections to the nation's most prominent national newspapers sounded pretty exciting. Talented, experienced reporters from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal would be penetrate our sad, sad news vacuum, rewarding their target market -- educated, affluent readers -- with graceful prose and well-reported stories.

Plenty of people (including this reporter) subscribed at special-offer rates.

Then the Times ran its debut Bay Area section, and as you may recall, it produced in Will Harper, managing editor of SF Weekly, the following reaction: "meh." The section was short and the news stories weren't news to savvy locals. Still, the addition of sophisticated prefixes to names were enjoyable. Perhaps things would get better with time?

Now comes the Wall Street Journal Bay Area section, which appears to have peeped at its predecessor's section and essentially reproduced it, only with financial flair. (Know this, Wall Street Journal: you lost the "m" in "meh" for being a copycat). The Journal format is strikingly similar to Times' section, with a couple of newsy stories, one of which is  missing key information; a Q&A that probably took some reporter all of 20 minutes; and a couple of culture stories that aren't very new or interesting. 

Let's start with the news. The top story, U.S. Attorney Targets White-Collar Crime, tends to devolve into the he-said-this-but-she-said-that-and-this-paper-didn't-have-time-to-figure-out-who-was-bullshitting phenomenon, but it's actually not a bad story. That said, it's surprising that a story about how U.S. Attorney Joe Russoniello (a Bush apointee) is getting tough on white-collar crime fails to mention that Russoniello defended white-collar criminals for 17 years. (Just a side note: Last year Russoniello's office opted not to prosecute a big-shot, Ugandan Pastor who was convincingly accused by a 13 year-old-girl of molesting her on an airplane. Russoniello refused to be interviewed about it).

Anyway. Next we get a short, softball Q&A with Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, and this was the memorable information: Silicon Valley is still hot shit, and it probably has something to do with the weather. Below that "story," we're treated to a a breakdown of which rich people are still buying houses in Atherton, and for how much. Gross.

Flip the page and you'll find out the Haight-Ashbury of the '60s is dead and people are trying to preserve it. Then you'll hear about Little Skillet, an awesome chicken-and-waffles lunch establishment where I've been eating for at least four months. I don't say this to emphasize that I'm a trendsetter. I say it to make the point that all locals know about Little Skillet, which has gotten tons of publicity, and this item is not written with locals in mind.

Well -- not local readers, anyway. Local advertisers is more like it.

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Ashley Harrell


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