Yesterday, Seth Mnookin opined on his blog, as he is wont to do, on the subject of the New York Times, and specifically, why Ben Stein was their best columnist (if not their richest). At the end he lauds business columnist Joe Nocera as the paper's best on-staff columnist, as Jack Shafer has done before him, and today follows up with a thoughtful post explaining why Nocera's media-critic-delighting brilliance is tucked away in the Saturday paper (and behind the ignominy of the paywall no less). The answer: Because Nocera was meant to be the NYT's shield, if not sword,* against the Wall Street Journal's weekend edition last fall, which was a move aimed more at thwarting a competitor than maximizing reader value. Mnookin examines this in greater detail, noting that it holds across the board — if Newsweek's done it then Time will stay away from it ("exclusive" interviews with Bode Miller excepted), which takes into account snarky media types making fun of them for covering the same stuff but doesn't account for readers of one who have no idea about the other and as a result don't get the story they otherwise would. Says Mnookin: "[F]or some inane reason, mis-placed institutional pride -- we will not follow someone else's reporting, dammit! -- is put ahead of what would best serve customers/readers." It's an interesting point and worth thinking about; think about it along with Mnookin here.
*Legal geeks: Did I make that promissory estoppel joke effectively? Please advise. But if I remember the ruling in High Trees correctly — and you can bet that I do — I think I nailed it. It's no Donoghue v. Stevenson though. Or Palsgraf. Oh, that unlucky Palsgraf.