An acid test of newspapering is how a paper reports on itself. We're taught to be cautious, even leaning over backwards, to make sure that stories involving the paper, or its parent companies, are done according to basic journalistic standards, meaning fairly and with neither fear nor favor. It's sometimes a hard call. I remember many papers driving their publishers crazy in their early days of the web when they'd write about this great new thing called the Internet, where, could-you-believe-it, you could get free classifieds! Often times, newspaper people would glibly note Yahoo, AOL, Lycos, eBay, craigslist and the like and not even mention their own newspaper websites. That fairness gene, kicked unnecessarily into overdrive.
But then there's today's case of the Wall Street Journal. The Journal's long been one of my fundamental reads, and has bent over backwards in reporting on itself, especially during the drama of its sale to News Corp last year. That's why its story on "Real Time Stock Quotes Issued In a Nasdaq Test," stands out like a sore thumb.
It is un-bylined in the paper, the longest piece in today's 14-page Money & Investing section to get that treatment. Now online, Shara Tibken gets the byline.
The first paragraph lays out that Nasdaq is moving to make real-time quotes (no longer delayed 15 or 20 minutes) freely available on the web.
"The real-time quotes will be on WSJ.com, the online version of The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere after the Nasdaq Stock Market launched a new service that provides access to such data. The data are being offered in a six-month pilot program, as Nasdaq waits for definitive Securities and Exchange Commission approval".
Elsewhere? Elsewhere, we see in the next paragraph includes CNBC, Google Finance....."as well as Marketwatch.com and Barrons.com, both owned by News Corp., publisher of the Journal."
After a few more paragraphs of description, we learn that Nasdaq "partners" are paying a maximum of $150,000 a month for the service, but we aren't given the usual standard of Journal reporting to explain whether the number of partners is limited, or whether Journal readers will now see these listings real-time most everywhere. (In fact, it looks like the deal is non-exclusive, according to this more straightforward Reuters story).
Then we come to more self-promotion.
On WSJ.com, the real-time prices are presented along with the standard, comprehensive 15-minute delayed prices from the major U.S. markets. Comprehensive quotes reflect the "composite" quote for an issue. When no real-time trade is available from Nasdaq, readers will find composite quotes only.
These new prices are displayed in Quotes & Research on WSJ.com, as well as in the "rollover" quotes that are included in Markets Data Center, at WSJMarkets.com.
And how might Google Finance and CNBC be doing their implementations? No word of that.
Ouch. The Journal failed Journalism 101 here. It could be simple sloppiness, or it could be a long hand of News Corp, which seems challenged in understanding the difference between journalism and promotion. I hope it's the former, but fear its the latter.