Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cheering for Chris Clair

A friend of mine, Chris Clair, has given me an unexpected present this holiday season: a chance to brag about him.

In the middle of this month, a Reuters investigative reporter, Matthew Goldstein, was working on a story about Steven Cohen, a big fish in the hedge fund pond. Goldstein apparently had good reason to believe and report that the SEC is investigating Cohen on charges of insider trading. He of course called Cohen for a reaction. Cohen wasn't satisfied with the usual "I have done nothing wrong" or "no comment." Instead, Cohen called Goldstein's superiors in Reuters (also Chris Clair's superiors) and they spiked the story.

Talking Biz News is is on it.

Anyway, Clair blogs about hedge funds for Reuters, and he wrote as follows:

News organizations are supposed to break news, not make it. Too often, though, in my nearly 20 years in this business, the news has become the news. Jayson Blair, Patricia Smith, Stephen Glass, Rick Bragg, the reporting leading up to the Iraq War … the list goes on and on, and those are just the high-profile cases. Friends of mine—good, honest, hard-working journalists looking to tell the truth—have had stories killed for all sorts of reasons that had nothing to do with the accuracy or relevance of the pieces.

And now, in my own back yard, comes word of the latest journalistic stinker.... When I read about the incident, I was befuddled and beside myself. At first I didn’t want to believe it. Then, the more I thought about it the more I realized that given the state of journalism today, it really wasn’t all that surprising. What was surprising, in fact, was that I hadn’t heard about something like this before.

Some cancerous chickens are coming home to roost in journalism. This was a profitable business for a long time. The information monopoly, as monopolies tend to be, was a lucrative one for those who controlled it. Profits attracted businesspeople, who moved up the chain of command both on the editorial side and the business side by devising plans to increase profits still further. Reporters at larger papers and news outfits started earning more money, which helped change the makeup of those seeking jobs in journalism. And the rise of the public relations industry meant that for many journalism was just a stepping stone to real money and power.

There is a good deal more, but the bottom line is that Clair has succeeded in drawing wider attention to the story -- or rather to both of them, the one about Cohen and the one about the spiking of the story about Cohen.

As for example here.

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