Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Journalists are ......

.... that's right. The "p" word.

Where is outrage among journalism organizations about the Securities and Exchange Commission's subpoena-fest?

There hasn't been any, and I have a sneaking suspicion the reason is a character flaw that afflicts the news business.

Journalists are not always vigilant -- if I were crude I would use the "p" word -- when it comes to protecting their interests, or speaking out against common threats. That's why newspaper unions are so weak, by the way. I recall that vividly from my own days at Dow Jones years ago, when I was briefly involved with the employee union. (The villain back then, by the way, was the guy I just praised in my last item.)

In this case, the threat is posed by a misdirected SEC and a slander-happy CEO, and the object of their stampede is tough financial journalism. Louis Victor, in a post excerpted in the SABEW blog, observed today that

Jim Cramer, Herb Greenberg and Carol S. Remond should come out fine from this but what does this mean for financial reporting, are financial journalist going to be restricted from giving their opinions or insights that are an asset to the investment community?
Lets hope not because the insight that is given from journalists have exposed some of the biggest scandals in the financial industry history, like Enron, Worldcom and Health South.

True. So why the silence? Sorry, but the only reason I can think of begins with the letter "p."

UPDATE: Jesse Eisinger gets it right in the Wall Street Journal this morning:

By seeming to side with Overstock when it started seeking information about its complaints against the shorts, the SEC chills its best sources and hinders the market from doing its job. It was the shorts who lost money in Overstock for months and months -- until most investors realized they were right.


Wall Street Versus America will be published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site.

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