Nov 9, 2009

Going rogue

This week's New York Magazine profiles Andrew Ross Sorkin. He's 32 years old and makes more than most of his veteran colleagues in the New York Times business section. He's an editor's pet and a self-promotion man. He serves as the Times answer to the Wall Street Journal and, as such, is rewarded as a brand name within a brand name. He just published a best-selling book, "Too Big To Fail," about the financial collapse.

Some of his colleagues say he's far too chummy with his sources, cherry picks his stories and rides on the backs of better, more aggressive reporters without giving them credit or respect. They wonder if the doors he's able to open will now be closed to them. It's a mix of professional jealousies and changing values, as the traditional model gets turned into the old model, and the new model gets all the breaks.

From NYM:
Some of his antagonists in the newsroom wonder what, in the end, his privileged access is in the service of. “It’s the Jon Stewart question,” one senior Times staffer said, referencing Stewart’s memorable takedown of CNBC’s pre-meltdown boosterism. The squawking, which is loudest among the reporters on the business staff and not among higher-ups, has lately gotten louder, and meaner. As Sorkin’s career has burgeoned, he’s developed another audience of close readers: his colleagues, who comb the column for evidence of favor-trading. In conversations with me, several compared Sorkin’s relationship with the Wall Street elite to disgraced former Times reporter Judith Miller’s alliance with Bush-administration officials peddling bogus intelligence in support of the Iraq War. “She got too close to her sources,” a veteran Times staffer told me. “It was disastrously wrong and we let our readers down. This is the financial equivalent of that.” The analogy seems slightly strained. But certainly, Sorkin’s sources, the ones who have often been treated with kid gloves in his column, are the very actors in the executive suites who triggered the collapse, and closeness inevitably distorts reporting. Sorkin’s critics at the Times say that this effect weakened the paper’s financial coverage during the bubble. But access is one of the places where scoops come from—the career of legendary Times columnist James Reston, among many others, is testament to that. It’s a complicated balance in any newsroom.

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