Bill Maher | May 15, 2009 | Elizabeth Warren
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What should we learn from the fact that “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart has in four evenings (1 2 3 and 4) exposed Jim Cramer in a way that, in any sane world, he would have been exposed a decade ago? To answer that, consider these associated facts: while the Jim Cramer constellation of journalists (Mitchell’s Media Mob) backed each other up while covering-up the subject of criminally abusive short selling by hedge funds to whom they were close, four channels of the media broke rank:
- Two years ago Bloomberg did a half-hour documentary that broke away from the Party Line;
- Liz Moyer at Forbes has covered the real issues fairly and diligently, and another Forbes reporter named Nathan Vardi took a good swipe at the story (”Sewer Pipes“);
- Rolling Out Magazine (”an UrbanStyle Weekly serving the African American community”) called me up a couple years ago and did precisely the fair, non-disorted interview of which the remainder of the New York financial media was entirely incapable;
- Now, “The Daily Show” has broken ranks by stating the obvious: there are journalists shilling for favored hedge funds.
Could the lesson be that the first news organizations that can break ranks with the Party Line are either fringe (”Rolling Out Magazine” and “The Daily Show”) or the properties of billionaires (Bloomberg and Forbes) who cannot be intimidated?
Perhaps someday, a journalist will look into the pressures that were brought on news organizations (e.g., on Bloomberg leading up to their running “Phantom Shares”). Just a few weeks ago I got the story, again, from a journalist: “I was working on a story about naked short selling and Deep Capture. Then, suddenly I was stopped. It’s weird because I have been a journalist here for 9 years. I have built a great reputation with my editor, and have never had a story interfered with. But I got a couple months into this story, and suddenly I was stopped from above. I’ve never seen that happen before.” I replied, If you only knew how many times a journalist has said that to me in the last couple years….
The Columbia School of Journalism is our nation’s finest. They grant the Pulitzer Prize, and their journal, The Columbia Journalism Review, is the profession’s gold standard. CJR reporters are high priests of a decaying temple, tending a flame in a land going dark.
In 2006 a CJR editor (a seasoned journalist formerly with Time magazine in Asia, The Wall Street Journal Europe, and The Far Eastern Economic Review) called me to discuss suspicions he was forming about the US financial media. I gave him leads but warned, “Chasing this will take you down a rabbit hole with no bottom.” For months he pursued his story against pressure and threats he once described as, “something out of a Hollywood B movie, but unlike the movies, the evil corporations fighting the journalist are not thugs burying toxic waste, they are Wall Street and the financial media itself.”
His exposé reveals a circle of corruption enclosing venerable Wall Street banks, shady offshore financiers, and suspiciously compliant reporters at The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, CNBC, and The New York Times. If you ever wonder how reporters react when a journalist investigates them (answer: like white-collar crooks they dodge interviews, lie, and hide behind lawyers), or if financial corruption interests you, then this is for you. It makes Grisham read like a book of bedtime stories, and exposes a scandal that may make Enron look like an afternoon tea.
By Patrick M. Byrne