How Gelles got an interview with Bernie Madoff
Sam Goldman of the Cal-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism profiled New York Times business reporter David Gelles, who had a prison interview with Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff.
Goldman writes, “Gelles was at The Financial Times when Bernie Madoff was arrested. Almost immediately after, the reporter happened to find out that a friend of a friend of a friend ‘had an in with the Madoff family.’ With no expectation it would reach Madoff, Gelles passed along a message: ”Tell him, that if he ever talks to someone, talk to me.’’
“Two years later, an email appeared in his inbox from Madoff, by then behind bars. For six months, they corresponded. His application to visit Madoff was rejected twice by the prison before it was approved. ‘It was not a layup,’ Gelles said. ‘It took a combination of luck and persistence and persuasion on my part.’
“Finally, in 2011, he and FT managing editor Gillian Tett had their two hours with Madoff. Gelles’ takeaway? ‘As far as I can tell he’s a sociopath, in that he just doesn’t feel empathy.’
“But it proved a key lesson for all journalists: ‘putting out those feelers and just asking for connections—implausible as they might seem—you gotta do it,’ Gelles said, chuckling. ‘Because sometimes the fish bites, as it were.'”
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