OLD Media Moves

Bloomberg columnist Weil is ahead of the curve on financial mess

November 14, 2008

Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review interviewed Bloomberg News columnist Jonathan Weil, who has been writing about the problems on Wall Street for years.

Here is an excerpt:

The Audit: How do you get your column ideas?

Jonathan Weil: A lot of it’s reading 10-Ks and 10-Qs and proxy statements. A significant piece is getting tips. Most of it is seeing things that other people just aren’t seeing, and that’s because I’ve been doing this for about ten years and watching a lot of these companies I’ve been writing about the past year for just as long.

So it’s not so much that I suddenly discover that Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac’s financial statements are a crock. It’s that I’ve been watching these guys for five and six years and covered them way back when and there’s some institutional memory that builds up after awhile.

But if you know how to read financial statements it goes a long way to helping any reporter or anybody else not have to rely on official pronouncements from the people running these companies or the regulators who protect them.

TA: Do you think that’s a skill that’s in short supply in journalism?

JW: (It’s in short supply in) journalism broadly. I don’t think it’s in short supply at Bloomberg, and I’m not trying to be self-promotional when I say that. But at most news organizations, even at a lot of very prominent so-called business publications, understanding financial statements is considered a sub-specialty.

Read more here.

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