OLD Media Moves

Columnist: Fortune will regret Loomis' relationship with Buffett

March 26, 2007

Posted by Chris Roush

Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Lou Gelfand, a former ombudsman for the paper, wrote that Fortune magazine will regret its decision to allow editor at large Carol Loomis edit Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report and hold its stock while covering the company, run by Warren Buffett.

Lou GelfandGelfand wrote, “Their acknowledged friendship seemed embarrassing two weeks ago when Fortune’s website without shame placed Loomis’ byline and her Fortune title on a story about the Berkshire Hathaway annual report.

“Why? Because she also edited the annual report before it reached Fortune, an ethical no-no confirmed in my conversation with a Fortune public relations manager.

“But there was no editor’s note revealing the departure from accepted news media practices.

“I managed the public relations of a Twin Cities Fortune 500 company for 17 years, and if I had asked a Star or Tribune reporter who covered the company to edit the annual report — either a favor or for cash — my credentials at the newspapers would not have been worth their weight in ashes.

“Whether Loomis was paid by Berkshire Hathaway is irrelevant. She was unlikely to challenge the report’s contentions that she had polished. An accommodating editor can always identify a word that is accurate but could use a modifier to absolutely erase any negative afterthought.”

He later added, “It’s a given that Buffet champions Loomis’ journalistic skills. And her superiors no doubt consider that a testament to Fortune’s influence. What is cast aside is the magazine’s integrity. How would Loomis respond if Berkshire Hathaway’s phenomenal strategy went off course?”

Read more here. This issue was first raised on Talking Biz News here, and Gelfand uses in his column the quote from the Fortune PR person used in that post.

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