OLD Media Moves

Geithner schmoozes the business press

May 4, 2009

Yvette Kantrow, executive editor of The Deal, writes about how Timothy Geithner, now Secretary of the Treasury, spent a lot of time meeting and talking with business journalists while head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank from 2007 to 2009.

Kantrow writes, “What exactly did the Times, WSJ and FT — the biggest beneficiaries of his press largess — get out of the time their people spent with the man as the banking system was lurching toward breakdown? What did their readers get? What did he get?

“Apparently, not much. The Times’ page 1 opus on April 27, co-written by lunchmate Morgenson, faulted Geithner for being too close and clubby with the financiers he was supposedly monitoring. But looking at his schedule, you can just as easily argue that the media was too close and clubby with him. And a club it was.

“Indeed, Geithner chatted with some of the biggest names in business journalism — editors, colunmnists, opinion shapers. Geithner spoke three times with Times editorial writer Teresa Tritch. His contact at USA Today was deputy managing editor Owen Ullmann. He had breakfast with Marcus Brauchli after Brauchli was pushed out as managing editor of the WSJ but before he became executive editor of The Washington Post. Times business editor Larry Ingrassia got a phone meeting. This was media networking at its highest level. It was more about shaping ideas, giving direction and, yes, spinning, than it was about providing facts or producing pithy quotes because Geithner rarely appears in any stories. And it lends credence to the argument that the press was so concerned with and impressed by access to power players that it missed signs of the impending disaster. Did all the time the media spent with Geithner lead to more prescient economic reporting?

“Geithner did sometimes talk to reporters who were actually reporting stories. An early 2007 meeting with the Times’ Jenny Anderson resulted in a big piece on his efforts to monitor credit derivatives. Bryan Burrough saw him while preparing his Vanity Fair story on the fall of Bear Stearns. William Cohan met with him while writing his book on Bear. But a lot of good that’s doing him today. As Treasury secretary, he has been bloodied by the media, which now portrays him as a bumbling bureaucrat who is in way over his head. That’s the thing about clubs. Your membership can be revoked at any time.”

Read more here.

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