If you’re a fan of Newsweek Wall Street column Allan Sloan — and every business journalist should be — then you’re likely to get a kick out of his column in this morning’s Washington Post. The column can be read here.
Let me excerpt the best part, the section about his reporting tactics. This sums up what every business journalist should be doing:
“Even though I certainly have sources, I’m heavily into numbers, documents and doing my own research. Highly placed sources are great, but getting too close to them can lead you into error because the sources can be wrong or they can be trying to deliberately mislead you. Or both.
“So I run what my sources tell me through my skepticism filter. I don’t act as their stenographer.
“I get a kick out of reading financial filings, which are never unavailable for comment and don’t get testy if you access them in the middle of the night. I’ve had a ball reading all the filings by billionaire takeover artist Kirk Kerkorian, who is — or maybe was — making a run at GM. He’s secretive, he has never spoken to me and probably never will, but his filings speak for themselves.”
My students think I’m crazy when I tell them about some of the great SEC filings that I’ve read over the years during class and show enthusiasm for the information that I found. But you either get a kick out of finding great information in documents, or you don’t. And so many of the great business reporters like Sloan get stories this way.