OLD Media Moves

Loomis and Buffett: A new disclosure

December 3, 2009

Talking Biz News has been criticized in the past for raising questions about the relationship between Fortune reporter Carol Loomis and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett.

Back in 2007, Talking Biz News reported on how Loomis was able to report before any other business journalist about the contents of the Berkshire Hathaway annual report. Loomis has edited the report in the past.

Some business journalists have privately grumbled that such a relationship with a source would cause them to be fired at their newsrooms, while others have said they have no problem with what Loomis is doing — the job of a business reporter is to get access to CEOs they cover. One former colleague of Loomis at Fortune said I should never question her ethics as they are above reproach.

All of this is background to the Dec. 7 issue of Fortune, in which Loomis wrote another story about Buffett.

At the end of the story, Fortune placed this disclaimer: “The author of this article is both a friend of Buffett’s and the editor of his chairman’s letter in the Berkshire Hathaway annual report.”

Such a disclosure has not been included in past stories Loomis has written about Berkshire Hathaway, although the magazine has disclosed the relationship in other ways.

My point is this: I scanned Loomis stories about Berkshire Hathaway for this decade on Fortune.com and could find no such disclaimer at the end of her stories during that time period. The point that Loomis and Buffett are friendly is well-known and has been disclosed in the past, but the disclosure is still needed at all times for those who may not know.

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