OLD Media Moves

Reuters kills hedge fund story after pressure

December 21, 2009


Reuters editors last week killed a story by investigative reporter Matthew Goldstein about hedge fund trader Steven Cohen after Cohen complained to top Thomson Reuters executives that he was being persecuted by the news agency’s reporting, sources at Reuters said.

Goldstein’s story was an “incremental” advance in the reports swirling around Cohen that he engaged in insider trading during the 1980s, Reuters sources said. There have been reports that Cohen is next in the sights of the SEC following the Galleon case, which featured SEC wiretapping the conversations of hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam.

Goldstein’s story was based on documents, and was approved by Reuters lawyers. After Goldstein contacted Cohen for the pro forma no comment before the story ran, Cohen repeatedly called Devin Wenig, CEO of the Thomson Reuters markets division and the No. 2 executive at Thomson Reuters, to complain about the story.

Wenig passed on the complaints to Reuters Editor in Chief David Schlesinger, who asked editors to look into them. Reuters editors debated the story for three days before finally killing it.

A Reuters spokeswoman, when contacted by Talking Biz News, commented, “We make decisions on whether or not to run stories purely on journalistic grounds.”

The decision has hit morale at the news agency, where reporters had been encouraged by the formation of an enterprise team in recent months, the hiring of a former New York Times Sunday business editor Jim Impoco to head that effort, and Goldstein moving over from a columnist position to investigative reporting. Talking Biz News wrote about these efforts earlier this year.

The enterprise team also was allowing Reuters reporters to write longer analytical pieces which had been anathema at the news agency for years. In its first few months, the team had coordinated several hard-hitting pieces including one questioning the investment decisions of giant California pension fund Calpers, and a piece about China that caught the eye of the White House and led to an interview with President Obama.

“If Reuters wants to have credibility in enterprise reporting, its editors need to stand by reporters and resist pressure from people like Cohen,” said one Reuters insider.

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