Timothy Noah of The New Republic writes about the threats that defunct blood testing company Theranos made against The Wall Street Journal and wonders what other news organizations would have withstood such pressue.
Noah writes, “How many news organizations in the United States would have been in a financial position even to consider publishing such a story? I count three or four: the Journal (full disclosure: I’m a proud news-side alumnus), The New York Times, The Washington Post, perhaps the Los Angeles Times. Certainly not the TV networks or cable news channels. Probably not The New Yorker, which had already puffed Holmes in a Ken Auletta profile.
“Many news organizations can stand up to libel threats after a story is published, but it’s the rare one that can withstand aggressive legal bullying of the type Theranos brought to bear before a word was even written. Carreyrou reports in Bad Blood that Theranos hired investigators who were able to identify and intimidate multiple background sources for his stories. They stood their ground, but that might well have gone another way, foiling Carreyrou’s efforts to get the story into the paper.
“We now know about Theranos’s bullying, and in that sense, of course, it failed. But what about the bullying we don’t hear about? Holmes and Balwani and Boies and Theranos didn’t invent the tactics they used to suppress the truth. We don’t hear about this sort of bulllying much because it usually works. There are plenty of ways to hide bruises besides wearing a black turtleneck.”
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