OLD Media Moves

Why biz journalists yawned at the Gawker scoop of Bain documents

September 1, 2012

Posted by Chris Roush

Yvette Kantrow, the executive editor of TheDeal.com, writes about why business journalists were not excited when Gawker posted documents from Bain & Co. related to presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Kantrow writes, “Their nonchalance — and Primack’s admission that he possessed the same documents but didn’t think they were newsworthy — got some of their colleagues in the more mainstream media into a lather. In addition to a Twitter spat between Marketplace’s Heidi Moore and Primack over the latter’s news judgment (a spat that, amazingly enough, was covered by The Huffington Post), The New York Observer ran a piece by Foster Kamer headlined ‘Gawker Exclusive Reveals Financial Journalists at Their Most Jaded.’ According to Kamer, ‘Besides the totality of the ‘Bad Look, Sour Grapes Flavor’ on display here,’ Primack’s and Weisenthal’s reaction ‘serves to further demonstrate a level of remove on the part of journalists who regularly come into ostensibly unsurprising information that would otherwise be relevant if not downright compelling to people who don’t regularly come into contact with that kind of information. In other words: to the public, the entire reason for the existence of a fourth estate.’

“Ah, the public. Both Primack, who specializes in private equity and venture capital, and Weisenthal, who is obsessed with markets and what moves them, serve audiences who represent a small, specialized segment of the so-called public. This fact explains why they yawned at Gawker’s Bain dump — there was likely no news in it for their insidery readers — and why the rest of the media is so irked by them. The argument against them goes something like this: They are uniquely qualified to explain private equity to the public but chose not to, undoubtedly because they’ve been corrupted by their sources. Even worse, they scoff at those, like Gawker, attempting to fill that role. As Gawker put it in a follow-up post: ‘Those who understand the operations of equity firms abdicate a responsibility to the public when they handwave away the details of stuff like those 950 pages of Bain files.’

“That idea was also touched upon by Kevin Roose, in a well-reasoned piece on the value of the documents on New York Magazine’s Daily Intel blog: ‘Gawker’s trove of documents could theoretically narrow the knowledge gap, if journalists who do understand how private equity works are willing to explain what it means (and why it’s not an all-out scandal) to laymen, and if those laymen are patient enough to sit through the explanation.’ From where Roose sits, largely three groups understand Romney’s investments: ‘those who work in the financial sector and those journalists who cover either private equity or the Romney campaign.'”

Read more here.

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