There's an interesting debate raging in financial journoland around Matt Taibbi's credentials for and execution of his recent Rolling Stone articles on Goldman Sachs and Obama's financial team. Paul Smalera has jumped into the fray, aligning with Heidi Moore that biz journo 'moonlighters' should leave the work to the real pros:
Note that this isn't, for once, the tiresome debate over the journalistic credibility of non-credentialed bloggers. Taibbi has a byline in a well-known publication, so he has traditional journalist status in everyone's eyes. The issue here is if this particular journalist should be writing on the extraordinarily complex matters of finance and economics. Smalera claims that to do so responsibly (particularly in this time of turmoil, it would seem) requires years of training among other seasoned practitioners of the craft:finance is absurdly complicated and you need years of experience, regular talks with analysts and experts, regular study of the news and ideally a newsroom full of similarly focused people to work with, to even BEGIN to write knowledgeably on finance, let alone to make it clear to the average non-technical reader.
An interesting and legitimate debate, but I thought this comment below Smalera's post is actually an important part of it:There’s only a handful of institutions that can provide this sort of apprenticeship in the financial media world right now, one of which is the Wall Street Journal. Heidi worked there, and I was lucky enough to work with several smart Journal reporters who imported that climate, for a short time, to my magazine.
No offense meant to you, or any other “busines” writer, but I’m trying to figure out how reading Barons Tome of Finance makes you, or anyone else, an expert in financial related matters.
I work in the financial industry, and have for the past 10+ years.
You read a book.
If matters of high finance are so complex that you need years in the WSJ newsroom to even begin to understand them, then do you really have a chance of understanding them at all? And if, as Smalera suggests, the democratic debate is threatened by journo-hacks who aren't fully immersed in an important beat, is it any less threatened by a situation where only a small pocket of journalists can do the beat justice?
One of my great pleasures as Editor of Seeking Alpha is receiving article submissions from veteran market participants on the big matters of the day. When we form an editorial partnership (you write, we edit and distribute) with someone with years of on the ground Wall Street experience, I know we can count on a valuable, credentialed voice for our readers. It's the equivalent of the Sports Illustrated editor carrying a major league pitcher's online diary - to baseball fans, that's interesting in the extreme.
Now, there are plenty of reasons why we can't rely entirely on market participants to present any full story (the time that requires, matters of objectivity, etc.), but there's something about this comment that rings so true. If a key part of the journalistic process is obtaining and assembling expert opinion, why not put the pen right in those experts' hands?