Reuters editor in chief's regular staff call focuses on killed story

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TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE

Reuters editor in chief David Schlesinger held his regular, quarterly staff conference call on Wednesday, and the questions he got from reporters and editors today primarily focused on the wire service’s decision to kill a story last month about hedge fund operator Steven Cohen, according to those on the call who confirmed its existance and the discussion to Talking Biz News.

Talking Biz News reported last month that the story, prepared by staff writer Matthew Goldstein, was killed after Cohen complained about it to upper management at Reuters. Schlesinger denied that the call from Cohen had anything to do with the killing of the story in an e-mail to the staff last month, and he reiterated that position on Wednesday, stating that all editorial decisions are made based on the content.

It was a lively call with several questions from reporters about what happened. Schlesinger addressed the issue in his opening remarks, before the questions, describing blog postings about the incident as false. Staff writer Robert MacMillan, who blogs about the media, was the first to ask questions about the issue, according to others on the call.

Schlesinger again defended the decision. He said that he merely raised questions to global company news editor Jack Reerink and left it to Reerink to take the decision. 

Schlesinger said on the call that there was no influence exerted by Thomson Reuters executive Devin Wenig and that the decision was made on editorial grounds.

Schlesinger did not reply to an e-mail seeking comment, and MacMillan declined to comment about what he asked or any other part of the call. (UPDATE: Schlesinger e-mailed late Wednesday night to say, “I said what I wanted to say in the memo you’ve seen. This was a chance to say it verbally.”)

Asked whether he meant it was a bad story, Schlesinger praised Goldstein as one of Reuters’ most talented reporters and said: “The story could have run… it wasn’t a bad story… there was nothing wrong with the reporting,” according to one staff member who listened to the call. But in the judgment of the editors, according to one staff member, Schlesinger said, “It wasn’t ready for prime time.”

Schlesinger did not go into the details of what the story said or why it was not judged appropriate to run it.