The importance of quality financial journalism

Ron Suskind

Morgan Housel of The Motley Fool interviewed Ron Suskind, a former Wall Street Journal journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of five books.

Housel asked him how financial journalism contributed to the financial crisis, which led into a conversation about how financial journalists view their career paths.

Morgan Housel: Financial journalism has changed a lot in the last decade — old players dying and new ones coming up. Is it changing for the better, or the worse?

Ron Suskind: I think what’s interesting is that moments when Wall Street collapses — or there’s a real hiccup or explosion, and we have bubble to bubble, boom to bust to bust, again and again — is often a good time for financial journalism. Because the opportunity for the alternative career is a little more distant, and the fact is, people have a hunger for news. And it often comes after a disaster. I thought journalism was very strong after the ’87 crash; that was some of the best time. It was very strong after the 2000 crash, and I thought there was some very strong journalism after the 2008 crash.

But it took the crash, and that’s one of the problems. To produce the stuff that is smart and predictive — saying, “It’s gonna blow!” — we are always short on that. And we really were short this time. And some of the journalists who stepped up and said “I don’t know, this doesn’t make sense,” you know, a lot of them were shut down. You know, one story, two stories, but then a bunch of other reporters are sitting around with the guys from public relations [saying]: “No, no, no. We have this covered. Let me tell you what we’re doing now.” Boom — it’s in the paper; it’s online. And that noise overwhelms — crushes — what is often the counterpoint that ends up being what really happened.”

Read the rest of the transcript here.