What the NYT's Morgenson excels at
by Chris Roush
Justin Fox, the editorial director of the Harvard Business Review Group, isn’t enamored with the prose of business journalist Gretchen Morgenson of The New York Times, but her stories do stand out for another reason.
Fox writes, “The anger comes about because Morgenson so often gets basic facts wrong, seemingly misunderstands the businesses she covers, offers assertions that she fails to back up with evidence — that kind of stuff.
“Which makes it only more aggravating when she so often eventually turns out to have been far closer to right than her critics were. For example, Morgenson claimed in March 2007 that the mortgage market was headed for a big crisis. What a wild assertion! As one Felix Salmon wrote immediately afterward: ‘Morgenson adduces no evidence whatsoever that any crisis is looming at all.’ (I figure it’s okay to pick on Felix for this because I came very close to writing exactly the same thing at the time but was just too lazy to actually do it.)
“If this had just happened once, okay. But Morgenson was also among the first and most persistent on the case of the Wall Street scandals of the early 2000s. She also really spotlighted aspects of the financial crisis of the past few years that the rest of the media only got around to months later. Forget Nouriel Roubini or Bob Shiller; Gretchen Morgenson may be the most reliable early warning device around.
“How does she accomplish this? I think it’s partly that the same bullheadedness and simplistic approach that drives readers like me and Felix crazy actually enables Morgenson to zero in on targets that those more interested in nuance totally miss. It’s also that Morgenson suffuses her work with a sort of high moral dudgeon—and disgust for the evil ways of Wall Street — that more ‘sophisticated’ journalists won’t allow themselves.”
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