I’ve got some hilariously pathetic sourcing by the Wall Street Journal for you.
As the whole world knows by now, an executive at Goldman Sachs just quit the firm and denounced its corrupt culture on the op-ed page of the New York times. (“People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.”)
The piece became an internet sensation, and the press covered it heavily. The New York Times live blogged the reactions as they unfolded throughout the day. (“He is completely toast in terms of Wall Street, no question about that. He is in the witness protection program right now.”)
The Wall Street Journal covered the story too: Goldman Rejects Claims Made by Outgoing Executive. There we find:
“We disagree with the views expressed, which we don’t think reflect the way we run our business,” a Goldman spokeswoman said. “In our view, we will only be successful if our clients are successful. This fundamental truth lies at the heart of how we conduct ourselves.” Mr. Smith described himself as an executive director and head of Goldman’s U.S. equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. A person familiar with the matter said Mr. Smith’s role is actually vice president, a relatively junior position held by thousands of Goldman employees around the world. And Mr. Smith is the only employee in the derivatives business that he heads, this person said.
The funny, pathetic part is in bold. For what the Wall Street Journal is saying with its sourcing is this:
We’re so weak relative to our sources, so willing to let the people we talk to regularly walk all over us, that we’ll throw the handy cloak of anonymity over a Goldman Sachs spokeswoman—WHOSE ENTIRE JOB IS TO REPRESENT THE COMPANY PUBLICLY—so that she can…. what?
… describe some delicate negotiations?
… engage in a little “maybe we went overboard at times” self-criticism?
… reveal internal tensions?
No! Nothing like that. According to the Wall Street Journal, a Goldman spokesperson needs to remain a mystery source when her message is: We disagree that we’re bad people. We’re actually very good people! Because that’s not something we should expect her to attach her name to.
Maybe you see how pathetic that is. (She doesn’t! She says I’m clueless. But am I, really?)
And how about this “person familiar with the matter?” His role in the story is to suggest that Greg Smith, the author of the op-ed, inflated his title, and puffed himself up in the bio lines.
Let’s review the bidding: A Goldman executive goes public with his tale of a corrupt culture in his own firm, using his real name, in the freakin’ newspaper, thus ending his Wall Street career (“witness protection program…”) He can then be turned into a resume-padder by some suit so frightened of being associated with his own sleazy act that he won’t even permit the Journal’s reporter to ID him as working for Goldman! It’s gotta be even vaguer: person familiar with... Just to give it that gloomy parking lot aura of the shadowy source whispering state secrets to the heroic investigator.
And you know what else? Ninety percent of the journalism tribe will think it’s a sketch that some dreary academic scold like me is expending pixels on a practice that is ninety percent routine for them.
But they’re missing one little irony: the way they use their own zero-accountability culture (for that is what blind sourcing is…) to cover Wall Street’s.