There Are Some Bruised Egos at the Times’ Business Section

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Andrew Ross Sorkin. Photo: AP

Andrew Ross Sorkin is about as much of a household name as a print journalist can be: So much so, in fact, that he's moved over to television part-time, co-anchoring CNBC's Squawk Box. The precocious reporter made his name with a series of Wall Street scoops, culminating in Too Big to Fail. His reward at the Times was the expansion of Dealbook under his editorship, meant to amp up the paper's online coverage of Wall Street, but also, at least implicitly, as a way for Sorkin to continue his branding efforts. Sorkin founded it as a blog a decade ago; the section now has several reporters, a substantial investment of resources for the paper to make. That allocation did not escape the notice of the paper's public editor, who in a column this weekend questioned the wisdom of the project — especially its focus on the more ostentatious side of finance, which he says comes at the expense of covering global business, a more important story right now. DealBook, he writes, "has a strangely precrash feel to it."


Leon D. Black, the superrich head of Apollo Global Management, staged an over-the-top 60th birthday party for himself in the Hamptons, and on Aug. 18 DealBook chronicled it microscopically. The article included an element of finger-wagging about the excesses involved but still made sure that no detail-hungry, celebrity-starved reader was left behind.

It’s true that, within DealBook’s range of targeted topics, it delivers some hard-hitting material. And when big news in the deal world breaks, DealBook serves as a “real-time SWAT team,” in Mr. Sorkin’s words. Its coverage Aug. 15 of Google’s bid to acquire Motorola was wall to wall and, no question, served a broad readership’s desire to understand what this might mean for Google and its quest to exploit mobile technology.

A week before that, though, when the world economic system shuddered and stock markets dropped, I was left wondering whether The Times should have spent its money not on expanding DealBook but on enlarging its stable of journalists aimed at the wider subjects of international banks and sovereign debt.

The paper's business editor, Larry Ingrassia, was furious at this assessment. He fired off a vigorous defense of the coverage under his purview — and DealBook, specifically — which he not only asked the ombudsman to publish on his blog, but which he emailed to his staff and which mysteriously managed to find its way to Romenesko. Ingrassia wasn't the only one puzzled by the weekend column; Felix Salmon, no Sorkin fanboy, also rose to DealBook's defense with a long, impassioned post. Sorkin, it seems, might emerge from this episode with his halo not only undamaged, but a bit more golden.

Financial News for the Rest of Us [NYT]
NYT business editor responds to ombud’s ‘absurd’ column [Romenesko]