By Luke Brinker
(Photo credit: New York Times)
The New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin brings a deep understanding of the ways of Wall Street to his financial reporting. After reading Too Big to Fail, his gripping account of the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, and having watched him in numerous television appearances, I’ve found Sorkin to be an astute, likable guy. That said, his coziness with his Wall Street sources has been subject to fair criticism from the likes of Matt Taibbi. DealBook, the mergers and acquisitions blog Sorkin edits for the Times, is basically a tip sheet for industry insiders. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sorkin follow in the footsteps of Steve Rattner, a former Times reporter who left journalism for investment banking and advised President Obama on the auto bailout in 2009.
In his print column today, Sorkin actually gave the demonstrators taking part in Occupy Wall Street a fair hearing. He noted their legitimate grievances over unemployment, income inequality, the concentration of corporate power, and political disenfranchisement. (His decision to quote comedienne Roseann Barr, who called for the return of the guillotine to deal with bankers, is less admirable. There’s nothing to indicate that the histrionic Barr represents the thoughts and motives of even a smattering of protestors. Moreover, the fact that Barr maintained a straight face when she made her comments doesn’t prove she was serious.) But this tidbit, about how Sorkin decided to drop by and speak with the demonstrators, caught my eye:
I had gone down to Zuccotti Park to see the activist movement firsthand after getting a call from the chief executive of a major bank last week, before nearly 700 people were arrested over the weekend during a demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge.
“Is this Occupy Wall Street thing a big deal?” the C.E.O. asked me. I didn’t have an answer. “We’re trying to figure out how much we should be worried about all of this,” he continued, clearly concerned. “Is this going to turn into a personal safety problem?”
This anecdote offers illuminating insight into the establishment with which the protestors are so frustrated. Closeness with sources is nothing new in journalism, but when a reporter for the nation’s newspaper of record is going out on fact-finding missions for his banker buddies, that’s a sad commentary on the state of affairs.
Update: Also worth noting: Implicit in Sorkin’s explanation for why he trekked to the protest is the notion that the Occupy Wall Street protests weren’t worth paying attention to until they got the attention of corporate executives, who are, by definition, Very Serious People.