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September 17, 2008

Backlash brews for US financial journalists: Guardian man mentioned in despatches

By Peter Kirwan MM blog

The crash will reshape the City. It will probably strip Gordon Brown, the erstwhile Iron Chancellor, of the last vestiges of authority.

But what will it do to financial journalism?

In the US, a little backlash is brewing.

At Marketwatch, Jon Freidman says he “cringed” as he watched Monday’s press conference in which the mighty investment bank Merrill Lynch announced its rescue by an unfashionable hick outfit based in North Carolina known (somewhat misleadingly) as Bank of America.

According to Friedman, the media at the press conference in New York were “so polite and deferential”. They acted as if the press conference was a “victory lap for the financial services industry”. Reporters offered no “tough, in-your-face questions”.

(It should be said that there was plenty of scope for asking them. Bank of America’s rescue shows every sign of being cobbled together overnight. Analysts were disconcerted by the lack of detail available on the deal.)

The exception, writes Friedman, was “a fellow from the Guardian“, who asked Merrill Lynch’s chief executive “if he judged himself to be a success or failure in his relatively brief reign”.

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(I reckon this is a reference to David Theather: see here.)

Not a particularly tough enquiry, admittedly. And the UK media will itself need to answer a different set of questions once the crisis dies down.

But in the US, the inquisition has started. It seems inevitable that the US media will experience a re-run of post-invasion scepticism about its supine acceptance of the Bush administration’s position on Iraq.

Also worth noting the fact that Marketwatch, one of America’s leading sources of financial news, highlighted The Guardian. There was no need to explain to readers that this was a British newspaper, a liberal newspaper, the paper formerly known as the Manchester Guardian, or anything else. Just: The Guardian.

This is good news for Carolyn McCall. She should send Mr Teather (or whoever was responsible) a bottle of something nice — and encourage them to do more of the same in the coming weeks.

Only louder.

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