APRIL 4, 2002

WSJ's Weil: Lots of People Had Story 'First'
Jonathan Weil is thought to be the first reporter to question Enron's earnings. (He wrote a skeptical piece for the Wall Street Journal's Texas Journal insert in September 2000.) Weil tells Eric Celeste: "Look, all sorts of people were 'first' on this thing. When stock was trading for $90 a share, no one reporter could identify every area of corruption in the company... My view is that I wrote this story for a publication with a circulation of 100,000 that was closely read in Texas and on Wall Street, I did this story on one element, I put it in context, and I showed that this accounting technique had been used before and that it was a huge problem." (Dallas Observer)

MARCH 8, 2002
Enron: Uncovering the Uncovered Story
Before Fortune's Bethany McLean wrote about Enron, there was a tipster who pointed her toward the story. Scott Sherman deconstructs the press' coverage of Enron. (Columbia Journalism Review)

MARCH 4, 2002
WSJ: People Are Trying to "Queer" Our Enron Pulitzer Pitch

Fortune's Bethany McLean is getting credit for being the first to write about Enron's funny finances, but Wall Street Journal editors and reporters say they deserve it. "The Fortune story basically said this is a company that nobody understands," WSJ deputy managing editor Daniel Hertzberg tells Seth Mnookin. "It didn't show what was wrong with the company. It took (WSJ reporters) to do that." Mnookin says some WSJ-ers wonder whether Pulitzer rivals Washington Post and NYT have gone out of their way to praise McLean. A WSJ editor tells him: "People are trying to queer the [Pulitzer] pitch for the Journal." (New York magazine)

FEBRUARY 15, 2002
Media Have Gone from Lap Dogs to Attack Dogs with Enron [Discuss this topic.]
During the economic boom of the last decade, the media showered praise on big business and seemed to turn CEOs into folk heroes. Until the Enron story broke. (Buffalo News)

FEBRUARY 13, 2002
Report: Fortune Scribes Get $1.4 Million Advance for Enron Book
Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind are writing about the scandal for Penguin Putnam's new Portfolio imprint, reports Keith J. Kelly. Meanwhile, Texas Monthly's Mimi Swartz is getting about $500,000 from Doubleday/Broadway for her Enron book. (New York Post)
> Golden Girl Who Sunk Enron (The Herald, Scotland)

FEBRUARY 11, 2002
Newspapers Ditch Enron Paper Contracts
Tribune has said good riddance to its financial hedge contract with Enron, which cost Tribune an extra $5 million in the fourth quarter. The New York Times Co. has also scrapped its hedge contract, exercising a clause that lets it do so in case of bankruptcy. Media General canceled its hedge contract late last year. And E.W. Scripps has simply stopped getting newsprint shipments from Enron. Other swap customers such as MediaNews Group and North Jersey Media Group continue to abide by their contracts while evaluating their legal options. Knight Ridder would not comment on the status of its contract.

FEBRUARY 10, 2002
Houston Chron Editor: We Didn't Connect Dots, See Enron's Woes [Discuss this topic.]
Last August, the Houston Chronicle reported that "nothing major appears to be wrong at Enron," and its lead business columnist predicted "current problems will blow over." While financial magazines were writing about Enron's suspicious numbers, the Chronicle continued to cheer the hometown company. "We should have been faster," Chronicle executive editor Tony Pederson said. "Everyone should have been faster to do a lot of things." (Washington Post)
> Chron plays catch-up on year's biggest local business story (Houston Press)
> Chron forgets it was taken in by the Enron PR machine (Houston Press)
> Alt-weekly critic says Houston Chron's going easy on Lay (Houston Press)
> Critic: Houston Chron's shift from Enron booster to prober isn't easy (Houston Press)

JANUARY 31, 2002
Pundits on the Enron Payroll [Discuss this topic.]
In recent years, several media pundits -- including a group of prominent political and economic commentators -- made their way onto Enron's payroll and received big bucks for doing very little work. Now they are being asked how they can comment on Enron's fall. Among those on the list:

  • Weekly Standard editor William Kristol ($100,000)
  • CNBC host and National Review Online columnist Lawrence Kudlow ($50,000)
  • New York Times columnist Paul Krugman ($50,000)
  • Weekly Standard contributing editor and Sunday Times of London columnist Irwin Stelzer (approximately $50,000)
  • Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan ($25,000-$50,000)

> Boehlert: Sullivan's selective criticism of Enron pundits exposes agenda (Salon)
> Kurtz: Enron pundits have put themselves in a weird box (Washington Post)
> Conason: Kristol should give his Enron cash to cheated ex-employees (New York Observer)
> Kristol says taking Enron's cash "is not much of a 'gate'" (USA Today)
> Kudlow says he should have disclosed Enron pay earlier (second item)(Washington Post)
> Wolff: Enron tried to buy everyone, including Krugman and Noonan (CNN)
> Krugman: Conservatives tried to smear me on Enron, but I'm clean (New York Times)
> Taranto says Krugman's engaging in "projection" (Wall St. Journal)
> Noonan: I got $250/hour for my 100-200 hours of Enron work (Wall St. Journal)

JANUARY 29, 2002
Spotting the Story
[Discuss this topic.]
NYT's Lewis: Journos should be trained to spot corporate shenanigans
The press should be examining its failure to sound loud warning bells before the Enron implosion and similar meltdowns. The press has had centuries of experience in shining a spotlight on improper acts of government and elected officials, as the authors of our First Amendment intended. Taken as a whole, however, the press has not been nearly so successful in revealing the missteps of large corporations, particularly before the damage was done. In many cases it has compounded the problem by engaging in superficial cheerleading and personality-driven business reporting that, in hindsight, portrayed some villains as heroes. (Washington Post)
> Cheerleading news media missed a number of warning signs on Enron (L.A. Times)
> Fortune's McLean asked tough Enron questions ten months ago (New York Times)
> Editor: Journos weren't the only ones who stumbled on Enron (CBS Marketwatch)
> TV news looks for the sexy, emotional sides of Enron story (L.A. Times)
> Thompson: Look at all of these puff pieces on Enron! (MediaBistro)

JANUARY 28, 2002
Kaus: NYT's on a "slightly intemperate, Raines-like" Enron crusade
Enron's collapse is a big deal, but the New York Times is not running "follow the news" coverage. Theirs is a mandated-from-above-throw-the-whole-staff-into-the-story news campaign. Such campaigns can produce great journalism, but they also typically produce distorted, propagandistic journalism. (Slate)
> Pinkerton counts 119 Washington Post stories on Enron in two weeks (Newsday)

JANUARY 22, 2002
Media Try To Sniff Out Possible Political Scandal [Discuss this topic.]
Kurtz: Not clear yet if it's Watergate, Whitewater, or no "-gate"
CNN's Reliable Sources includes guests Jake Tapper of Salon.com, Rich Lowry of National Review, and Bethany McLean of Fortune. (CNN)
> Milbank: Enron isn't just a Bush admin scandal (Washington Post)
> Brokaw says Bush admin "not overly defensive" about Enron (Washington Post)
> Fleischer turns to reporter "Goyal Foil" when he wants to duck Enron (Washington Post)
> Dionne: WH should give Fleischer less contradictory Enron talking points (Washington Post)
> Enron called a "spectacular" story, but no political scandal (Hotline)
> WashTimes reporter refuses to report Enron "innuendo, insinuation" (Washington Post)
> Scheer: Finally, a reporter with guts quizzed Bush on Enron, "Kenny Boy" (L.A. Times)

JANUARY 10, 2002
Powers scoffs at WSJ scribe's Enron-bust-is-a-success claim

John Powers writes in the LA Weekly: "What may be the scariest about Enron's disastrous failure is that neither Bush nor other professional free marketeers seem to find anything scary about America's seventh biggest company being a hollow shell... Several weeks after the bankruptcy, The Wall Street Journal's Susan Lee wrote a column that examined Enron's calamitous fall and concluded that, once again, the free market had done its job — it let the company collapse. 'And thus,' she cheerily ended her piece, 'the story of Enron is, so far, a success story.'" (LA Weekly)