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New York Times Ombudsman, Business Editor Argue About Paper's Financial Coverage

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A bitter argument has broken out at the New York Times about the paper's business coverage.

On Sunday, Arthur Brisbane, the paper's ombudsman, wrote a scathing column about the Times' DealBook blog, which he said had come to dominate the Business section to the detriment of the Times' other financial coverage.

Brisbane said that, given the European debt crisis, "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 ... little is being written about the consequences that a catastrophic event in Europe could have on the United States and the world economy."

The Times' business editor, Larry Ingrassia, spoke to Brisbane for the column, saying that the paper had not sacrificed any coverage for DealBook. Apparently, though, he felt that his point of view had not been fully aired, because he sent a fuming memo to his staff, harshly criticizing Brisbane's conclusion.

"For the first time, I felt that a public editor column was so absurd and so poorly reasoned that I felt compelled to write a response," Ingrassia wrote.

In the response, Ingrassia said that the column "left me wondering how closely you read the Times -- or at least our financial coverage. There is far more financial news, of all kinds, than ever before. Not less, as your column strangely asks." He went on to say that the paper has written "several hundred stories" about the debt crisis, and that DealBook has produced sterling journalism.

Brisbane posted Ingrassia's letter on his blog.

The letter in full:

Art,

Your column left me wondering how closely you read the Times - or at least our financial coverage. There is far more financial news, of all kinds, than ever before. Not less, as your column strangely asks.

On the coverage of the European debt crisis: We have written several hundred stories explaining its origins and implications over the past year and a half, and dozens of them ran on the front page. A number of these stories delved into the very questions you wondered about - including the dangerous ripple effects in the financial system if the problems aren't solved. And other stories have explained how derivatives sold by banks both helped disguise the extent of the debt problems in some countries like Greece, but also pose concerns going forward. Maybe you missed these, but we reported them.

On DealBook: The addition of reporters has enabled The Times to expand its coverage of finance, not just the stories that you cited about what's happening on Wall Street but public service journalism stories as well - like the banking industry's aggressive lobbying against some of the stricter regulations approved by Congress in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown or the battle to limit the power of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to name just a couple of important running stories to which DealBook reporters have made major contributions.

Sorry, but when you start with a wrong premise and ignore the record, you end up with a wrong conclusion.

Larry Ingrassia
Business editor
The New York Times

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