MP: Their basic argument is this would cause chaos, and they’re probably right. But that doesn’t mean that the American taxpayer ought to be on the hook for this.

TA: Why would it cause chaos?

MP: Because people would realize that we’re lending eighty cents on the dollar for something that’s worth twenty cents.

TA: So political chaos?

MP: And maybe market chaos, too. Well, you know the market’s probably pretty savvy about this thing, and everybody knows what’s going on but we just haven’t communicated with the public. When you say “political chaos” you might well be right. That may be what it was. Congress is going to go “We’re lending this much money on this Triple-C security? What are we thinking here?”

TA: One thing I really like about you guys is in your reporting and writing, you have a sense of outrage that’s not in the Journal, say. This thing is so huge, and you guys are conveying the magnitude of it better than some, and there’s a sense of urgency that’s lacking elsewhere. Is this a conscious thing in the newsroom?

MP: We have been primary movers for transparency in markets since our existence. Bloomberg’s reason for being was to give the buy side enough tools so they wouldn’t get screwed by the investment banks. That’s what we’re about. So we’re a weapon for the buy side and a de facto weapon for every one who has a mutual fund. We just need to level the playing field and let everybody know what’s going on. This is from Matt Winkler on down. This is what we do.

It’s also that we realize this is a defining moment for business journalism and for Wall Street. I think that this organization, this news department, was built for this crisis. We’ve got more tools than anybody, we’ve got the will, we have the assets to go after this in a huge way. Everybody believes that in this room.

Hopefully, we will be able to inform the people enough to know how badly we’re getting screwed (laughs). We need to know how to prevent it from happening again, and we need to know who did it. There’s renewed energy on this front because we’ve staffed up the people who cover banks, the securities firms. We have a lot more people going at real estate and a bunch of different areas that this involves. That was a conscious move from meetings we started having in 2007. We hired people and we moved people from one area to another area.

Our issue is we have readers who are very interested in very small things. That’s why they have the terminal. It’s because they’re interested in natural gas or things that aren’t connected with the biggest story in twenty years, maybe longer. This is a big deal and it’s going to be going on—I swear to God I’m going to retire on this story, because it’s just going to keep happening.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.