Audit Notes: Catching Up With Wall Street, Princess Dresses, Olbermann and Objectivity

The New York Observer’s Max Abelson takes a look at the Wall Street people who nearly crashed the world. Where are they now? Mostly still on Wall Street; many in the same jobs.

Howzat? Abelson ledes with this eye-raising quote from Dick Parsons of Citigroup:

“Have you ever noticed,” the chairman of Citigroup, Richard D. Parsons, asked The Observer this Monday evening, “that in the NFL, or in the NBA, or in Major League Baseball, this guy was a failure at Cleveland, and then he becomes the coach in Houston? These guys just move around from one team to another. Why is that? Because there isn’t a very deep pool of skilled talent that exists.

“And so, too, for a lot of financial stuff: Not everybody who’s walking up and down Fifth Avenue at noon is capable of running a derivatives book,” he went on, voice low, sitting in the 57th Street offices of the firm Providence Equity, where he’s a senior adviser. “It takes a certain amount of skill and knowledge to be in that business.”

And so, naturally, this priesthood will remain richly remunerated:

“Are people who once earned staggering sums going to earn non-staggering sums going forward? No,” Mr. Parsons explained Monday.

But the most fun parts of this piece are the huge graphics showing where major characters are now, where they were, and a snippet to sum them up.

See for instance, John Winkelried, former COO Goldman Sachs, now ranching in Colorado: “Paid $460,000 for a horse in 2005 named I Sho Spensive.”

Print them out, or better yet, buy a print copy of the Observer. It’ll make a handy reference.

— I criticized The Wall Street Journal for slapping a generic news story on Prince William’s engagment in the ahed spot this morning (among other things).

Meanwhile, the paper is plumping this NewsHub video on Twitter:

Who will design Kate Middleton’s dress for her royal wedding?

If this were an American princess, Vera Wang and Oscar de la Renta would be at the top of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress list. But the question is: how traditional will she go? Will she opt for a well-known designer like Marchesa or surprise the world with an unknown emerging designer?

Now, there’s no reporting involved here as far as I can tell. It’s pure speculation about what kind of dress Kate Middleton will wear in her wedding and who will design it.


— Keith Olbermann raises some good points in his “special comment” on Ted Koppel’s Washington Post op-ed. But it’s a bit rich, to put it nicely, to see Keith Olbermann huff and puff and compare himself to Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, who took stands on important issues of their day.

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The thing is, very few people take Olbermann’s fulminations seriously because, unlike Cronkite et al, he’s an advocate, not an arbiter—not to mention a rage-filled blowhard. In other words, Cronkite wouldn’t have had the credibility to be listened to had he done what Olbermann does night in and night out. Cronkite may have been a liberal like a good portion of the country at that time, but viewers trusted him to find the truth. He earned that trust because he was fair. If he’d behaved like Olbermann did on MSNBC on the most-recent election night, he wouldn’t have been one of the most trusted man in America.

Real objectivity isn’t about doing down-the-line he said/she said reporting and leaving the reader to figure it out. It’s not about creating false equivalence. It’s about being fair to all sides and trying to determine the truth, wherever it lies. The press hasn’t always done a good job of this, of course, particularly most recently in the runup to the Iraq War (when it was cowed by a post 9/11 nationalism and misled and manipulated by a savvy and cynical Bush administration) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an ideal that’s still worth pursuing.

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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 Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,