Bloomberg’s One-Source Stories

One of the essentials of writing a news story is to talk to more than one source.

That’s so basic it’s kind of an embarrassing lede. But tell that to Bloomberg.

It has a habit of writing up what people say on its TV network and slapping it on to the wire as a news story. Now, Bloomberg is a wire and newsworthy utterances from powerful people can move markets.

But is this tripe from Blackstone honcho Steven Schwarzman really worth rushing out with no context, analysis, or balance whatsoever?

Schwarzman, who has the distinction of being the symbol of high Gilded Age II excess with his $125 million worth of residences (“‘I love houses,” he told me recently. “I’m not sure why.’”) and his $400 stone crabs, and his “huge portrait of Mr. Schwarzman, which usually hangs in his living room” shipped in for his multi-million-dollar birthday party, thinks the poor banks are being put upon by all this criticism and are going to take their ball and go home. Waaaah!

“Financial institutions will feel under siege and they will retreat,” Schwarzman said in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Their entire world is being shaken and they’re being attacked personally,” he said. “We don’t need those financial institutions insecure.”

Hmmn. “Insecure.” Like, say, the tens of millions of Americans out of jobs or homes (or teetering on the brink) because these same banks wrecked the economy? Or because private-equity firms like Schwarzman’s bought their companies, loaded them up with debt, paid themselves huge dividends, and shit-canned a bunch of workers?

U.S. banks may start to restrict credit simply because the “uncertainty and the tone against them” are so difficult they may lack the confidence to perform their normal function, Schwarzman said. That may hurt the economic recovery, he added.

“They don’t know their taxes, they don’t know what amount of equity, they don’t know what businesses they’re going to be allowed to stay in,” Schwarzman said. “There is enormous uncertainty, not so much in the economic environment. We’ve now increased the uncertainty in the political environment.”

This is the tired old argument trotted out whenever any kind of change is proposed that might negatively impact the financial industry. You can’t criticize the banks or they’ll stop lending. But here Schwarzman frames it—and Bloomberg gamely goes along—by the “uncertainty” that results from even proposing to do something. You can’t debate these things or it will kill the economy. It’s “shut up and let us run things.” One presumes if somehow a law could spring forth fully formed this morning, get passed this afternoon, and be in force by the time Asian markets open that Schwarzman would be okay with it. Or not.

For Bloomberg, I really don’t see the point in putting out stories like this with no other sources, just powerful people pontificating. You’re not going to see Bloomberg do a one-source story letting Suzy from Kankakee or Joe from Bismarck hold forth on something.

Let Steve Schwarzman put out his own press releases.

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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.