Bloomberg’s One-Source Wonders

Take a TV interviewee, type up what they say, and print a one-source story. That’s a bad recipe for journalism.

Particularly if the one source is someone who’s said off-the-wall things that you’ve duly printed before.

Bloomberg types up investor Marc Faber’s TV interview for a story on how he thinks China is in a major bubble and is going to crash. I happen to agree with that, but that doesn’t excuse short-shrift journalism.

For one thing, Faber is the guy Bloomberg quoted in a story I heavily criticized a year ago next month. That story was based off a Faber Bloomberg TV interview where he said the U.S. was headed for Zimbabwe-style inflation.

Prices may increase at rates “close to” Zimbabwe’s gains, Faber said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Hong Kong. Zimbabwe’s inflation rate reached 231 million percent in July, the last annual rate published by the statistics office.

My headline was “Nut Says Moon Made of Cheese, Bloomberg Reports.” How many outlandish things do you have to say before you don’t get your comments typed up like a press release?

When Bloomberg does apply some scant pushback, in the last paragraph, it gets it wrong (emphasis mine):

Faber was less prescient in March 2007, when he said the S&P 500 was more likely to fall than rise because the threats of faster inflation and slower growth persisted. The S&P 500 climbed 10 percent between then and its record of 1,565.15 seven months later.

And then it proceeded to crash over the next seventeen months.

The story does have some context, and that’s good, but it’s not enough. And it also includes irrelevant information like this:

Faber is attending the Asian Public Real Estate Association Forum in Singapore today.

I’ll make a note of it.

Bloomberg likes to do these stories, as I’ve written before. The Financial Times does, too. Fortune’s gotten in on the act. Newsweek’s done it. The Journal ran one—written by Hank Paulson all of people.

It’s almost always a bad idea.

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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.