What Kneale is saying (“Did the Beast overstep some invisible line here?”) is that it’s best not to report a story Redstone doesn’t want to come out because we might not get the other stories that Redstone et al want to come out. That’s a bad deal.

Kneale isn’t just some CNBC clown. He spent 16 years at The Wall Street Journal, where he won a Pulitzer, and he was later managing editor of Forbes.

That makes his views here all the more cringeworthy.

Look, I’m not naive. I know there are tradeoffs that come with covering a beat. But this is something else entirely. It’s protecting the powerful from themselves at the expense of reporting the truth.

Lauria’s Sumner Redstone story is more illuminating about how business is done than a hundred access-oriented Viacom pieces.

UPDATE: Salmon himself has a must-read take on Kneale here:

Once you start working your way up the masthead, and hanging out with moguls at places like Davos and Aspen, this tends to happen to you: you get more comfortable, and less hungry; you think that access is more important than actual stories. Clearly Kneale has reached that place, and in a way I’m impressed that he’s happy to admit it. Most of the swanning-around class of journalists are delusional enough that they’d never do that.

And I missed this comment of Kneale’s in which he says he protected Redstone from himself while at Forbes:

“sumner pops off—he did it to us at forbes, made a bold predictn in violation of sec disclousre rules… and we knew he was off-the-reservation when he did it, so we gave him a pass, didn’t use it.

Just… wow.

Further Reading:

If you can follow this Twitter back and forth between Kneale and Salmon—who’s on the side of the angels here—I suggest you do. You have to work pretty hard to be as wrong as Kneale is here.

Access Uber Alles. In return for access you have to give something up. But how much, and what do you get in return? That’s the question every time.

The Price of Admission: Andrew Ross Sorkin’s debut and the limits of access journalism.

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.