What the WSJ doesn’t make clear is whether reporters were believed to be sending out stories early to specific subset of their subscribers or whether to all subscribers. It seems to me that’s a significant difference. If your intent is to scoop your competitor, that’s one thing, however unfair. If it’s to give particular clients a head start, it’s another. I’d like to think if any of this happened, it was the former.

This paragraph is also confusing:

A key issue, one of the people said, was whether the government could prove in court that a time advantage for a trader of a sliver of a second—as little as a few thousandths—was enough to conduct profitable trades on confidential information.

Presumably when there are people spending $300 million to drop a cable into the Atlantic Ocean so they can get trades to and from Europe in 59.6 milliseconds, as opposed to the 64 milliseconds the other chumps will be stuck with, a time advantage is valuable.

In the case of locked-up government data, the press is monetizing its access, essentially. The value is in the headline, which anybody could type up, and not just anybody can get in the room.

But reporting moves markets all the time, and not just from embargoed press releases. In some cases it moves them in major ways. Like when the NYT wiped $10 billion off Walmart’s market cap in one day with its blockbuster bribery and coverup scoop. Or when Reuters took a 10 percent chunk out of Chesapeake Energy in less than one trading session with its reporting on now-defenestrated CEO Aubrey McClendon’s conflicts of interest. Those are outliers, clearly, but reporting moves markets all the time.

It makes you wonder if Chinese military hackers are the only ones trying to get into Dow Jones and Bloomberg and Reuters.


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.