Vindication for the Journal

With the dispatching of Sir Win Bischoff from the chairmanship of Citigroup, following the dismantling of its financial supermarket model earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal proved right as rain on two scoops it ran back in November in the face of a flat denial from the bank that it was considering changing chairmen and a report from rival New York Times that said a breakup was not on the table.

To be alone on a story for weeks, as was the Journal’s David Enrich, is a lonely feeling indeed.

Naysayers included myself. In a long critique of the paper’s crisis coverage I said a misplaced emphasis on scoops led to stories that turned out to be “wrong.”

Historians might wonder about the degree to which the world changed since the Journal’s November stories and to which radical changes at Citi were the result of what amounted to a federal diktat that came more recently, as the Journal reported earlier this month:

Starting in December, federal officials expressed concern that Mr. Pandit lacked a sufficiently drastic strategy to stabilize the company. They instructed his team to come up with a new downsizing plan, say people familiar with the talks. The looming fourth-quarter loss has added to the sense of urgency inside Citigroup, with executives and directors reaching a similar conclusion during the past two weeks.

But what we know today is that my saying the stories were “wrong” was wrong. The larger argument about the Journal’s coverage is for another day.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.