A Journal scoop this morning—or at least its sourcing—may have confused some readers.

The paper reported that Goldman Sachs’s loss this quarter would be much worse than expected, news it attributed to “industry insiders.”

That’s funny attribution, but okay. But scan the rest of the story and you’ll find that it appears nobody from Goldman was ever given an opportunity to comment.

Now, it’s highly unlikely that these experienced reporters got a story on A1 in the WSJ without calling the company for comment.

What the lack of a Goldman attribution signals to us is that Goldman Sachs itself leaked this to the Journal as a way to feed hungry beat reporters and get bad news into its stock price before it reports earnings.

The Journal has a nearly iron-clad internal rule that says a story can’t say a source declined to comment if that source is quoted elsewhere in the story. That can make for awkward negotiations if a reporter is trying to protect the identity of a source who doesn’t want to be named.

I don’t know why Goldman was so finicky that it wouldn’t let the Journal use its standard “people familiar with the matter” phrasing, but I’ve dealt with similarly skittish/irrational sources.

But for what it’s worth as an insiderism, that’s your likely explanation.

 

 

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.