WSJ’s Clean Galleon Get

There’s nothing quite like a clean scoop of a delicate nature on a major story of global interest. But that’s what the Journal’s Robert Guth and Don Clark pulled off early this morning when they named Hector Ruiz, the former head of chip giant Advanced Micro Devices, as an alleged tipper in the Galleon insider trading case.

Out a limb for a few hours, the Journal outed the Silicon Valley titan as the heretofore unidentified AMD executive mentioned in court papers as having shared insider dope on a corporate restructuring with Danielle Chiesi, then at hedge fund New Castle Partners and now a defendant charged in the alleged Galleon ring. Why he would do that is unclear.

One of the markers of a scoop’s size isn’t just how often often it’s followed, analyzed, and advanced (and this one reverberated around the globe) but how late at night/early in the morning competitors stay up trying to match it. Under unspoken journalism etiquette rules, if you match a story with your own sources, you don’t have to cite your competitor, which, indeed, tastes like dirt.

Bloomberg was up at 1:37 this morning, for Pete’s sake.

The Financial Times did well to have it by 6:29.*

Scoops are great in their own right. (Hey, I never said they weren’t; I just said they aren’t everything.) But this one is particularly satisfying because the Journal defined itself and helped to define an era during the insider-trading scandals of the 1980s, when it scored one massive scoop after another and, along the way, wrote some of American journalism’s most memorable long-form narratives. The work, among other things, won a Pulitzer in 1988
* for Daniel Hertzberg and upstairs colleague James B. Stewart.

The Galleon story is a great one, and the Journal’s effective flood-the-zone coverage evokes of a glorious past. It’s a different era now, with a lot more competition, which only makes this get all the greater.

* Added a link to the FT piece and fixed the date on the Pulitzer from 1998 to 1988.

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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.