Did Bethany McLean Even Break The Enron Story?

n “Enronathon,” Seth Mnookin of The Wall Street Journal suggests Bethany McLean wasn’t quite the first person to break the story of Enron…and that she had a good bit of unacknowledged help:

“If journalism were in the Olympics, the Enron story might well be pairs figure skating. Bethany McLean, the young Fortune writer who first wrote about Enron’s shady finances a year ago, has, of course, already been awarded the gold.

And with that have come the requisite endorsements: In the past two months, she was hired as a consultant by NBC News and shared in a $1.4 million deal to co-author a book on the scandal. But another team is also vying for top honors — amid complaints about shoddy judging.

Reporters and editors at the Wall Street Journal believe their work has been unjustly ignored, with some wondering whether Pulitzer rivals like the Washington Post and the New York Times have gone out of their way to praise McLean.

Enron did not collapse under its own weight,” says Jonathan Friedland, the Journal editor who’s been in charge of much of the paper’s Enron coverage. “Without our reporting, I don’t think any of this would have happened.”

In response, McLean’s former editor at Fortune and current Time Inc. editorial director John Huey says, “Bethany was the first journalist in a widely respected national publication to suggest that the emperor at Enron had no clothes.” (Not that her own publication took much note: Fortune had to airbrush out Kenneth Lay from a November SMARTEST PEOPLE WE KNOW cover photo.) Let’s recap: In September 2000, Jonathan Weil wrote a long story for the now-defunct Texas edition of the Journal about odd accounting at various Texas-based energy traders; it included four paragraphs on Enron.

James Chanos, a well-known short-seller who was one of the first to start unloading Enron stock, says he got interested in the company after reading Weil’s piece.

Almost six months later, in March 2001, the then 30-year-old McLean (who Times columnist Maureen Dowd has suggested will be played by Alicia Silverstone in the inevitable movie) wrote her little-noticed 2,400-word story, “Is Enron Overpriced?”

Then, in October, the Journal ran a three-day series by Rebecca Smith and John Emshwiller detailing Enron’s unorthodox partnerships. Their articles are seen by many on Wall Street as ultimately sinking the company. Weil’s partisans think he should get credit for crossing the finish line first (an item, “Credit Due,” ran in “Page Six” recently).

But even Chanos says that “Bethany’s piece was the first one to raise really specific questions.”

Most of the Journal‘s brain trust, though, are plugging Smith and Emshwiller, who, of course, wrote their stories in 2001 and are thus eligible for this year’s Pulitzers. “The Fortune story basically said this is a company that nobody understands,” says Journal deputy managing editor Daniel Hertzberg. “It didn’t show what was wrong with the company. It took Becky and John to do that.” That’s the competition.

Now for the judging. In January, Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post‘s media writer, highlighted McLean as the first journalist to ask questions about Enron. Ten days later, the Times‘ Felicity Barringer wrote her profile of “the financial reporter everyone loves to lionize.” While McLean was being anointed as a journalistic sex symbol in a story hitherto dominated by a balding Kenneth Lay, folks at the Journal felt they were being robbed:

“People are trying to queer the Pulitzer pitch for the Journal,” says one editor there. That’s sour grapes, counters Kurtz: “In this case, a 31-year-old reporter beat them and the rest of the world by a considerable margin.”

In a bit of circular logic endemic to media reporters, Kurtz adds, “I must have been onto something, since after my piece appeared, she was profiled in the Times, given a contract by NBC, and offered a book deal.” As for McLean, she seems slightly embarrassed by all the attention. “I’ve told people I’ve gotten too much credit,” she says. “I did raise alarm bells, but I didn’t know the half of it.” “Read more: Enronathon http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/media/features/5756/#ixzz0dvvQZvUI

My Comment:

Please note also that the book was co-authored with Peter Elkind, who isn’t attributed in many of the stories.

Not that I’m all that sympathetic to the Wall Street Journal on the Enron story, since they don’t give credit to the alternative press either, and what goes around comes around. (My own experiences of plagiarism from articles and books can be found at the tab, ABOUT –  half-way down the page).

If liberal columnists steal without attribution even from liberal bloggers, can you imagine the cone of silence that descends when the victim isn’t liberal? Libertarians and conservatives get stripped clean by the vultures of the “free” (of all ethics) press.

With them, it’s never about public welfare or the good of the nation, even though that’s the standard that they like to foist on other people. Even with the global economy melting down under their noses, they’re jealous of sharing the information that activists, bloggers, and ordinary citizens give out generously for the common good.

(Again, there are honorable exceptions).

In short, they make up credit – just like the Federal Reserve.

Or they steal it – like their banker friends.

Or they collude with each other to “take-down” anyone not part of their game – just like their hedge-fund allies.

And no matter what, they always cover for each other.

Notice how other people’s personal lives are fair game for stalking, extortion, and exposes, but never theirs, as this piece on Maria Bartiromo suggests.

(Ms. McLean figures in that piece too. In fact, a brief google tells us that McLean´s had plagiarism problems and conflicts of interest more than a couple of times).

Item One. Here’s an earlier complaint about Fortune magazine plagiarism. A Fortune writer apparently used material from interviews and articles by an outfit called Annex Research, without attributing or acknowledging it. An email to Fortune got no response, either. The Fortune writer? Bethany McLean…

Item Two:  McLean at it again, swiping material from the Orange County Register Weekly

Item Three: Libertarian economist, Bill Anderson, in a piece called “The Most Dishonest ´Journalists´ In the Room,” describes how McLean was having a romantic relationship with the lead prosecutor in the Enron trial, Sean Berkowitz, before the sentencing, while she was covering the trial and getting out the government´s side of the story. Omitted in that story as well  was the disturbing fact that the prosecutor had suborned perjury in order to get a full conviction of Jeffrey Skilling.

And that´s besides Item Four….

That fetching stock-manipulation thing she had going with hedge buddies Marc Cohodes and Jim Chanos.

No wonder none of them can get the story right.

And no wonder they still won’t get it straight, not until after activists, or bloggers, or less-known writers at their own outfits or elsewhere do the hard work. Then they’ll slide in to take the credit.

Nice work.

Just as cushy and exploitative as anything on Wall Street, in its way.

Business men and real capitalists do the hard work of producing. Then the faux capitalist money-men and their shills in government rush in to cream the money off and cover themselves with glory via their mouthpieces in the shill media.

No wonder the media doesn’t understand capitalism. No wonder they love the crony capitalist bordello they call home. It’s the only one they know, the poor things.

[Again, they really ARE a minority of journalists, just a powerful minority. There are hundreds of honorable hard-working journalists who write their own stories rather than steal them off the net, whose names never get into headlines, and who wouldn’t be caught dead behaving like this].

And don’t miss the other telling details:

Enron’s Ken Lay was a Republican.

Goldman Sachs is a Democrat cash-cow, for the most part.

Jim Chanos, hedge-fund master mind, used to work at Deutsch Bank.

And Bethany McLean was once a Goldman Sachs banker….. (Maybe that explains her kid-glove treatment of Hank at Vanity Fair).….

….And her equally interesting white-washing of Spyro Contogouris, who colluded with hedge funds to attack Prem Watsa’s Fairfax Financial.

Honestly.  Rielle Hunter has nothing on any of these gold-diggers.

2 thoughts on “Did Bethany McLean Even Break The Enron Story?

  1. Hi Bob —

    Sorry I haven´t been in touch…
    Real life has caught up with me in Patagonia..

    I loved the Smartest Guys in the Room…
    but McLean doesn´t figure out it was G Sachs there too..

    I had a piece on that angle – “Malcolm Gladwell checks in at the Hotel Kenneth Lay A”

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