I liked John Gapper’s FT profile of CNBC’s “pugnacious pundit” Charlie Gasparino. A typical passage (with the curse words bleeped, because Curious Capitalist readers require more protection from profanity than FT readers do):
If anything, the onscreen Gasparino is a toned-down version of the off-air one. One morning, he upset Lance Armstrong, the cyclist, by asking him pointedly on CNBC about drug use in sports (Armstrong faced rumours of taking drugs, although he was cleared by inquiries). That evening, Gasparino bumped into Armstrong by chance at Campagnola, another favourite Manhattan haunt.
“He looked at me and he goes: ‘You’re an %#&hole,’” recalls Gasparino. So I was like: ‘Mr Armstrong, I want you to know that you answered all the questions perfectly.’ He says: ‘No, no, no, *@#& you!’ I said: ‘Listen, we had to ask you one tough question.’ He said: ‘I am never doing your show again. Stick it in your ear.’ Then he got me pissed because he just kept on going. I said: ‘Listen, I am going to give you a little insight into something. If you don’t sit in that chair, we’ll get some other %#&hole to do it.’ He said: ‘Really?’ I said: ‘Really.’ He said: ‘You can leave now.’ I said: ‘No, this is my restaurant.’”
This account makes Gasparino look a lot better than Armstrong—not surprising, given that it’s Gasparino telling the story. But it also makes clear that he’s really obnoxious. Or pugnacious, if you prefer. If all the world’s financial journalists acted like Gasparino, financial journalism would be unbearable. But having Gasparino as part of the mix, that’s mostly a good thing. He finds out stuff that more mild-mannered types (like me) don’t. Plus, he makes Lance Armstrong mad!
The same goes for Matt Taibbi and his already legendary Goldman Sachs rant. If all financial journalists shared Taibbi’s disregard for fairness and his juvenile glee in name-calling, financial journalism would be unbearable. But since most financial journalists try so hard to be fair that they often miss the truth, and write with such sobriety as to be unreadable, Taibbi offers a welcome change of pace and point of view.
This country has spent 50 years in the grips of a pretty narrow consensus on what journalism is supposed to look like. That’s unraveling. And while a lot of things about the future of this business worry me, the increasing diversity of journalistic methods and standards isn’t one of them.