Enron: Covering the Uncovered Story

Recent months have seen ferocious criticisms of Enron, but Columbia Journalism Review contributor Scott Sherman thinks journalists should have asked tough questions much earlier. During the 1990s, he notes, business coverage "crackled with enthusiasm about Enron," with Fortune comparing the now-failed energy company to a "gate-crashing Elvis" in the "staid world of regulated utilities and energy companies ... far and away the most vigorous agent of change in its industry." According to Sherman, "The print media coverage of Enron's top executives was pure hagiography." Jonathan Weil of the Wall Street Journal, one of the few journalists who actually investigated the company's shady finances prior to the collapse, says now that financial journalists "outsourced their critical thinking skills to Wall Street analysts, who are not independent and, by definition, were employed to do nothing but spin positive company news in order to sell stock." But Weil's critical reporting never appeared in the WSJ's national edition.