In this toxic climate, many financial journalists are on edge, worried that any misstep could make them the target of criticism for being too cozy with Wall Street. Back in October, New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera, who often writes about finance, was taken to task by media critic Erik Wemple of The Washington Post for speaking at a securities conference in Miami sponsored by Wall Street firms including Goldman Sachs, J. P. Morgan, and Morgan Stanley. The gig appeared to breach the paper’s own rule for not permitting staff journalists to take speaking fees from any for-profit sources. Nocera “declined to address the speaking fee,” Wemple wrote, and he also declined to talk to me.
But while some news organizations don’t permit their staffers to take speaking fees from any sources, including Wall Street, there is still plenty of action out there.
The lineup of writers on financial affairs who have spoken at Wall Street events—and are promoted by speakers’ bureaus as available for hire—is star-studded. The list includes Michael Lewis, a best-selling author and contributing editor to Vanity Fair; Niall Ferguson, the author, Harvard professor, and a featured contributor to Newsweek and The Daily Beast; James Surowiecki, who writes “The Financial Page” column for The New Yorker; and James B. Stewart, the author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has written widely for newspapers and magazines. (Stewart says he’s done no speaking engagements with for-profit sources since he began writing a financial column for The New York Times in June 2011.)