Saturday, February 16, 2002


A time-honored practice of big-time journalism is the "source greaser." It's a fairly straightforward transaction. Source delivers good documents, source gets good press. But what happens when the source being greased is controversial, to say the least? Well, if you're The New York Times, you just gut it out and hope that no one notices.

Today, the Times reported that William Lerach had been named lead counsel for the institutional shareholders of Enron stock. Absent from the story were two salient facts about Mr. Lerach. First, his law firm is presently the target of a federal grand jury investigation in Los Angeles. Second, in 1999 his firm had to pay out $50 million to settle an "abuse of process" suit brought by a Chicago consulting firm.

To banish these facts from a front-of-the-Business Section story strikes me, at least, as yet more evidence of journalistic decline at The New York Times. But then, Mr. Lerach will soon be sitting atop the Mother Lode of Enron documents and depositions. Give good documents, get good press.