John Berry, the Washington Post reporter (now at Bloomberg) who covers the Fed — and widely believed to have a direct line from Greenspan and other FOMC members — came out swinging this morning. In today’s column, he accused CNBC reporter Maria Bartiroma of "burning Bernanke," engaging in journalistic ethical lapses, and failing to treat private conversations at an off-the-record event appropriately.
Earlier this morning, Berry wrote:
"Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke wasn’t cautious enough about the ground rules when he chatted with journalists at the White House Correspondent Association’s dinner April 29, and he got badly burned . . .
Virtually all reporters treat discussions at such events as being off-the-record — that is, not for publication — unless there is an explicit understanding otherwise. You can be sure he has learned that painful lesson."
In other words, the veteran print journo is accusing the TV anchor of not understanding the rules of engagement when mixing at social functions with the personalities and subjects they cover. CNBC (through a spokesman) disagreed, saying "there was no question Bernanke’s comments were on-the-record."
Berry goes on to add that it was clear the Fed is "Not Finished" and that markets did misunderstand the concept of a pause; he quotes WaPo reporter Nell Henderson’s column, that while the central bank may "pause in the process of raising interest rates to restrain inflation, that would not necessarily mean they were finished.”
Reuters reported that "speaking after the markets’ close on Tuesday on CNBC’s "Kudlow & Company", Bartiromo said she was sure Bernanke didn’t want to see major market reactions to his remarks and that "in his heart, I did him a favor."
Several others have criticized Bartiroma for sitting on her market moving news until her 3pm show began. After she released her "scoop," the market tanked.
Bartiroma, formerly known as the "Money Honey" for her reports from the floor of the NYSE, has generated all kinds of criticism and coverage since the snafu.
I suspect we may not have seen the last of this story . . .
UPDATE 2 May 4, 2006 11:48am
Ben is a fast learner; from a friend (quoting Reuters) we see that:
Yesterday, midday, at that local-economy talk the Fed Chief gave in DC, “When he arrived at the conference, reporters asked exactly what he had said at the dinner, but he walked by without a word. He did not take audience questions, and left as silently as he had arrived.”
Apparently "Once bitten, twice shy" is a fair assessment of the new Fed Chief’s experience with the Press. Dunno what they taught you at MIT and Harvard, Ben, but all you hadda do was call, and I woulda schooled ya on the finer points of dealing with the media.
Now ya know.
UPDATE 1 May 3, 2006 9:48am
Note: This only works with Explorer 6, and I am using IE 7; (Leave it to Microsoft)
Bernanke Couldn’t Be Clearer — You Hear That?
John M. Berry
Bloomberg, May 3, 2006
CNBC’s Bartiromo says report does Bernanke a ‘favor’
Reuters, Tue May 2, 2006 6:01 PM ET
Bernanke slips on Bartiromo peel
Fallout uncertain on off-the-cuff interview as confusion reigns
MarketWatch, 6:24 PM ET May 2, 2006
Bernanke remarks leave analysts bemused
Jennifer Hughes in New York
FT May 2 2006 21:55 | Last updated: May 2 2006 21:55
Investors Misunderstood Bernanke Testimony, CNBC Anchor Says
Washington Post, Tuesday, May 2, 2006; Page D03
When The Fed Chairman Speaks, Everyone Freaks
CBS, May 2, 2006
Ben Bernanke Tells All to the Money Honey
Bernanke Boots His Rally?
May 02, 2006 9:37
Fed Struggles to Convince Markets Of Its Own Uncertainty on Rates
WSJ, May 3, 2006; Page A1
MARIA, FED HEAD GO HEAD-TO-HEAD
N.Y. Post, May 3, 2006
Maria’s Fed Minute
Street Insight, 5/2/2006 7:09 AM EDT