Linking would have prevented Sorkin’s errors

By Felix Salmon
April 13, 2010
Joe Weisenthal is right to adjudicate the beef between Paul Krugman and Andrew Ross Sorkin in favor of Krugman, who clearly never said what Sorkin says he said. And that's not the only error in Sorkin's column. For instance:

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Joe Weisenthal is right to adjudicate the beef between Paul Krugman and Andrew Ross Sorkin in favor of Krugman, who clearly never said what Sorkin says he said. And that’s not the only error in Sorkin’s column. For instance:

Every couple of months the Treasury Department takes a moment to strategically leak some good news about the bailouts. It happened again on Monday, when a Treasury official told The Wall Street Journal that America’s coffers would be only $89 billion lighter after all accounts were settled from the rescues, down from an earlier estimate of $250 billion…

Of course, there’s a small problem with all this happy Washington math: it doesn’t take into account the piles of cash we’re likely to lose on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the huge mortgage finance companies.

But look at the WSJ story that Sorkin references:

Treasury Department officials say the tab is likely to reach $89 billion, which includes the Troubled Asset Relief Program, capital injections into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, loan guarantees by the Federal Housing Administration and Federal Reserve moves such as buying mortgage-backed securities and propping up the commercial-paper market.

The lesson here, I think, is simple: link! If Sorkin had simply provided a link to the WSJ story, it would have been much more obvious that the new estimate includes Frannie bailout monies. And if he had felt the need to link to Roubini and Krugman when characterizing their opinions, he would probably never have ended up so far off base.

Linking isn’t just being polite: it makes you a better journalist. And it should be compulsory in any article or column which mentions material easily available on the internet.

Update: My bad: Sorkin was right and I was wrong, the $89 billion does not include most of the Frannie losses, as the WSJ story (which Sorkin still should have linked to) finally gets around to saying at some point after I’d stopped reading it. But my point about linking stands! Not least because it was easy to follow my link and find my error.

2 comments so far

Felix, it is a good thing you linked to the WSJ story, because I can see from it that you are incorrect:

“According to the CBO, losses related to the investment portfolios of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are projected to total $370 billion through 2020, though the figure will fluctuate depending on the health of the housing market. The Treasury’s $89 billion estimate for the total bailout cost doesn’t incorporate CBO’s projected losses at Fannie and Freddie because, for budgeting purposes, the Obama administration technically considers them private entities. Taxpayers are potentially on the hook for losses at Fannie and Freddie.”

Posted by mattm | Report as abusive

I’m supprised it’s taken so long for someone to point this out. I don’t want to go into the detais (as Felix has, and has come around in favor of Andrew) but what Sorkin writes is the impression of has come across anyway (and much media certainly says that Krugman says nationalise the banks). Nationalize or not, I wont go much into Krugman. I live in Athens and whether K. had any say in it or not, to hear him at a speech you had to pay 1000 euros. So, whats the point? More traffic to NYT and Too Big Too Fail.

Posted by Mike13 | Report as abusive
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