No fact is ever wasted on an investigative reporter, New York Times journalist Diana Henriques told attendees Monday evening at Arizona State University’s Cronkite building during a forum on covering financial scandals.
Henriques, a financial investigative reporter for the Times since 1989, has covered the unfolding of the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme. Madoff defrauded thousands of investors of billions of dollars though a scheme that made payments with new investments, instead of earnings on investments. He pled guilty to 11 felonies in March.
Henriques, who is writing a book on the Madoff scandal, offered advice for students in ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications, many of who are enrolled in the business journalism specialization. Andrew Leckey, Reynolds Endowed Chair in Business Journalism, interviewed her.
“Business journalism and financial journalism offer great opportunities to students,” Henriques said. “No fact is ever wasted on a business journalist. … No business card is ever thrown away.”
Henriques reviewed her involvement in the Madoff scandal — from her first day learning only that is was “huge” from an off-the-record source, to her nonstop coverage the following 10 months as Madoff was convicted. She said she found herself turning to many of her sources on previous stories for help.
“If there’s a single lesson to take, it’s keep that Rolodex fresh,” Henriques said. “Work on that. Devote some time to it. On deadline, a journalist will know only what his or her sources know.”
Henriques advised students to learn how to read five key reports that public companies must file with the Securities and Exchange Commission — 10K, 10Q, Proxy statements , 13D and 8K. Those reports often contain newsworthy information about companies, she said.
She encouraged financial journalists to read at least five books on financial history and to beware of sources who say, “It’s going to be different this time.”
“It never is,” she said. If you read books on financial history, “you’ll see analogies, disparities.”