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Lessons from Enron coverage still influence McLean's work

Posted: March 7, 2013 | Tags: reporting

Journalist Bethany McLean says she wishes she were known as more than the “Enron Girl.”

But she says her work uncovering the company’s inflated stock prices scandal taught her important lessons about reporting on corporate governance that she continues to use today. 

On Tuesday, she shared those lessons with journalists during a panel discussion on corporate accountability reporting at the Center for International Media Assistance at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington.

McLean, now a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and columnist for Fortune, says journalists shouldn’t assume corporate shenanigans are hard to uncover.

“The craziest things can be playing out in front of you,” she said via Skype from Illinois, where she was stranded because of a snowstorm. “There really can be a story in plain sight.”

Four things McLean says she learned from reporting the Enron scandal:

• Cultivate a company’s shareholders and investors as key sources. Make sure you know each person’s motivation in talking to you, so you can evaluate their information.

• Check a company’s regulatory disclosures for red flags. A reporter merely needs basic financial literacy to spot inconsistencies in the public reports.

• Don’t bow to resistance and pressure from company executives. Trust your gut and don’t get intimidated when they try to make you think you don’t understand what is happening.

 •Get a trusted second opinion. Make sure you're not so invested in a story that you can’t see when you’re wrong.

For more tips, check out the new guide for reporting on corporate governance from the International Center for Journalists and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.

 




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