"I locate the problem with CNBC"

Written By mista sense on Monday, January 29, 2007 | 11:05 AM

Those are the stinging words of Edward Wasserman, who holds the prestigious Knight Professorship of Journalism at Washington & Lee University, as quoted by Bloomberg News. Wasserman's point was that it's wrong to focus on Maria "Money Honey" Bartiromo in the unfolding "CNBC-gate" scandal. That is, Wasserman is saying, too much of the focus so far has been on Bartiromo's relationship, whatever it was, with ex-Citigroup exec Todd Thomson.

Now the story is taking a different turn, full of implications for The Cable News Game. Not to put too fine a point on it, the emerging allegation is that the flirting--maybe whoring--that went on was at the institutional level, as well as, maybe, the personal level.

Bartiromo might be the leading courtesan (that's the polite word) of financial news, but it's increasingly evident that it was her employer, CNBC, that was avidly encouraging her to, uh, reach out to big-bucks sources and sponsors.

"I locate the problem with CNBC," Wasserman said to Bloomberg reporters Justin Baer and Michael White: "They have obviously been using her and their other high-profile people as brand-creation devices and encouraging them to cozy up to people in the financial community."

If that's the case, then the whole of CNBC's corporate culture could be regarded as corrupt.

And The New York Times story today reinforces that sense of smelliness: As Times media critic David Carr explains, an "implicit contract" was at play between the bank and the network: "By making huge advertising buys on CNBC, Citigroup obtained access to its biggest star." Ah, the old phrase, "obtained access"! Gee, pray tell, what does that mean, to "obtain access" to the Money Honey?

One sure prediction: Now that this story is gaining so much critical mass, we will find out what the "contract" for "access" entailed, in fine and frilly detail.

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