For years, Gretchen Morgenson's column has anchored the front page of The New York Times' Sunday business section. Her pieces uncovering corporate financial abuses were like going to church, her sermons based on deep reporting and fact-based analysis.
That's why I was shocked while reading her column last Sunday to realize that it was her farewell from the newspaper, another trusted Times voice disappearing.
As noted in her final column, she's given perspective on decades of major business stories, ranging from the dot-com bust of 2000, to Enron's rise and fall, to the 2008 housing market collapse and major recession.
She's also given attention to more obscure business matters, such as how companies inflate earnings reports in violation of accepted accounting practices. Her unwavering spotlight on corporate malfeasance earned her the ire of business executives and the gratitude of readers.
I figured Morgenson was joining Times stalwarts like former chief book critic Michiko Kakutani in leaving the paper in disgust over changes such as the laying off of copy editors, the dumbing down of coverage and increasing emphasis on the newspaper's digital product. It turns out that Morgenson is moving to the Times' chief rival, The Wall Street Journal, where she will be the lead investigative reporter.
Morgenson's jump to the WSJ is the latest swap of talent between the two New York-based national papers. Before the WSJ captured Morgenson, the talent flow has gone the other way. Reflecting dissatisfaction with WSJ Chief Editor Gerard Baker's reported softening of news coverage of the Trump administration, several top editors have headed uptown to The Times.
Previously, the Times upset liberal readers by hiring from the WSJ conservative columnist Bret Stephens, a climate change denier handed a Pulitzer Prize in a dubious bipartisan gesture. Salted away on the Times' Saturday op-ed page, Stephens has churned out conservative jeremiads while throwing a few darts at the Trump administration.
While Morgenson's move to the Murdoch-owned WSJ seems strange, Morgenson before her years at the Times had a conservative resume, serving as press secretary for Steve "Flat Tax" Forbes' presidential campaign after a stint at Forbes' magazine.
Despite the pro-business, pro-Trump stance of the WSJ's editorial page, the newspaper continues to produce strong business news reporting, countering staff reductions and revenue losses. It'll be interesting to see if Morgensen is given full rein to cover Trump-era governmental and corporate shenanigans.
For now, Morgenson's move will boost the WSJ's eroding reputation over Baker's editorial meddling. Her loss is a major setback for the Times.