Saturday, May 24, 2014

The lesson of today's New York Post Herbalife story

Today Michelle Celarier in the New York Post blew the cover of some fairly harmless anonymous blogger. You can read the story here and the blog here.

The lesson of this story is that the New York Post at an editorial level - and certainly at the Michelle Celarier level does not believe in anonymity.

Given that journalists rely on anonymous sources for stories this is career dangerous.

Michelle Celarier is now - as far as anyone who thinks journalists should protect anonymity is concerned - damaged goods.

It is so sad to see a journalist self-immolate in the pages of her own paper.


PS. For the record I have agreed with the anonymous blogger only sometimes.


Anonymous said...

what do you expect from a newspaper that headlines stories about Lindsey Lohan, UFO's and AROD? #newspapersareobsolete

Anonymous said...

I don't think journalists have ever been concerned about anonymity in general, just that of their sources. Blowing the cover on someone else is fine.

As for the article itself, I don't think it's all that unreasonable to ask questions about a blogger who pumps the stock of a company his girlfriend invests in and somehow gets info before the rest of the world.

No interest in the stock long or shot. I think the whole Herbalife saga is one of the more disgusting ones I've seen in years.

Anonymous said...

Journalists are suppose to protect the anonymity of their sources; Skeptic21 is not a source for the NYPost, he's the subject of the story. I don't see what the problem is here.

What's sad is how Herbalife has turned into such a mud-sling within the investment community. Both the longs and the shorts are willing to twist facts to fit it to their version of the story.

Saj Karsan said...

She's not burning her *own* sources; she's shedding light on a group that appears to be trying to get around a conflict of interest. I'd consider that part of her job.

You've disparaged Ackman quite a bit for his attempted take-down of Herbalife. But is what he's doing any different than what you tried to do to Fairfax? If you've already answered this, my apologies. Please point me to where you have discussed this, as I googled to no avail.

Tom Salvatore said...

TheSkeptic21 was a pompous belligerent cocky braggart who deserved to be outed. And the fact that he was live in partner of a buy side ally of HLF and clearly getting fed info directly or indirectly from the company, he deserves NO anonymity. So, get over yourself and your argument.

Fred Schwed said...

Uh... journalists only have a professional obligation to respect anonymity when the anonymous source contacts them and provides information. Identifying a prominent anonymous blogger is a legitimate news story.

Jake said...

I don't care one way or another, but by posting about am the article in The Post you are doing exactly the same thing.

Anonymous said...

John you have been brave enough to post negative information about companies you thought were up to no good. You did so without cowardly hiding behind the cloak of anonymity and stood up like a man and faced the consequences of stating your opinion publicly.

This gentleman was pumping a stock on which his girlfriends career depended. He failed to disclose this or his girlfriend's relationship with the company.

For him now to cast himself as a victim of a vindictive hedge fund manager rings hollow. Herbalife was clearly using this blog to indirectly attack Ackerman. His girlfriend was using the blog to pump a stock her hedge fund owned. These are clear ethical violations.

John if this had occurred with a stock you were short you'd be outraged. This guy is an insult to you and the work that you do.

Anonymous said...


Can't really see your point of blowing a cover.

The author of the blog was not the source for the NY Post.

Are we missing something here on your post ?

Anonymous said...

Looks like emotion is getting the better of you. I am a fan of your blog but this posting is surprising since she is not outing her own source. Not a fan of hers but it is a shame to see you using bs to further an argument /position.

Andy Feinberg said...

I've been a journalist for more than 35 years and a money manager for 12. The blogger's identity was fair game because he had a flagrant undisclosed conflict of interest. If Herbalife stock went down, his girlfriend could have lost her job. He was much more invested in the outcome than someone who was a mere employee of, or shareholder in, Herbalife.

Imagine if the blogger had been a reporter covering a company in which his girlfriend had a significant financial interest. If someone at the paper found out, he would have been fired immediately. And no sane person in the business would ever trust him again.

I have used and respected anonymous sources dozens of times in my career. But I try to vet them, to figure out if their emotion or position may be clouding their judgment in some way. If you knew the background here, it would be wrong to use the anonymous blogger as a news source because he's biased in such a slimy way.

The whole thing reminds me a bit of when the Whole Foods CEO went online repeatedly under a pseudonym to bash his main competitor. Talk about slimy.

Journalists should protect anonymous sources 100% of the time. Bloggers with a secret agenda forfeit their right to anonymity.

New York City

Anonymous said...

Very strange post. She did not out one of her own sources, which is the unethical behavior you are referring to. Instead she did exactly what good reporters do and outed a sneaky inside source that was up to no good.

Simon said...

I just can't see your point of view on this, John. To me it seems that Michelle Celarier wrote an article that was of interest to many and that she had no duty to Mr Gardner or his partner Ms Chin. It seems very fishy indeed that Ms Chin was unaware of any of her partner's blogging activities or the potential consequences of this (to her future employment in the finance industry). Best of luck to her with their pregnancy btw.

To me it also seems bizarre that some many very smart people are spending so much time, money and effort trying to take down Herbalife, or trying to take down those shorting Herbalife. While this whole entertaining saga has been going on (I was at the VIC when Ackman presented it) I've spent my limited time focusing on cheap value stocks, a few of which have been multi-baggers and recycled capital into new ideas where I stand a good probability of doing the same again with lowish impairment risk.

I understand that you need an ego to operate on the short side, but even big egos should recognise when to be pragmatic and to focus on things that offer better ROI of time and capital.

Anonymous said...

Tom Salvatore should recognize a
pompous belligerent cocky braggart because he himself exhibits those characteristics himself. He has no use for those who disagree with him. Kind of like the pot calling the kettle black.

Rogier van Vlissingen said...

Baloney. This is complete and utter nonsense. Skeptic21 made his own bed, and ended up lying in it. That's nothing to cry over. He was not a "source" for the NYPost, deserving of any protection. He wanted to be a player with his cutesy pseudonym, thinking he could protect his own source and he failed in that, and he got what he deserved for trying to manipulate opinion with insider information, and sometimes erroneous to boot.

Anonymous said...

Well John, looks like it's time for a retraction article. LOL

Anonymous said...

Rogier of course would chime in that what the Post reporter did was fine. What he has failed to acknowledge those is why she did it. It's a known fact that Ackman has had her plant stories in her paper time and time again without her ever acknowledging that fact. So Rogier and the rest of the lemmings find that type of anonymity acceptable.

faust said...

John, you are on the wrong path with this one. The blogger was the subject and not the source. The blogger may have used information to help his girlfriend who was intimately involved with HFL. Overall, it is fair game and I am surprised as how squeamish you are.

Mike said...

You are amazingly emotionally invested in your HLF stock. Once again your view of the US is very weird:
1) No one in this country would ever care what was or wasn't printed in the NYP. It's a tabloid.
2) How do you protect a source that isn't a source? Other people have eloquently pointed this out but your point is just weird from a presumably educated person.
3) HLF is a scam. It's also no big deal in the scheme of things and gives bored people something to do with their day. I struggle to see where the high emotions on all sides are coming from.
4) Don't marry your trades.

General disclaimer

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Hempton. Mr. Hempton may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Hempton's recommendations. The commentary in this blog in no way constitutes a solicitation of business or investment advice. In fact, it should not be relied upon in making investment decisions, ever. It is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.  In particular this blog is not directed for investment purposes at US Persons.