Cover for WELLS: The Enforcers: How Little-Known Trade Reporters Exposed the Keating Five and Advanced Business Journalism. Click for larger image

The Enforcers

How Little-Known Trade Reporters Exposed the Keating Five and Advanced Business Journalism

Lessons from the past and business journalism's bold future

In the 1980s, real estate developer and banker Charles H. Keating executed one of the largest savings and loans frauds in United States history. Keating had long used the courts to muzzle critical reporting of his business dealings, but aggressive reporting by a small trade paper called the National Thrift News helped bring down Keating and offered an inspiring example of business journalism that speaks truth to power.

Rob Wells tells the story through the work of Stan Strachan, a veteran financial journalist who uncovered Keating's misdeeds and links to a group of US senators—the Keating Five—who bullied regulators on his behalf. Editorial decisions at the National Thrift News angered advertisers and readers, but the newsroom sold ownership on the idea of investigative reporting as a commercial opportunity. Examining the National Thrift News's approach, Wells calls for a new era of business reporting that can and must embrace its potential as a watchdog safeguarding the interests of the public.

"By delving into the role of trade press in the Keating and some other scandals, Wells throws a spotlight on the strengths, shortcomings, and blind spots of American journalism. He is rigorous in his reporting and unsparing in both his criticisms and praise. . . . After you read these pages take some time to ponder what Wells reveals and what you can do to improve accountability through journalism as a journalist or a consumer of news and remember that those little trade papers are in many ways bright gems of American journalism."--David Cay Johnston, author of It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America

"Who will hold business accountable? In this groundbreaking study, journalist and scholar Rob Wells looks at the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s and finds newsroom lessons that are as fresh as tomorrow’s headlines. With skill and nuance, Wells explores a long-neglected corner of journalism: the industry trade journals that have long covered America’s corporate world with insight and courage. In the process, he maps out an ideal ecosystem of business investigative coverage that, if implemented, will keep competent watchdogs on the prowl for decades to come."--Diana B. Henriques, author of The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust


Rob Wells is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas and a former journalist with the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, and the Associated Press.

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