Every year in mid-March a few dozen financial journalists from around the country gather at the University of California, Los Angeles, Anderson School of Business.
Our job is to pick the finalists for the Gerald Loeb awards, a national program administered by UCLA. Because the weather in Westwood is a heck of a lot better than it is in Manhattan or Washington, D.C., the Loebs draw a big crowd — which means a local journalist like me gets to sit at the table with people with way bigger jobs than mine.
This year, it also meant we got to learn from them about the economy’s far-reaching impact.
That’s why the difference between March 2008 and March 2009 is so striking. A year ago, while we were enjoying a Sunday evening reception near campus, Bear Stearns was collapsing.
There was a palpable tension in the air as most of us knew it might not end with Bear. A year later, Wachovia, IndyMac, Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers have failed or been merged.
This year’s Loeb panels were held March 16. It was not fear but anger and recrimination that were the dominant themes. AIG’s bonuses are the outrage of the week, but last week it was Jon Stewart of the Daily Show taking on Jim Cramer, the self-made pundit whose rants on CNBC drive traditionalists like me absolutely bonkers.