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Peter Orszag’s Relationship With The Fourth Estate Is Nothing New

Revelations that Obama’s adorkable budget director Peter Orszag was getting married to one woman and having a baby with another elicited advice and scorn, but raises the question: what is it about business nerds that attracts female reporters?

Orszag’s relationship with ABC financial reporter Bianna Golodryga—who he met at the White House Correspondents Dinner–is not the first time that a business reporter has married a financial newsmaker on her beat.

Ben Shapiro at Big Journalism points out that Golodryga is following in well-trod footsteps, pointing to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and her marriage to Fed chief Alan Greenspan as part of a liberal conspiracy for journalists to cozy up to their liberal sources (he also criticizes Christiane Amanpour‘s relationship with former State Department spokesman Jamie Rubin and even Peter Jennings dating former Palestine Liberation Organization spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi).

The Orszag/Golodryga relationship has odd echoes to problems that circled around Golodryga’s former boss at CNBC, Maria Bartiromo. Bartiromo is married to financial investment services company head Saul Steinberg. There were also rumors of an affair with Citigroup’s Todd Thomson and criticism of Bartiromo’s Ben Bernanke scoop from the White House Correspondents Dinner that jolted markets in 2006.

So what’s a finance nerd supposed to do when he has eyes for a reporter who covers finance and economics? The better question is how do you explain it. In today’s New York Times, reporter Mark Leibovich quotes OMB spokesman Kenneth S. Baer saying he is now dodging Inside Edition. “Trying to explain the sustainable growth rate in Medicare is challenging,” he told the NYT. “But this is different.” Leibovich also drops the news that Orszag–who appears to have serious dating and work stamina–dated the Washington Post‘s publisher Katharine Weymouth.

The larger journalism question, as Big Journalism points out, is whether journalists should be dating the people they cover at all. While I’ve attended the White House Correspondents Dinner, I’ve never been lured into an affair with someone I met there (although I had a charming conversation with Justice Antonin Scalia and shared a martini with Chris Meloni and some guys from the television show The West Wing). I have, however, gotten some “scoops” from the people I took to the dinner, although none rocked the financial markets.

The concern for Orszag and Golodryga is whether his job compromises her reporting. Mitchell and Greenspan got around it, sort of, by not having Mitchell cover the Fed when he was in charge. But if you are a financial reporter, how do you avoid conflicts when you are dating–and soon married to–the guy who oversees the federal budget which effects almost everything on the finance beat? Can readers and viewers trust your reporting when you are romancing your sources?

Maybe Golodryga will get reassigned to a different beat that doesn’t involve covering the Obama administration or finances. Maybe Orszag will quit his job so his new wife–who probably makes more money–can avoid the conflicts. Or maybe they will just keep doing what they are doing. After all, Inside Edition likely has the cell phone number of Orszag’s spokesman on speed dial.

 

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