There are very few rewards for being a financial journalist. You don’t get rich, unless you are a pretty girl and use your access to wisely marry well (or, at least, wealthy). It doesn’t impress girls much. And your relatives quickly lose their enthusiasm about your job when they realize you can’t pick stocks for them. Even worse, you might get invited to the Financial Follies.
Just as the city hall press crew gets to have it’s Inner Circle follies and the Washington press corps throws the famous Gridiron dinner, New York's financial media has an annual rubber chicken dinner of its own. Each year, on the Friday before Thanksgiving, the Financial Writer’s Association throws something called “the Follies.”
[More on this after the jump]
Here’s how it works. A bunch of companies, mostly PR firms representing the companies the journalists write about, buy tables at the Marriott Marquis’ banquet hall and invite a gaggle of reporters. One difference between the City Hall or Washington events is that none of the important people show up. The President, the Federal Reserve Chairman and the Senate leadership go to the Gridiron dinner. None of Wall Street��s titans go to the Follies.
And even the hacks in attendance seem embarrassed to be there. We were asked if we were going by nearly everyone we know in the financial journalism business—and we don’t know that many—and when we told them we don’t get invited to things like this they seemed envious.
“The real entertainment is to be had playing such games as: Who is dressed most age-inappropriately? Who's going to break down first in a drunken stupor/rage/hissy-fit and say they hate their boss? Who's going to pair up with who that night?” Crain’s Business reporter Aaron Elstein told us.
As is usually the case, the real fun starts after the event when the attendees filter out into various after-parties. There are always some corporate and PR firm sponsored events in the hotel, of course. But you have to go offsite to find the real darkness at the heart of financial reporters. In the past, one of the best events was hosted by CNBC’s Charlie Gasparino. Sometimes it was at the Russian Samovar Bar. Sometimes at O'Flaherty's Bar on 46th street. These were the types of parties where reporters, a bit too deep into their cups, would wind up ripping into each other with insults that were probably much wittier under the influence than on sober reflection. At one corporate event at the Hudson Hotel, one woman wound up passing out at the bar.
It sounds like this year lived up to its promise because when we tried to contact several reporters late on Friday night to get the dirt, very few of them answered voicemails, text messages or emails. We take that to mean that everyone was so deep in the sauce that they couldn’t figure out how to drunk dial us back. So we’re making an open appeal to the folks we don’t know well enough to call from Barramundi at 1 in the morning: give us the dirt please.
If it sounds dirty enough we might even show up next year.