What exactly is the Wall Street Journal trying to say?
A well-lawyered newspaper distinguishes itself by the way it writes around something.
The Wall Street Journal's opening coverage of the corporate shake-up at Citigroup appeared in its Jan. 23 edition, where the paper noted the "ouster" of Citigroup executive Todd Thomson.
The paper didn't explain exactly why Thomson had been ousted but allowed that it "came amid internal tension over his judgment and expenses, including use of Citigroup's corporate jet, people familiar with the matter said." The next sentence offered an example of Thomson's bad-judgment jetting, reporting:
On one business trip in November, for instance, Mr. Thomson flew with a group of Citigroup employees to China—and left them there to make their own flight arrangements home, at the company's expense, while he flew back on the corporate jet with Maria Bartiromo, a CNBC correspondent, one of these people said.
It's fair to assume that Thomson and Bartiromo flew back alone, even though the piece doesn't say so. It merely states that Thomson left behind the group with whom he flew to China. But by not overtly stating Thomson and Bartiromo's aloneness, the Journal has it both ways: It's not saying the two were romantically linked, and it's not saying they weren't.
The Journal followed its Citigroup story the next day, Jan. 24, reporting that Thomson "had used more than $5 million from his division's marketing budget to sponsor a new television program for the Sundance Channel." One of the program's hosts was to be Bartiromo.
Deeper into the story, the Journal offers these two paragraphs (emphasis added):
Inside the bank, Mr. Thomson's friendship with Ms. Bartiromo became an issue. When Mr. Druskin, then Citigroup's investment-banking chief, took his management team to a holiday dinner in 2005 at the ritzy Daniel restaurant, he spotted Mr. Thomson having dinner with the CNBC anchor [Bartiromo], according to people familiar with the situation. Word of the sighting spread through Citigroup the next day. A Citigroup spokeswoman says Mr. Druskin has no comment.
In recent months, some Citigroup executives advised Mr. Thomson to reduce his contact with Ms. Bartiromo, a person familiar with the matter says. But he justified the outings as good for business because clients enjoyed access to the CNBC anchor, according to another person with knowledge of the matter. Mr. Thomson noted to associates that his unit was showing better growth than any other Citigroup businesses, this person says.