Wall Street has been on a historic roller coaster all week, and there's no doubt it's tiring out some business reporters. It was only Monday morning that Times business writer Andrew Ross Sorkin said on CNBC, where he puts in the extra multimedia shift now common to newspaper reporters, that he was operating on just two hours sleep. So perhaps it should not have been entirely surprising that the Times business desk printed Thursday a sensational quote it has now retracted, because it seems no one ever said it.
A team of Sorkin, Ben White and Eric Dash reported that Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack (pictured) had said to the CEO of Citigroup, "we need a merger partner or we're not going to make it."
As it happens, the quote reflected prevailing market thoughts about Morgan Stanley. But it turns out the Times had it from two sources who had not heard it directly and have now backed off their assertions.
The paper said in a special editor's note this morning that "the Times should have asked Morgan Stanley for comment and should not have used the quotation without verifying that the two people had direct knowledge of any comments made by Mr. Mack."
The Times would be well advised to pack its business reporters off for some rest this weekend — if it weren't for the ever-present danger it could turn into a frantic period of negotiation like last weekend. Maybe everyone can sleep in shifts or something.