Dan Dorfman (1929-2012) Gave To The Masses What Was Known To A Chosen Few
The financial journalist Dan Dorfman died this past weekend at 82. Dan was known for reporting stock market takeover rumors and other news that would cause stocks to skyrocket or fall. Dan wrote the Wall Street Journal’s “Heard on the Street” column in the ’70s and later worked at CNBC in the ’90s.
I had the honor and pleasure of working with Dan in the ’80s when I was the Producer of Moneyline at CNN and Dan was one of our nightly commentators. I would speak to Dan (or his kind assistant Jeannette Walls, who later became a MSNBC gossip columnist and New York Times best selling author for her memoir, “The Glass Castle”) almost daily to find out what story he was planning to report on and order up any necessary graphics. I’d wait until after the markets had closed, because I didn’t want to know about Dan’s info while the market was open, so I could avoid even the appearance of anything unethical.
Dan was always so excited about his stories, sometimes breathless. When he arrived, he was always so full of energy and humor. In his segments at Moneyline, he reported some big scoops. Sometimes he was right, and sometimes he got it wrong. But he always had a purpose. He really wanted the little guy, the small investor to have the same knowledge as the big guys.
In an interview in 2008, he said “On my tombstone, I would like it to read, ‘Here lies Dan Dorfman, a reporter who cared.’ All that I’ve tried to do is to give to the masses what was known to a chosen few. That was my contribution.” It certainly was. And it lead the way for many business journalists who came after him.
Dan would always come up with something for the show, even if it was last minute and changed several times. One night, it might be one big takeover scoop. Other nights, when he didn’t have something great, he would string five minor stories together to fill his slot. He knew those weren’t his best nights.
Or, he would share a research report that only the big institutional investors would get. You have to remember it was a very different time back then, with no Internet and all the small investor had to rely on was a daily newspaper, weekly magazine or our nightly tv show.
I heard that Dan Dorfman was the basis of one of the scenes in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street movie. As I recall, traders are heard leaking some news to a financial reporter, and everyone on Wall Street knew Dan Dorfman would be that reporter in real life.
Dan told me a story that for some reason I remember to this day. Dan once had this new fancy luxury car and we’d heard he got it from one of his employers. I asked him, “How did you get that into your contract?” He said “I just asked for it. You won’t get things unless you ask for them.” Back then, his employers knew how valuable Dan was and wanted to give him what he asked for so he could keep bringing his scoops to the public.
Source: The New York Times