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Madoff & More: Lessons from a Professional

October 11, 2012
by Kellie McGuire

Henriques signing copies of her new book. (Photo Credit: Regina Iannizzotto)

There are lessons to be learned not only about Bernie Madoff, but also lessons that can be learned from Bernie Madoff.

That was the theme last Thursday night when Diana B. Henriques spoke at The College of Saint Rose to help raise funds for the Women’s Press Club of New York’s Scholarship Endowment Fund. Henriques is a reporter for the New York Times, and author of The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust.
Henriques also met with Saint Rose Communications students Friday morning for a talk about journalism and the media.

Henriques graciously spoke for more than an hour  about her book The Wizard of Lies, the lessons she learned about Madoff and Wall Street while writing, as well as life lessons she learned in the process.
Lessons like: “If you see it coming you are dealing with an amateur;” and about real con men are like Bernie Madoff. No one saw him coming.

The painful lesson that people cannot place their “trust in some sort of Wall Street honor code, some unwritten commitment to neither lie, cheat, or steal nor tolerate those who do.”

She also pointed out that there were lessons not learned from Madoff  that should have been. The politicians have “financial amnesia,” Henriques said. “Regulation has dropped off the political radar.” Except the promise to repeal Dodd-Frank, regulation is not mentioned on the Presidential campaign trail this fall.

“Regulation was so relaxed in finance that it led to the perfect storm. We have, in less than four years, forgotten those lesson,” said Richard King, of Providence Street, in the Pine Hills.

There was a crash course about the wizards in people’s lives: Wizards are those people who seem so good, so much better than, almost magical, that people give them leeway and trust them, Henriques said. Mozart, Hamilton, Jefferson, Newton, the young Tiger Woods, and Wayne Gretzky, are the true magicians. Bernie Madoff was not. He just seemed like the wizard of Wall Street, according to Henriques.

Lessons King took away from the evening: “Don’t trust the wizards. And it is fear not greed that leads to bad decisions.”

“The magic spell that keeps us safe from the occasional evil wizard is not suspicion it is humility” Henriques said and “rules for personal conduct.”

And finally, a lesson on perseverance: It took 18 months for Henriques to get the first interview with Madoff. Her book deadline was looming and she just kept writing letters to him, and writing, and writing, and writing. Then, just weeks before her deadline she got the interview.

Henriques speaking about her latest book to the audience at Thursday’s night event in the Touhey Forum. (Photo Credit: Regina Iannizzotto)

“The lesson to young journalists – never give up. Never, ever give up- just keep at it” Henriques said while telling the tale of writing her latest book.

The lessons in Friday morning’s talk focused on the three jobs of reporting: time management, source management, and story telling.

“I will use her tools in my future,” said Jackson Wang, executive editor of the Saint Rose Chronicle. “The step-by-step goals to achieving success.”

Henriques presentation skills were instructional too. She spoke in a clear, concise way about complicated subjects. She not only stated the importance of writing for the general reader but also demonstrated it.

“The biggest lesson I learned was to do more writing,” said Joshua Natoli, sports editor at The Chronicle. He said he wants to “find myself- my style.”

“The key lesson Diana gave was on the importance of learning how to learn! Journalism is all about learning new topics in order to translate them into language that non-professionals can understand,” said Jeannie Cross, a member of the Women’s Press Club of New York‘s Scholarship Foundation Committee.

Through these two events the Saint Rose community had lessons about: Wall Street, banking and finance, journalism, keeping out of the clutches of con men and wizards, success, writing, and sources.

According to Henriques the way journalists should rate their sources is not by how many phone numbers they have but rather:
“How many people are familiar enough with you that they will put forth some effort for you?”

Clearly, not just a journalism lesson but a life lesson too. -30-


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