Andrew Ross Sorkin speaks at UM

New York Times columnist and book author Andrew Ross Sorkin spoke to a packed auditorium Friday afternoon at the University of Miami’s business school about his best-selling book on the U.S. financial crisis.

Sorkin, who also edits the Times’ influential DealBook blog, provided a behind-the-scenes look at producing his recent book, Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves.

People “opened the kimono in a way I didn’t expect,” Sorkin said.

Some provided him calendars and memos and notes to help build the content of the book, while others participated to try to spin what had happened in a positive light.

“Half my job is trying to spin back,” he said.

The ultimate goal of the book, Sorkin said, was to get the public into the room where decisions were made during the crisis.

“If you want to capture the nuance, you have to be right there,” he said of his in-depth reporting efforts.

Sorkin, a graduate of Cornell with a degree in communication, has 14 years of background with the Times, and has worked at reporting on the financial world for a number of years.

In September 2008, Sorkin found himself in a position that many Americans likely shared.

Frankly, I was freaked out in my mind,” he said of how he felt the morning after Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. “I wanted to talk to someone about it.”

A subsequent conversation with his wife led to the realization that the whole fiasco was like a movie- or as his wife pointed out, more like a book.

That led Sorkin to do more than 500 hours of interviews with around 200 Wall Street and Washington leaders and, ultimately, to write Too Big to Fail.

Yet, Sorkin kept in mind his initial reaction to the crisis and structured his book similarly to the movie Crash, intimately following the stories of several top players in financial decisions.

Too Big to Fail, now No. 4 on the Hardcover Business Best-Seller list, was a feat for Sorkin. Interestingly, he said that the low point of this process was not reporting or researching the book; rather, it was writing it.

“I turned into a college kid,” he said.

He did his best writing between 11 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., snacking on Stacy’s chips and salsa washed down with a diet Coke from the convenience store.

Looking back on the 10-month process, Sorkin said that writing this book was a rewarding experience.

Sorkin’s appearance was well received by those in the audience.

“It’s a terrific opportunity,” said Barbara Kahn, dean of the business school and co-sponsor of the event. “It’s a great thing to co-sponsor with the [communication] school.”