Jill Abramson left the New York Times’s executive editor position today and was replaced by Dean Baquet, the managing editor at the newspaper. At The New Yorker, Ken Auletta writes about what happened behind the scenes:
As with any such upheaval, there’s a history behind it. Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs. “She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect. Sulzberger is known to believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, needed to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson had also been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, having spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, accounting for some of the pension disparity. Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said that Jill Abramson’s total compensation as executive editor “was directly comparable to Bill Keller’s”—though it was not actually the same. I was also told by another friend of Abramson’s that the pay gap with Keller was only closed after she complained. But, to women at an institution that was once sued by its female employees for discriminatory practices, the question brings up ugly memories. Whether Abramson was right or wrong, both sides were left unhappy. A third associate told me, “She found out that a former deputy managing editor”—a man—“made more money than she did” while she was managing editor. “She had a lawyer make polite inquiries about the pay and pension disparities, which set them off.”
One great problem with financial journalism, especially in the decades leading up to the crash, has been that it’s often written in an argot understandable only to the already highly financially literate. Andrew Ross Sorkin doesn’t usually employ such specialized language. This has led to the mistaken belief that he’s explaining the industry to regular people. In fact, he is a dutiful Wall Street court reporter, telling important people what other important people are thinking and saying. At the same time, he is Wall Street’s most valuable flack. He isn’t explaining finance to the people—you’d be better served reading John Kenneth Galbraith to understand how finance works—he’s justifying it.
The modern finance industry is at a loss when it comes to justifying its own existence. Its finest minds can’t explain why we wouldn’t be better off with a much simpler and more heavily circumscribed model of capital formation. Sorkin likewise can’t make his readers fully grasp why the current system—which turns large amounts of other people’s money and even more people’s debt into huge paper fortunes for a small super-elite, and in such a way as to regularly imperil the entire worldwide economic order—is beneficial or necessary. But the New York Times and Wall Street each need him to try.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Jed S. Rakoff, a United States District Judge, looks into why there were no criminal charges against bank executives, despite clear findings of fraud:
In striking contrast with these past prosecutions, not a single high-level executive has been successfully prosecuted in connection with the recent financial crisis, and given the fact that most of the relevant criminal provisions are governed by a five-year statute of limitations, it appears likely that none will be. It may not be too soon, therefore, to ask why.
One possibility, already mentioned, is that no fraud was committed. This possibility should not be discounted. Every case is different, and I, for one, have no opinion about whether criminal fraud was committed in any given instance.
But the stated opinion of those government entities asked to examine the financial crisis overall is not that no fraud was committed. Quite the contrary. For example, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, in its final report, uses variants of the word “fraud” no fewer than 157 times in describing what led to the crisis, concluding that there was a “systemic breakdown,” not just in accountability, but also in ethical behavior.
On the past, present and future of Manny Pacquiao, who was knocked out in December and now is returning to the ring. And despite earning more than $200 million, Pacquiao doesn’t have much of it left:
In the Times article, Michael Koncz, singled out Pacquiao’s Achilles’ heel: “The downfall of Pacquiao, if there is one, will be his kindness and generosity. At some point, I fear that’s going to catch up to him.” Beyond Pacquiao’s generosity, he reportedly squandered millions from gambling. That doesn’t even account for his fleet of cars and extensive property holdings, including houses, condos, apartments and such an intense desire to give his money away to the poor he had to hire people simply charged with the responsibility to apologize and prevent him from throwing money at all the open hands spread out before him.
Why was New York Times CEO Janet Robinson fired? A look inside the political battles and financial troubles that led Arthur Sulzberger to let Robinson go (with a $24 million exit package):
“Interviews with more than 30 people who are intimately familiar with different aspects of the Times’ business (none but a spokesperson would speak for attribution—this is the paper of record, after all) have made it clear that Gonzalez’s rise and Robinson’s fall, and the ensuing leadership vacuum inside the paper, were symptomatic of larger forces at work. Even as a new pay wall was erected on the Times’ website last spring to charge customers for access, the company’s performance, including an alarming dive in print advertising when other media companies were beginning to recover, was faltering, and Sulzberger was under pressure both financial and familial to throw Robinson overboard.
“As the paper’s stock price has declined in recent years, there has been increasing unease among the Ochs-Sulzberger clan, who control the paper through a special class of shares. Three years ago, facing huge debt problems, the company suspended the lucrative stock dividend that once flowed quarterly to the family’s 40-plus members, intensifying the need to solve the intractable advertising problems of the newspaper in the digital age and figure out a way to turn the family’s cash spigot back on. Janet Robinson, the company’s advertising brains, found herself caught between her increasingly remote boss and a frustrated family worried over the future of its 116-year-old fortune.”
Profile of The New York Times’ Gretchen Morgenson
Sarah Menkedick | Longreads | July 2019 | 38 minutes (10,294 words)
For me the low point came two months after publication, at a playground a few blocks from my house. I sobbed on the phone with my sister, eking out incomprehensible sentences about my career this, my life expectations that, writing this, the publishing industry that, until finally my sister said, “Maybe you should look for a different job?” and I realized the jig was up — I was doomed to keep doing this ridiculous and often seemingly pointless thing.
A few weeks before this, I’d received my first letters from readers telling me how much they’d loved and needed the book, and I’d had another sister-to-sister phone call — just as wrought with emotion — in which I raved about all the deeper meaning and purpose of this milestone and how it wasn’t about the sales and the metrics but about what mattered blah blah blah. I ping-ponged like this for awhile, alternately aglow and despondent, hopeful and wretched, until finally I just started writing again and got on with it.
Soraya Roberts | Longreads | April 2019 | 9 minutes (2,392 words)
We all the know the stats, that by 2030 the richest 1 percent could be hoarding two-thirds of the world’s wealth. Tax the rich! Redistribute to the poor! It’s the kind of thing you hear lately set to some lame music in a weirdly cut NowThis News video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Rutger Bregman. (It’s always some scrappy progressive, not some bloated billionaire because, I don’t know, *yawns, eats some cake.*) Perhaps the rich will be moved by the fact that income equality is not only bad for the collective mental health, but their own? No? That the 10 percent’s multiplying accessories — private jets and yachts and enormous holiday homes — hogs nearly half the world’s emissions, killing the earth we all share? No? Nothing? What’s that you say, infrastructure investment started plummeting just as inequality began rising? But all the philanthropy! Which, sure, America’s largest donors may give a little more than before, but they also make way more than they used to. And as Jacobin magazine recently noted, “those nations — mostly in Scandinavia — that have the highest levels of equality and social well-being have the tiniest philanthropic sectors.” When you have equality, you don’t need long Greek words.
To recognize this, as a rich person, you need to have a sort of reverse double consciousness. “Double consciousness” originates with W. E. B. Du Bois, one of the founders of the NAACP, who coined it in 1897 as one way to describe the experience of being an African American in a white supremacist world. In The Atlantic Monthly he defined it as, “…this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others….” The concept is based on being oppressed. What I’m talking about is an inverted version based on being the oppressor. It is the recognition that not only do you have outsized means, but that they come at the expense of others. It requires not only self awareness, but other awareness, and it’s a prerequisite for change.
Roy Disney’s granddaughter, Abigail, for instance, has given $70 million away over the past four decades, which is more than she ever inherited. “The problem is that there’s a systematic favoring of people who have accumulated an enormous amount of wealth,” she tweeted after a viral appearance on CNBC last month in which she said CEOs were overpaid. “The U.S. must make structural changes by taxing the wealthy.” To say that, she had to have had some kind of awakening — but what was it? In her case it was a sudden burst of extraordinary wealth and its human toll — not on others, but on the wealthy themselves. In 1984, when the heiress was in college, Michael Eisner became the chairman and CEO of Disney and launched its stocks into the stratosphere. Abigail’s father embraced the excess income — the too-big private jet, the too-much drinking — and no one questioned him, not even about his alcoholism. “That’s when I feel that my dad really lost his way in life. And that’s why I feel hyperconscious about what wealth does to people,” she recently told The Cut. “I lived in one family as a child, and then I didn’t even recognize the family as I got older.” Read more…
Sometimes the rattle of a clapper sounds over your bed. Or a ghostly draft lifts the hairs on the back of your neck, cooling your skin; or there’s an upstroke, feather light, along the inside of your forearm. A sudden lurch, maybe just a blink, then a sense of falling upward and it is there. So are you.
If we insist on defining something in terms of what it annuls then how can we grasp the essence of what is lost when it shows itself? And how can we tell if there is anything to be gained by its presence? This is the trouble with insomnia.
When I am up at night the world takes on a different hue. It is quieter and closer and there are textures of the dark I have begun paying attention to. I register the thickening, sense-dulling darkness that hangs velvety as a pall over deep night, and the green-black tincture you get when moisture charges the atmosphere with static. Then there is the gently shifting penumbra that heralds dawn and feels less like the suggestion of light than a fuzziness around the edges of your perception, as if an optician had clamped a diffusing lens over your eyes then quizzed you about the blurred shapes that dance at the peripheries of your vision. In sleeplessness I have come to understand that there is a taxonomy of darkness to uncover, and with it, a nocturnal literacy we can acquire. Read more…