Four years of covering Cuomo as a reporter have put me at his side day after day, week after week, from the Soviet Union to Canada, from San Francisco to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We’ve drunk vodka together at backyard cookouts and in a Leningrad hotel. (Often after a few vodkas, and in other times of reflection, he dwells not on moments of glory but on those of defeat, especially the bitter 1977 New York City mayoral race he lost to Edward I. Koch.) He has fallen asleep next to me on the red-eye flight out of Los Angeles. (He snores.) He has threatened to ruin me for articles he perceived as negative. (”I could end your career. Your publisher doesn’t even know who you are.”) He has offered to have the state police bring me chicken soup when I was home with the flu.
The four years are a roller-coaster ride of images:
Cuomo pacing in his office: ”Lincoln. Lincoln had bad press, too. He wasn’t appreciated until after he was gone.”
Cuomo backstage in seclusion after one of his major speeches, bent over, breathless and spent, like an athlete who has just finished a race.
Cuomo, the lawyer and student of the Vincentians, playing his favorite role, part Socrates and part Clarence S. Darrow, grilling a 10-year-old boy in the halls of the State Capitol: ”And how do you know you’re 10 years old? Your daddy says so? How do you know your daddy’s right?”
Cuomo, at the age of 55, still wearing on his right hand his St. John’s University ring, so deep is his gratitude to the college that transformed a son of poor Italian immigrants into a member of the professional class.
Cuomo, the Roman Catholic and the quick wit, remaining calm as some around him panicked when one of the two engines on his state plane failed: ”What’s the matter? Aren’t you in a state of grace?”
Cuomo making his own coffee in the kitchen of the Executive Mansion on a Saturday morning, then walking through the residence pointing out the nicks in the woodwork left by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wheelchair.
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.”
10. I can now report that I have independently confirmed that Abramson did indeed challenge corporate brass over what she saw as unequal pay
In trying to prove that the ISI knew of Bin Laden’s whereabouts and protected him, I struggled for more than two years to piece together something other than circumstantial evidence and suppositions from sources with no direct knowledge. Only one man, a former ISI chief and retired general, Ziauddin Butt, told me that he thought Musharraf had arranged to hide Bin Laden in Abbottabad. But he had no proof and, under pressure, claimed in the Pakistani press that he’d been misunderstood. Finally, on a winter evening in 2012, I got the confirmation I was looking for. According to one inside source, the ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to handle Bin Laden. It was operated independently, led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He handled only one person: Bin Laden. I was sitting at an outdoor cafe when I learned this, and I remember gasping, though quietly so as not to draw attention. (Two former senior American officials later told me that the information was consistent with their own conclusions.) This was what Afghans knew, and Taliban fighters had told me, but finally someone on the inside was admitting it. The desk was wholly deniable by virtually everyone at the ISI — such is how supersecret intelligence units operate — but the top military bosses knew about it, I was told.
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.”
These were the results of a poll of all New York Times Magazine staff—edit, art, photo & production. We decided to do two lists: ‘Them’ and ‘Us,’ and hopefully that doesn’t get us in trouble with the Longreads governing body.
These were the consensus picks of the staff, with only a little executive tampering. Such as: We decided at the last moment to semi-cheat and put Amy Harmon on the list. Though she is an “us” and not a “them,” we didn’t know a thing about her story until we read it in the newspaper, just like everybody else, and it was too good to leave off a year-end list. You will notice that Paul Ford’s essay fills the “our list is not the same as every other list” slot, but that is not, we swear, the reason it made the cut. It probably provoked as much conversation in our office as any single story this year. It is pure pleasure to read. By the way, we loved a lot from The New Yorker, and we could have justifiably filled all 5 slots with their stories. Though, of course, we would never do that. Also, there will be one staff member made very upset by the exclusion of “Travis the Menace,” by Dan P. Lee in New York magazine. Sorry, pal.
A cutting, high-level look at the current boomlet in the tech biz—the kind that makes you kick yourself till the end for not being smart enough to have pitched it yourself. Ashlee takes a step back from the funding frenzy, sky-high valuations and feverish IPO rumors to examine the current ad-think consuming the tech world. He asks, what if instead of focusing on getting people to click on ads, buy group coupons and digital goods for their virtual farms, our engineers and entrepreneurs were trying to solve big problems in health and science?
I adored this piece because it shed light on a very particular corner of the Web—fanfic—without falling into the clichéd trap of portraying the more obscure recesses of the Internet as a place only inhabited by cr33p3rs and neckbeards. Instead, Lev lightly celebrates the creativity of the subculture and the communities and alternative realities people craft around their favorite characters and books.
I couldn’t get enough of the vivid, and at times lurid, details in this profile of Diane Passage, Ken Starr’s fourth wife. I mean, this phrase alone: “when she laughs, her grapefruit-tree physique bounces merrily,” hooked me, line and sinker. Plus who doesn’t love a sordid glimpse into an underbelly, especially one in New York? The sharp observations and imagery from the first few grafs make you feel like a fly on the wall of a party you didn’t want to go to in the first place but can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.
A heartbreaking read about the gruesome murder of a 18-year-old girl named Kim Proctor and the two teenaged boys who killed her and then bragged about it on World of Warcraft, which ultimately led to their arrest. Kusher smartly weaves the role of technology and the concept of (im)permanence online into the piece for a compelling narrative.
I thought this was one of the most important pieces published this year, along with “The Life of Illegal Immigrant Farmers,” for giving the touchy subject of immigration a living, breathing human face. I read this stunning graf at least a half dozen times:
“And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.”
While I was waiting for my copy of Sullivan’s Pulphead to be delivered, I stumbled across the work of Matt Bell, and immediately devoured two of his Kindle shorts—“A Tree or a Person or a Wall” and “A Long Walk, With Only Chalk to Mark the Way” and could not put them down. For such a stark, minimalist writer, his pieces are so evocative and rich with imagery that its hard not to be sucked into them almost immediately.
I also thought that this year brought out some hilarious and clever writing that touched on the way we consume and use technology and how it’s shaping our interactions, culture and lives.
It’s been an amazing experience. One would not choose to go through it, but I’ve gone through it. It happened. My time came, I guess. From the very moment that I stood on that land mine, that morning on Oct. 23, 2010, I was pretty pragmatic about the whole thing. So many people had been killed around me — friends dying at my feet, no exaggeration — that when it happened to me, I was like: “O.K. My number came up. It’s time to move on.” And here I am, nine months later. I’m standing upright, seeing a lot of wonderful faces looking at me, and it’s an absolute pleasure. It’s been a rough time for the industry. This April in particular was pretty bad. We lost three friends, Tim, Chris and Anton. As it turned out, Libya was a pretty harsh mistress — not only for the foreign expat journalists working there, but for local journalists, too.