Tag Archives: New York Times
by Liz Hester
Each year the honor, SABEW’s highest, is given to someone “who has made a significant impact on the field of business journalism and who has served as a nurturing influence on other in the profession.”
Henriques has written four books, including the most recent “The Wizard of Lies” about Bernard Madoff.
She started at the Times in 1989 and specializes in writing about white-collar crime, market regulation and corporate governance. She was a member of the teams that were Pulitzer Prize finalists for coverage of the 2008 financial crisis and the Enron scandal.
She serves on the SABEW board of governors and the board of trustees at George Washington University.
To close the evening, Jill Abramson, executive editor of the Times, interviewed Henriques about how she got into journalism and accountability.
When asked what drew her to business journalism, Henriques said it was a “fascination with the con artist” and a low threshold for outrage.
“It’s a morally fascinating environment,” she said. “If profit maximization is the name of the game, how do you keep people honest? How do you keep them from maximizing their own profit at your expense.”
Of business journalism, Henriques said, “It’s an enormous amount of fun and enormously important that people understand it.”
The conversation then turned to Henriques’ book on Madoff and how she got him to talk to her. (Madoff is no longer speaking to her.) Her advice was to be persistant and not take no for an answer. It took months to convince him and his lawyers to cooperate with her.
After finally getting approval to meet with him, she recounted the trials of going into the prison, without a recording device, and having the prison approve pen, pad and files to be brought into the visitor’s room.
She also discussed how she connected with him and the questions she asked Madoff in the short period of time she had with him. Some of the harder questions, she saved for the end of the interview.
One was about the beginning of the fraud. Madoff told her he couldn’t remember the moment when he turned from being an honest broker to running a Ponzi scheme.
Henriques said she didn’t believe it possible not to remember the moment and that’s when she realized he was lying about how it started. This was the issue that caused Madoff to stop talking to her — not the book’s publication.
by Chris Roush
Deborah Needleman, the editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal’s style magazine WSJ., has been hired to run T: The New York Times Style Magazine.
Christine Haughneyof The Times writes, “Ms. Needleman will replace Sally Singer, a former Vogue editor who left The Times in August after running the T magazines for two years.
“Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, said she expects Ms. Needleman to help drive T’s expansion.
“‘Deborah is a creative and innovative editor with an impeccable sense of style and design,’ Ms. Abramson said in a statement. ‘As we look to expand and extend T and continue to evolve it for our loyal and sophisticated New York Times audience, we will rely on Deborah’s broad range of experience and creative energy. She is coming on board to strengthen the franchise and re-imagine its future on all platforms.’
“In addition to running the Journal’s style magazine, WSJ, Ms. Needleman oversees the paper’s weekend lifestyle section, called Off Duty. Earlier in her career she founded the style and decorating magazine Domino, and was an editor at large for House & Garden. She also co-authored ‘The Domino Book of Decorating’ and wrote ‘The Perfectly Imperfect Home.’”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Carr writes, “Quartz is the company’s effort to take advantage of a changed environment, not just in publishing, but in the world at large. The editorial product is aimed at the front half of airplanes that crisscross from Zurich to São Paulo to Singapore, serving executives who are increasingly having similar conversations no matter where they land. It was built for tablets, conceived as a mobile product for mobile people.
“‘This is a global audience, one that is growing very rapidly,’ Mr. Smith said. ‘When you walk through a busy Asian airport, nobody is talking about or thinking about the American economy. The world has gotten much bigger than that.’
“Quartz is staffed by 20 journalists, including Kevin Delaney, its editor in chief, who was managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Online, and Gideon Lichfield, global news editor, who was deputy digital editor and media editor at The Economist. Of course, Quartz won’t have the financial data resources of Dow Jones, Reuters or Bloomberg, but Mr. Delaney suggested that data is ubiquitous while real insight on the news is a rare commodity.
“‘Any good blog or magazine has defining obsessions, and we’ll structure around the ones that we think smart, globally minded people will be interested in,’ he said.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Deborah Needleman, the editor of WSJ. magazine, has been offered the job as editor of the New York Times’ T magazine, reports Joe Pompeo of Capital New York.
Pompeo writes, “It’s unclear what the exact status of the deal is; sources cautioned that anything could still happen. And Needleman, reached on her cell phone, hung up before I could ask. Later, responding to an email about whether she’d accepted an offer from the Times, Needleman wrote: ‘That is not true.’ She did not immediately respond to follow-ups asking for confirmation that the offer was on the table, but I’ll update if I hear back.
“The Times declined to comment on the matter. A spokesperson for The Journal likewise did not immediately have a comment.
“The timing, of course, is a bit awkward: It’s Fashion Week, for which Needleman is WSJ.’s ambassador. But Needleman had been floated early on as a possible successor to Singer. And getting her would be a huge coup for the Times, which has been struggling to increase its advertising revenue with T as the Journal is making significant gains under Needleman with WSJ. The Journal magazine was launched as a major initiative of the company in 2008, after Rupert Murdoch took over the paper. Needleman, formerly editor of the late Conde Nast shopping title Domino, became the editor of WSJ. in 2010.
“Both magazines are meant to bring new revenues to their parent publications with lucrative luxury advertising, commanding high prices for large, glossy pages full of high-end fashion and design photography that doesn’t share space with the type of horrifying news from around the world that has often repelled luxury brands.”
Read more here.
The bride, according to news reports, wore an ivory antique-lace blouse and a blue and ivory silk brocade skirt belonging to her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Roberts Clark.
The groom, a seventh-generation Kentuckian, was an award-winning journalist and editor – a protégé of Henry Luce – the founder of Time, Fortune and Life magazines.
Both bride and groom had been married previously, and among those participating in the service conducted in the bride’s Manhattan home were the groom’s three children, Anne, Crane and Gardiner.
At the time, in March 1979, Gardiner was 15 years old. He was raised on his dad’s Todd County (Ky.) farm, where he learned to cut and hang tobacco.
It’s hard to imagine what must have been careening through Gardiner’s head on that festive Saturday in the Big Apple – only slightly more than two years since his mother, Sheila Hawkins Harris, died of cancer at age 50.
What a whirlwind experience it must have been to leap from the fields of a Kentucky tobacco farm to the upper echelons of Manhattan society, all while coping with the loss of his mother and the creation of a new, merged family identity.
Gardiner’s new step-mom, Ann R. Roberts, went by and still uses her grandmother’s maiden name. Ann’s mother, was Mary Clark (Roberts) Rockefeller, wife of Nelson A. Rockefeller, former vice president of the United States and governor of New York State. Ann’s politician father was a grandson of John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil Co. and progenitor of one of the world’s great family fortunes – worth nearly $200 billion in 2012 dollars.
At the time that Gardiner’s father, T. George Harris, married into the Rockefeller clan, Gardiner’s new step-mom was president of the Rockefeller Family Fund. (Nelson had died only two months earlier.)
Interesting family ties? No doubt.
But is this background on Gardiner Harris, now 48, and the recently named India correspondent for The New York Times, anyone’s business – especially his readers and story subjects?
For the more than a dozen years that Gardiner covered science, medicine and food for the Times – and prior to that The Wall Street Journal – did anyone of the folks he contacted professionally or those who read his probes of the pharmaceutical industry and public health have a need to know about these aspects of his personal life?
Is their a right to personal privacy on the part of influential journalists, whose job it is – in part – to explore similar possible influences on the lives and actions of public figures, especially those in positions of prominence, such as the CEOs of major corporations and elected officials?
I have found no mention of Gardiner’s family circumstances in his official Times biographies over the years or in promotional materials for his first novel, Hazard, published in 2010.
A 2008 Times “Ask a Reporter” official bio does note that Gardiner was captain of the swimming team at private Trinity (High) School in Manhattan and that he sang in the choir and was active in theater.
Neither Gardiner nor the Times apparently deemed it any of the public’s business that through his father’s marriage, Gardiner’s family circle included some of the largest shareholders in Exxon Mobil Corp., and the owners of a 3,500 acre estate in Westchester, N.Y., on the Hudson River, that includes a 50-room mansion, a private golf course, six swimming pools and 80 miles of trails and carriage roads.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Gardiner’s step-mom – representing the Rockefeller families’ interests – attended and spoke at the May 2009 annual meeting of Exxon Mobil.
In thinking about his mother’s passing when Gardiner was only 13 years old, one might wonder if all the health officials and pharmaceutical executives that Gardiner interviewed prior to his reassignment to India had a clue about who – if anyone – Gardiner blamed for his mother’s death? Did Gardiner harbor resentment toward the medical establishment? And, even if he did, did it impact his reporting?
Would any different business-health reporter, say one whose middle-class parents are both still living and well, have reported any differently had they – not Gardiner – been assigned to cover the stories he was assigned to chronicle? If the sources he interviewed had known his family history, would they have treated him any differently? More openly perhaps? Less openly?
Who can say?
It feels like being a quasi-Rockefeller would make some difference in how a journalist views everyday topics, such as executive compensation and environmental and health regulation. Ditto, having such a harsh exposure to the medical establishment at such an impressionable age might color one’s thinking when covering that same establishment as an investigative reporter.
But I’m not a psychiatrist. I don’t know if such a distinctive background would make Gardiner (or anyone else) more likely to be sympathetic on certain issues or more naturally antagonistic.
In the end, I simply sense that if I were briefing a Fortune 500 CEO who is about to sit for a long interview with Gardner, I would feel I am doing my job more thoroughly if I mention his family history ahead of briefing the CEO on Gardiner’s role on the Trinity swim team.
Speaking of thoroughly briefing a Fortune 500 CEO. In my next column, I’ll give you a head’s up on why you might remind your executives to avoid disparaging the global-warming crowd on your company’s next high-level visit to Bloomberg News.
by Liz Hester
On a recent trip to New York, I was sitting out a two-hour plane delay watching the U.S. Open and drinking a beer.
Half of the screens in the bar were tuned into the NFL’s opening game. What follows is my best reconstruction of the conversation between two guys standing behind me:
Guy 1: Move it, move it, move it….they’ve got to get the ball down the field!
Guy 2: Run! Run!
Guy 1: Did you see (insert important designer name) and the new collection?
Guy 2: No, but it’s hard with football and fashion….
Guy 1: I know! They really should delay Fashion Week until after the NFL season starts.
Guy 2: Actually, they should just delay the NFL start until after Fashion Week.
Guy 1: So true.
My first thought was, “Seriously?” My second was, “I don’t know any man who would beg to delay the start of football for clothes.”
And then it hit me: fashion is now a huge spectator sport, which makes it big business, and big for business journalism.
The Wall Street Journal has an entire Fashion section – at least online. Its WSJ. magazine is very fashion-centric. The paper’s PR staff even sent out a release Thursday detailing its plans for Fashion Week coverage, which ranges from video packages to blogs to Twitter feeds and, oh yeah, a dedicated URL — http://wsj.com/fashionweek.
The New York Times devotes two sections a week to Style and typically covers the shows in Paris, London, Milan and New York.
Just take a look at the numbers for New York’s version of Fashion Week compiled by The Guardian. That’s $20 million funneling into the local economy. It’s estimated that women’s fashion will be a $620 billion industry in 2014.
There’s even a global series of events to promote the culture of spending called Fashion’s Night Out. Held across the globe, the event started in 2009 by Vogue’s Anna Wintour, showcases designers and draws thousands to stores. As the Associated Press reported:
On Twitter, Fashion’s Night Out’s hashtag, (hash)FNO, was one of the top trending keywords. Laura Ashley tweeted about goodie bags while designer shoe label Christian Louboutin shared a special Fashion’s Night Out Spotify playlist.
Kelly Talamas, director of Vogue Mexico & Latin America, said that last year’s Fashion’s Night Out boosted local sales. For its second year, Fashion’s Night Out Mexico more than doubled the number of participating stores, to 250 from 100 in 2011. FNO Mexico will also expand to the Mexican city of Guadalajara, where activities will be held Sept. 13.
But it’s not just the mega stores and brands that are now getting in on the action. Recently, the Journal wrote a story about the increasing pace of young fashion designers putting out collections:
The voracious appetite for newness from retailers, fashion magazines and the fashion blogosphere is also pushing younger designer labels to grow up much faster than labels that launched in the 1980s and ’90s. Unlike other industries, it isn’t production breakthroughs spurring the pace of product launches. Instead, the change is more about the style sector’s lightning-speed buzz factor: Today’s wannabe is tomorrow’s in-demand designer who is increasingly striking with new lines while the iron is hot.
Decreasing the cycle and putting out more items spurs consumers to purchase more in order to stay on top of the trends. And none of that really includes knock-offs and the huge market for cheaply made goods emulating top designers’ looks.
But it seems, the only way to make money in fashion is to mass-produce it. Adam Davidson’s piece in the Times magazine about what goes into a $4,000 bespoke suit points out that makes of custom, labor-intensive items aren’t getting rich off their work. But Marc Jacobs is worth about $100 million.
And fashion houses will do a lot to protect their income, brands and images. Covering the recent court case between Christian Louboutin SA and Yves Saint Laurent over the use of red soles, WSJ’s Chad Bray writes:
The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday found that Louboutin had the right to trademark protection for its red soles, as long as they contrasted with the rest of the shoe. However, the ruling, while in its favor, fell short of Louboutin’s goal of keeping YSL’s red-soled, monochrome shoe off the market.
Given the number of women buying shoes as status symbols, it could cost Louboutin thousands of dollars in sales if YSL takes some of their business. Or it could be that women will decide they want shoes with blue soles.
It’s hard to say, but what’s sure is that people will continue to buy, and that’s good for business.
by Liz Hester
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s speech in Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Friday revealed the central bank was poised to take further action to help the economy. In what several described as uncharacteristically strong language, Bernanke called continuing high unemployment rate a “grave concern” and indicated the bank was poised to take action to stimulate the lagging economy.
Bernanke said that while the Fed’s monetary policy had helped the economy, it was clear that more action was necessary and that potential gains outweighed the costs of doing so.
Many organizations covering his speech indicated that Bernanke was going to have a harder time selling the benefits of this policy to an increasingly skeptical public. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Jon Hilsenrath said:
But economists and central bankers wondered more openly than usual if the Fed had the tools to fix the problems of the day and expressed frustration that four years of super low interest rates and extraordinary money-pumping by the Fed hadn’t done more to spur the slow-moving economy.
In a post for the New York Times’ Economix blog, Binyamin Appelbaum wrote that most attendees at the conference agreed the action the Fed was considering wouldn’t do enough to fix the economy.
What more can be done? Well, pretty much everyone here is upset about the breakdown of fiscal policy, which is becoming a principal drag on growth.
Indeed, quite a few attendees regard that as the entire issue. They do not agree on what fiscal policies are needed. (The grab bag includes tax cuts and spending increases, household debt reduction and government debt reduction.) But they do agree that monetary policy has basically done (almost) all that it can.
Appelbaum goes on to write about several options proposed to stimulate the economy including one from Michael Woodford, a Columbia University professor, who said the Fed could lift growth now by indicating it would tolerate inflation in the future after the economy begins to recover.
San Francisco Fed President John Williams, who joined several others in encouraging a plan for open-ended bond-buying was quoted in a Bloomberg News story as saying the program could be larger than QE2.
One of the problems with this plan is that it may not work. As the Wall Street Journal reported:
The key problem, said University of Chicago professor Amir Sufi, is that households burdened by heavy debt loads aren’t responding to low interest rates by spending more, as typically happens in a crisis. They need to reduce their debt first, he said. “I’m not so convinced that monetary policy can play a big role,” he said.
And that’s the real point. The Fed may not have a lot of options left, but neither to most people. Monetary policy is falling short in terms of fixing the economy. As the Times reported:
Donald L. Kohn, a former Fed vice chairman, asked Saturday why the Fed’s unprecedented efforts so far had produced “so little growth.”
“The fact that we keep trying to bring spending from the future to the present with lower and lower interest rates, are there diminishing returns?” he asked. “There’s a lot we don’t understand and it’s hard to make policy if you don’t.”
It’s likely that markets will give the Fed’s plans a lackluster welcome and will remain volatile going into last quarter of the year. But given the tepid recovery and that the economy continues to limp along, it’s obvious that monetary policy can only go so far to stimulate the economy.
by Liz Hester
The New York Times published a front-page piece on Aug. 13 about credit cards and robo-signing.
Banks got in trouble for improper reviews of foreclosure documents and now it seems that practice extended beyond the mortgage area at some firms. The article by Jessica Silver-Greenberg alleges that companies like American Express and Discover are using false documents, generic testimony and incomplete records to collect debt from delinquent cardholders.
The story cites “interviews with dozens of state judges, regulators and lawyers” saying flaws in credit card records are become more prevalent and that some judges are finding witnesses giving similar testimony in different cases. It includes an interview with Noach Dear, a civil court judge in Brooklyn, saying that about 90 percent of the cases are flawed and can’t prove how much money people actually owe.
What the story doesn’t include is any mention of Jeff Horwitz’s American Banker series about this topic, the first of which ran in January. Horwitz focused his first story on a JPMorgan Chase unit, which stopped collecting certain types of debt. (His stories can be found here, here, here, here and here. They’re all outside the American Banker paywall.)
In the next piece Horwitz looked at a case, which Dear threw out and said had evidence of “robo-testimony” or the same person giving similar testimony in various cases, that wound up in Dear’s courtroom. He points out the case could be a fluke, or could point to early warning signs of robo-signing in other areas. That article talks about “a growing number of judges, state attorneys general, federal agencies, consumer attorneys and academics are concluding that banks may be susceptible to similar claims in other areas of consumer lending, including the credit card market.”
It’s clear that Horwitz was first to the story and deserves credit for his work. Combing through court papers, he found the original JPMorgan Chase case and then continued to follow up on the story in several articles. The Times did add information advancing the story and deserves credit for that, but so does the American Banker for running the first story on the topic.
Obviously, journalism is competitive. Being first on a big story sells papers, gets clicks and causes people to tune in. It also elevates the publication and helps establish both journalist and outlet as part of the conversation. But the courtesy and transparency of letting those readers or viewers know the original source of the information should be upheld. It’s respectful to credit the work of other journalists and gives consumers a way to trace stories back to their original source.
With the rise of bloggers and commentators, being able to find the origin of information becomes even more critical. It helps consumers evaluate for themselves the truth as well as the reporting backing up the story. As more people enter the conversation, being able to talk about the beginning and view original sources makes sure other reporters and consumers can properly evaluate the information.
This isn’t the first time and won’t be the last where a news organization doesn’t credit another outlet with information, but it should be held responsible for the oversight.
Other blogs and news outlets cited Horwitz’s work by name, giving credit where it’s due, shouldn’t others uphold that standard of transparency?
by Chris Roush
Arthur Brisbane, the public editor of the New York Times, writes Sunday about how business journalists decipher earnings releases into stories.
Brisbane writes, “If you are a reader of these stories, you can be forgiven for not knowing what to think. The problem is not new, but it is changing. Veteran business journalists trace some of the difficulty to the dot-com boom, when tech companies convinced analysts and journalists that plain old net income, the standard measure of profit, wasn’t as important as the clever new metrics they were introducing.
“Dean Starkman, who runs the blog The Audit for The Columbia Journalism Review, recalled the period as a time when some companies touted results ‘based on everything but net income: eyeballs and clicks and traffic; this, that and the other.’
“‘It has always been this cat and mouse thing,’ added Mr. Starkman, who at the time reported for The Journal, in which ‘reporters are hopefully trying to figure out the actual performance of the company in the previous quarter and managers are trying to put the best spin on it. Analysts had a third job, which is to try and forecast the future prospects. So to do that, they might strip out all sorts of things.’
“Stripping things out often meant assembling a picture of the company’s financial performance, minus the bad things. Bingo: rosy results and prospects.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
New York Times tech columnist David Pogue is asking his readers to help him find his lost iPhone.
“A few minutes later, Pogue added an update on the hunt: ‘Here’s the larger view of where my iPhone is currently held hostage, to show you the city.’
“Pogue did not immediately respond for a request for more details.
“If you’re in the neighborhood approach with caution, of course.”
Read more here.