Finding Stimulation in the Stimulus, NYT Peddles Ec Porn

Journalism has always wrestled with the tension between finding fresh, new angles on stories and perpetuating falsehoods and fantasies, though never more so than amidst the click-driven insanity of its present circumstances.  An excellent study in the subtle dangers of erring on the wrong side of this line is currently sitting atop The New York Times's list of most emailed stories.  

Seductively entitled, "You Try to Live on 500k in this Town", the article tries to cast a new angle on the uproar over executive compensation and the caps President Obama has proposed as part of the broader and bailout and stimulus package.  The article invites the reader to step into the ostrich loafers of the investment bankers facing down the barrel of this sudden and radical austerity.  From $16,000/month co-op rentals to $250/hour SAT tutors, the article invokes an elite brand of relativism to parade New York's extravegances as  equivalent to the experience of those losing their jobs and worse yet.


The article's base formula of "1 part counter-intuition + 2 parts Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous voyeurism + a sprinkling of spite = page view gold" has the unintended consequence of injecting a moral ambiguity that abets Wall Street's circular and transparently self-interested defense -- that their industry model is sustained by the best and brightest and they must be sustained by mega bonuses (which are themselves needed to sustain the necessities of a New York existence). 

Unlike porno, however, Wall Street's value is not a function of its capacity for titallation or obscenity, but rather its ability to effectively allocate capital and manage risk--and that alone is how it should be measured and rewarded. If the "geniuses" of Wall Street aren't capable of generating the real value that merits huge bonuses, they should look for work elsewhere.  The challenge and opportunity before talented people is to invest their intellectual gifts in the sorts of innovations that extend the very limits of potential value.  If their individual claim is in line with the value they create, for themselves and for us all, no one will begrudge them their wealth, no matter how large the absolute sum--Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are proof positive of that.

The Times, for its part, has a duty to be more creative amd effective in how it upholds and builds upon its dearly held mission, even as it struggles for its survival.  Simply put, few institutions in our society have as much real influence or the human capital by which to realize it.  The Times's failure to speak more clearly, consistently and prescriptively on aspects of our culture that work against our greater interests is an opportunity lost.  When The Times yields to convenience, and works against this already difficult societal project, we are set back that much more.

Make no mistake, there is a path by which The Times can reinvent itself and flourish as a modern media company, arguably more than any other (the subject for a future post).  Until it does, though, more considered restraint could well be the Times' best contribution to a brighter future -- one in which there are more worthwhile angles to cover, and more opportunities to cover them.

Compelling speakers do these 4 things every single time

The ability to speak clearly, succinctly, and powerfully is easier than you think

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rally at the Anaheim Convention Center on September 8, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Barbara Davidson/Getty Images)
Personal Growth

The ability to communicate effectively can make or break a person's assessment of your intelligence, competence, and authenticity.

Keep reading Show less

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
Sponsored
  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
  • By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
Keep reading Show less

Preserving truth: How to confront and correct fake news

Journalism got a big wake up call in 2016. Can we be optimistic about the future of media?

Videos
  • "[T]o have a democracy that thrives and actually that manages to stay alive at all, you need regular citizens being able to get good, solid information," says Craig Newmark.
  • The only constructive way to deal with fake news? Support trustworthy media. In 2018, Newmark was announced as a major donor of two new media organizations, The City, which will report on New York City-area stories which may have otherwise gone unreported, and The Markup, which will report on technology.
  • Greater transparency of fact-checking within media organizations could help confront and correct fake news. Organizations already exist to make media more trustworthy — are we using them? There's The Trust Project, International Fact-Checkers Network, and Tech & Check.
Keep reading Show less