DealBook

Question: What is DealBook?

 

Andrew Ross Sorkin: Deal Book is sort of an interesting creation because I, after graduating from college, I'd gone to Cornell. I got sent back to London. I'd spent some time in London. But the Times sent me to London to cover MNA and it's really the wild, wild, west out there. Not impossible to get stories. It's a gossipy town.

But I moved back to New York and this is now in 2000 and I was going around trying to meet different people in the business. I ingratiated myself with sources and really tried to build enough of a network so that I could actually get stories. And one of the things I realized quite sadly, was that on Wall Street, within the finance community, I didn’t feel like they were reading my stuff. So they didn’t even know how competitive I could be. I thought being in Europe, when I was living in London it was tough. But being in New York, you know, the Wall Street Journal really was the entrenched player and I was thinking to myself, how am I going to get in front of these people, because it is a vicious circle.

If you can get them to read your stuff, then they might be willing to take your call, et cetera, et cetera. And so I thought, well maybe if I can get somehow inside their email box in the morning, you know, forget about the New York Times, maybe I could just circumvent that whole problem and get in their email box. And that's sort of how Deal Book started. The idea was to send them effectively, my stories and then say listen, we're going to send you what I'm writing but also going to send you 5, 10 in this case now 20, 30 other stories that you might not have seen. And back then this was sort of pre-- people didn’t talk about blogging. The idea inside the New York Times that you're actually going to link to an outside news organization to send people to the wallstreetjournal.com or to the ft.com, you know, was crazy.

And the idea was to not just find stories in those papers that were interesting for people-- and part of it was, sort of let's create a one-stop shop. But the other part of it was, let's find stories that you might not even be reading at all. So you know, when Alcatel was trying to merge with Lucent, you know, we wanted stuff from the Star Ledger in Jersey that you were going to miss or if there was an airline deal, you wanted to know what was going on the Dallas Morning News or if there was something going with Coca Cola, you wanted to know what's going in the Atlantic Constitution or frankly when-- actually when the Alcatel/Lucent thing was going on, we were doing translated versions of stuff that was in La Mont, in Paris. And so the idea was, to put all of this stuff in one place so that you could quickly see it in the morning. And it became sort of your must read. And that's sort of how it originally developed.

 

Question: What is the challenge to DealBook when small papers shut down?

 

Andrew Ross Sorkin: I mean one of the problems right, is that all of these local papers that we've depended on as a source, as a resource for Deal Book that has actually made Deal Book the one-stop shop on some level, have become diminished. But at the same time you have sort of the emergence of the blogger sphere and of other news sources that have developed. I mean, when we started, this thing called The Daily Deal had just begun.

And so there's lots of now, financial either blogs, but financial news services and others that we partnered with or created relationships with where we can link to them. So, you know, there's part of me that's very saddened by what's taking place, kind of on the regional, local scale in terms of the media. But at the same time, the number and quality frankly, of the type of stories you can get across the internet now, also video and everything else that's happening, has I think, more than made up at least for what we're trying to do, in that context.

 

Question: What do you read to get your information for DealBook?

 

Andrew Ross Sorkin: Well if you read Deal Book you read everything that I read actually. We go through now, 100 plus, sometimes 200 plus newspapers, news sources, news outlets every single morning. And frankly, I do almost everything now digitally. So the idea of actually picking up a paper beyond the New York Times or beyond-- I do pick up the other papers typically just to see how they're laid out and what they look like. But you know, we're working overnight and usually before I even go to sleep, I've read through most of what's going to be in the next day's papers, both my own and everybody else's. So the hit list is probably obvious. I go to Bloomberg I go to the FT, I go to the Journal, I go to the Daily Deal I go to breakingviews.com if you know about that. There's a handful of great blogs out there that I go to. But nothing in particular, because one of the things I think we found sort of through the creation of Deal Book is, that you know, no matter how much you think one news source is important, in reality, in this new kind of very fragmented news world, to get the full picture, you really have to go to hundreds frankly. And that's sort of what we're trying to do on a daily basis.

 

Recorded on: June 3, 2008

It's what Andrew Ross Sorkin created.

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Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."

Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.

Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.

The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?


Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression

In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.

It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.

Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.

Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.

The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.

It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.

In their findings the authors state:

"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.

Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."

With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.

Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner

As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:

  • Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
  • Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
  • Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
  • Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
  • Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
  • Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
  • Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
    Patriotic.

Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.

It's interesting to note the authors found that:

"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."

You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.

Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:

  • 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
  • 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
  • 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
  • 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
  • 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
  • 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.

Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement

Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:

  • Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
  • Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
  • Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
  • Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
  • We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
  • If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.

Civic discourse in the divisive age

Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.

There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:

"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.


Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."

We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.

This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.