A coveted job writing for the New York Times op-ed page is considered one of the most exclusive gigs in journalism. And with good reason: the unparalleled intellect and experience of their columnists are simply without equal. Where else will you find some middle-aged dad with the wit and bravery necessary to proclaim: hey, I don't care for this "Twitter" thing?
Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman lost his high-profile proxy contest with Target last week, a defeat that reportedly led him to shed a tear or two when he spoke at the company's annual shareholders meeting. It was Ackman's decision to invoke the words of John F. Kennedy, though, that really ticked off New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera, who penned a blistering critique of Ackman's performance on Friday. So how did Ackman respond? He stayed up all night and composed a 5,000-word essay to explain himself: "The tear was not for the loss of a proxy contest as Mr. Nocera implies, but rather in recognition of the significance of JFK's words nearly 50 years ago. It may also have represented some amount of physical and emotional fatigue." Duly noted. [NYT]
• Doubledown Media, the publisher of magazines like Trader, Cigar Report, and Dealmaker, and other titles aimed at the Wall Street set has shut down. [Folio]
• Those Pepsi ads that resembled a "MacGruber" skit from SNL? It was part of a deal between the soft drink company and Lorne Michaels, naturally. [NYT]
• The final Nielsen numbers are in: 95.4 million tuned in on Sunday. [MW]
• Bob Costas is leaving HBO to join the MLB Network. [THR]
• There's a boycott of CNBC today for some reason. [Jossip]
• HBO has acquired the rights to Joe Nocera and Bethany McLean's forthcoming book about "the meltdown and the reason it happened." [Variety]
.• CBS has ordered up a new show from the producers of Top Chef "that puts lovelorn singles into arranged marriages." We love it already. [THR]
That was fast. Four of the business writers said last week to be hunting for Wall Street crisis book deals have found publishers — the same publisher. Penguin Group swears it wasn't bumbling when it hired the authors in rapid succession, at a cost of more than $2 million, to basically compete with one other. What does Penguin look like, some kind of investment bank? "I would rather be publishing all three of the best books on the economic crisis than to be competing against any one of them," Penguin's president told the Observer. OK, but who's going to buy these tomes?
Bankers' losses are going to be certain authors' gains: Book proposals about the Wall Street debacle have already landed on publishers' desks, reports Leon Neyfakh in the Observer. Times business columnist Joe Nocera (right) and former Fortune reporter Bethany McLean (left) are asking for offers in excess of $1 million for their "definitive chronicle" of the financial crisis, and Newsweek's Daniel Gross is pitching a "quickie electronic book" with a similar premise. Meanwhile, Publishers Marketplace reports that Melanie Jackson has sold Roger Lowenstein's Six Days That Shook the World, "a look at last week on Wall Street and in Washington, illuminating the origins of the crisis," to Ann Godoff at Penguin.
When the Times got a call from Steve Jobs, the hands-on CEO of personal computer maker Apple, it had already been investigating the former pancreatic cancer victim's health for several days. Following a Monday report in the Post that some Jobs associates were "troubled by his thin appearance," the Times on Wednesday revealed Jobs underwent some sort of surgical procedure earlier this year. By Thursday afternoon, Times columnist Joe Nocera was preparing to report that Jobs was losing weight due to "ongoing digestive difficulty" and, possibly, due to a recent infection. That's when Jobs phoned to give a peace of his mind. But with a liberal interpretation of the term "off the record," Nocera would go on to finagle a scoop out of the confrontational call:
"You think I'm an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he's above the law, and I think you're a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong," Apple CEO Steve Jobs told New York Times writer Joe Nocera, in the course of Nocera's reporting on Apple's cult of secrecy. The top subject, of course, is Jobs's health. Jobs insisted on speaking to Nocera off the record, so we cannot know what, exactly, has gone wrong with Jobs's body of late. We do know this much, however, thanks to Nocera: Top Apple flack Katie Cotton, who has long put Jobs's interests above those of Apple shareholders', flat-out lied when she attributed Jobs's gaunt appearance to "a common bug."Apple's secretive ways have paid off for it in turning every product release into a marketing event. But by applying that same Kremlin-like opaqueness to its corporate affairs, Apple has gone astray. "By claiming Mr. Jobs had a bug, Apple wasn't just going dark on its shareholders," Nocera writes. "It was deceiving them." It's one thing for Jobs to lie about Apple's unreleased gadgets — for example, when he publicly dismissed the notion of producing an iPod that played video in 2004, even as Apple was secretly working on one. That kind of maneuver can be put down to competitive misdirection. But to extend it to the health of a public company's CEO? Unseemly. As unseemly, really, as the Apple apologists among us who join Apple PR in repeating the mantra that Jobs's health is a "private matter". Wishing doesn't make it so. With Jobs personally accounting for a quarter of Apple's market cap, it's everyone's concern. Apple's fans have a choice: They can join Jobs himself in insulting award-winning reporters like Nocera, and dismissing the whole affair. Or they can face reality: Steve Jobs let his personal flack lie for him — and they bought it. That must really bug them.
Times columnist Joe Nocera is a busy man, and he doesn't have time for flackery and foolishness. But he recently got one press release "so brazen, so craven, so mind-bogglingly inane" that he had to put it on his blog for the world to revile. And coincidentally it's from a flack who also blogs at Huffington Post! Do you need to make sure all the other moms in the park are insanely jealous of you and your stylish little drooling brood? Let Amanda Christine Miller tell you how to turn your children into mere fashion accessories!
With Fake Steve Jobs on sabbatical, Fake Jerry Yang has picked up the slack to chime in on Joe Nocera's scathing open letter in the New York Times. Shortly before the vulgarities is this little gem, which says more about the New York media landscape than it does about the Microsoft-Yahoo-Google three-way:
New York Times columnist Joe Nocera's open letter to Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang over the weekend nicely captured Yahoo shareholders' rage over the whole Microsoft mess. But will they stop fuming long enough to read all 1,500 words? A version they'll be able to finish before their lawyers get done filing the next shareholder lawsuit, and Yang will be able to finish before the next top executive's resignation letter hits his inbox, below.
With little of note happening in what Times business columnist Joe Nocera referred to on Saturday as the "Mr. Murdoch Lusts After Dow Jones" story, the papers are forced to manufacture another angle from which to analyze the bid: Specifically, how will Friday's Page Six Payola revelations affect Murdoch's chances of wooing the Bancrofts? On the heels of a 1,300 word front-pager in Saturday's Times recounting the scandal—for which the paper was forced to reel back in former gossip-boy and current theater reporter Campbell Robertson—comes today's David Carr follow-exegesis. Carr believes that the decision to run the allegations in the Post itself can be traced to Post editor (and alleged stripper-sex receiver) Col Allan's unwillingness to get scooped by the News. Uberflack Howard Rubenstein also says that the Post wanted to get their spin on the story before anyone else did. Carr's column ends with a thought exercise!