I’m a little stunned by the coverage in the New York Times this morning (3.15) over the very public resignation by a Goldman Sach’s employee in the Times’ Op-Ed section on Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning I read Greg Smith’s eloquent public condemnation of the investment bank from beginning to end, raised my eyebrows at the severity of his anguished indictment of the culture of greed and burned clients that we all knew and suspected was the true agenda of the “too big to fail” world of Wall Steet, and marveled that a 33-year old over-achiever within one of the top white-shoe institutions would take to the public soapbox to share his resignation. I suppose the new tradition of Wikileaked internal memos and insta-meme driven news (see the Olive Garden Restaurant Review lady from the same day) means we’ll see more and more of these flash-in-the-pan news events, but it’s the day-after ouruboros reaction of the Times to its own Op-Ed that stuns me and which needs to be seen in print to understand the importance the Times’ editors thinks this Dear John letter deserves.
The main story leads the front page. Bigger than anything else. Top priority. That’s pretty indicative right there of the impact that Greg Smith’s screed had on the news cycle yesterday. Is it really that big of a deal? I guess if you’re a New Yorker riding the PATH or MetroNorth train into the city this morning to your job at some financial institution in the financial capital of the world, then yes, this is a big deal. If you’re in Omaha it is a scathing confirmation that the weasels of Wall Street indeed got away with murder, and have yet to be brought to account, and continue to slash and burn in the interest of their annual eight figure bonuses.
The Times pulled out the stops yesterday to own this real-life Jerry Maguire.
Along with the front page mainbar the jump inside also has a sidebar on pejorative nicknames that various industries have for their customers. Smith revealed Goldman calls its clients “muppets”. The Times teaches us that flight attendants call passengers “Clampets” or “Platinum Trash”, etc.. And there is a sidebar on the parodies that popped up yesterday, my favorite being Darth Vader’s resignation letter and great proof that meme-driven news is no longer working on a “nine-day wonder” cycle as it did forty years ago, but is now on a nine-hour wonder cycle. All in all I’d guess the Times devoted a couple thousand words to their own news event.
Yes, I’m second guessing the placement decision of the Times’ editorial board to elevate this mid-level investment banker’s “I Quit” letter above all other news. It’s great drama, it keeps the financial crisis in the spotlight, and it shows the Times isn’t about to relinquish ownership of what is arguably the most interesting and discussed news event of this week. Heck, I’m writing about it along with countless other blog bloviators, right?
What is particularly interesting by contrast is how the Wall Street Journal treated the Smith resignation. Yes, it is on the front page of today’s paper, but buried in the “What’s New” digest, jumping inside to lead the C section.