I’ve been waiting for Taibbi to comment some of the recent Friedman-related news, but I think we’ve waited long enough now (from a recent New Yorker piece via Michael Roston):
Thomas Friedman, the Times’ chief foreign affairs columnist, lauded the efforts that Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., has made to keep the newsroom intact, saying, “I just have a great deal of admiration for him.” He told me that since taking his current post, in 1995, he has never been asked by Sulzberger what he was planning to write, or how high his travel expenses would be. “To be able to say what I want to say and go where I want to go—other than a Sulzberger-owned newspaper, you tell me where that exists today.” (Of course, star reporters like Friedman live in a special universe, even at the Times.) Friedman said that there will always be a demand for “quality, branded news that people can trust,” but he believes that the shakeout of news organizations is going to be extreme: “It’s going to be us and the BBC and the Wall Street Journal and not a lot more.” At some point, Friedman said, the Times is “probably going to need a partner of one kind or another. I just hope it’s a junior partner to the Sulzberger family.” Friedman proposed a candidate—“someone with the ethics and journalistic integrity of Michael Bloomberg,” the mayor of New York, who has his own news empire.
And this comes on the heels of Friedman getting dinged for taking lots of speaker money:
When Friedman accepted $75,000 — his standard rate — for speaking to a regional government agency in Oakland this month, he ran afoul of a Times rule that staff members may take fees “only from educational and other nonprofit groups for which lobbying and political activity are not a major focus.”
Friedman is his own brand. He has five international best sellers in print and said he gives 15 or more paid lectures a year, many more for free, and posts them on his Web site. But he is bound by the same ethics guidelines as others. When his agent presented him with an invitation to a “climate protection summit,” Friedman said, he assumed it was a nonprofit forum. “I just wasn’t paying attention,” he said.
My other favorite columnist got nailed for something similar last year, but the amounts involved were much smaller (a total of 19K for two speaking engagements). What’s always striking to me about Friedman is just how large he lives. Even in an era of appalling media celebrity arrogrance, he stands out.
I guess Friedman should follow his own advice here: when you’re in a hole, stop digging, when you’re in two, bring a lot of shovels.
(h/t Michael Calderone)
Unless Friedman got a blow job from a slightly overweight NYT intern on the company dime, I don’t see what the big deal is.
A very wealthy wife has helped him to live large
If they served mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir during the speech, well that’s different, then he should be fired.
He mentioned it on his True Slant blog.
Though he spends the most time on the Edmund Andrews affair, his conclusion seems to be “I’m shocked! Shocked! To find the news being driven by financial concerns!”
tripletee (formerly tBone)
Don’t hate the player. It takes serious bank to maintain the artificial ecosystem his mustache requires to survive.
kommrade reproductive vigor
Well, you’re fucked.
And fucking delusional. The words Quality, News and Wall Street Journal do not belong in the same quadrant of the galaxy.
How do you have an employee with uncapped travel expenses with no accountability? Sure it would bother me if krugman were told what his opinion should be on an issue, but I don’t see much wrong with an occasional editorial direction once a month or so (hey, could you talk about the tarp plan, or focus on the impact of a green jobs program to give some additional perspective on our news coverage?) It never occurred to me that the reason Freidman or Dowd could get away with writing their dreck is that the Times doesn’t care about what is spoken on their editorial page.
What always strikes me about Friedman is how little the paper and its readers get for the money.
Actually, yes, they do, so long as you exclude the editorial page. Their news department is quite good, unless it got hamstrung by the new ownership.
I agree, unless the big problem is that he’s trying to argue against waste and excess and not practicing what he preaches. I think the bigger scandal is that anyone is paying a newspaper columnist, even a well known, prize winning, certainly well intentioned one, $75,000 a pop for a speech. Krugman, perhaps, since he’s an internationally renowned economist, but Friedman? What does have to say that isn’t attainable through the archives of his columns or one of his books?
As someone else said, that’s only true of the editorial page, which is usually all sorts of crazy. The news pages, on the other hand, are definitely good, some say the best in the world. This isn’t to say it’s perfect, only that it can easily stand toe to toe with the best news organizations in the world.
Seventy-five thousand? No wonder he wasn’t paying attention. Why, nothing less than 100 thousand USD in any given transaction even breaks through the signal-to-noise ratio of my day-to-day operations.
It was an obvious oversight, nothing more. Everybody makes them from time to time.
Anybody ever watch that tv special Friedman did, around 2005? I think it was on the Discovery Channel, and it was basically Friedman in a couple Middle Eastern locations listening to some people in cafes.
If you remember the “drinking bird” desk toy from the 70s, that was Friedman on that show. Show Israeli/Saudi/et al. talking about something, cut to Friedman bobbing his head, brow furrowed in supposed understanding, cut to panoramic/slice of life shot with TF inane voiceover, rinse, repeat.
But it’s good to know his travel expenses weren’t questioned in his journey to be an idiot across the Middle East.
While I disdain Friedman and think his continued employment by the Times is exhibit A as to the total lack of intelletual standards in the elite media, can I just say how ridiculous it is to get worked up over a guy who is paid 6 figures annually to write his opinion being paid to give his opinion in a speech? Especially when the paper’s ombudsman is asserting that appropriating someone’s work without crediting them is not, in fact, plagiarism?
@tripletee (formerly tBone):
Exactly. That ‘stache is a separate fully sentient alien life form that took over Friedman’s body sometime in the late 70’s.
Friedman is a clueless, cock-sucking sycophant of the highest order. He deserves a Pulitzer about as much as Joe the Plumber deserves a trip to the international space station.
The magic of print media is the only thing feeding this douchebag. If he had any other job, Friedman would have crashed a plane or made a million dollar accounting error by now.
The next time the Times has to close down a foreign bureau or lay off copy editors, I hope Friedman takes time from painting himself in gold dust to think of them for a moment.
If just the opinion sections of newspapers could tank… Sadly, it appears actual news will be the ultimate casualty of what was once just some place the editors could shoot the shit.
But Doug, you forget that he needs the money – really, really needs the money. His wife’s family trust, based on their mega-mall (to go with his mega-mansion) holdings, is basically bust. If he can hoodoo anyone in to paying him 75 large for a most likely boring speech, well, that’s just the free market at work. His world might be flat, but as long as he can give speeches, his wallet won’t be.
Um, if it’s a ONE-WAY trip, I’d say JTP’s trip would be well deserved….
Hey, if Joe takes the coach seats on the outside of the shuttle to get there…..
What will it take to get the Times to kick Friedman to the curb?
Bill E Pilgrim
Or as he would say, “to toss him in the trash and forget his address before mailing him his pink slip, which in his case would be so pink it would be orange”.
I’m not as good at it as Friedman is, of course.
pseudonymous in nc
Heh. Daniel Davies was calling Friedman “Airmiles” years ago.
tripletee (formerly tBone)
We are Borgstache. We will add your cultural and tonsorial distinctiveness to our own. Two shovels are futile.
Perhaps there should be some comfort in the fact that the worst harm he can do as a Serious Public Intellectual is to the wallets of those who hire him and the blood pressures of us sane people. But he’s like a human H1N1 virus — ridiculously simple, a mere parasite, and yet capable of bringing down empires if allowed to breed unchecked.
Good point. I’d forgotten about the fortunes of his wife’s father’s company.
Wow. Talk about whistling past the graveyard. Friedman has no clue about how people get news, or what they think about “brands.”
And sadly, there is a hard core of people who demand that their news come pre-digested through a particular ideological filter. My workplace is somewhat tolerant of Internet surfing, and I note how one guy (surprisingly a young guy in his 20s) always starts his morning visiting Michelle Malkin’s site.
On the other hand, no one in the office under the age of 40 regularly goes to the NY Times site. And even when someone comes across a story that originated in the Times, it’s viewed as just another “Internet news story.”
I almost feel sorry for Friedman here. He really doesn’t have a clue.
because California has so much money to waste already…
“To be able to say what I want to say and go where I want to go—other than a Sulzberger-owned newspaper, you tell me where that exists today.”
oh, i don’t know–isn’t that pretty much what every ordinary service man and woman in iraq enjoys right now?
or should i say: thanks for the war, tom!
Considering that he gets his material by talking to people in 5-star hotel coffee shops around the world, he has done well.
The Grand Panjandrum
Fascinating. But why would Taibbi post this at Smirking Chimp when he posted the exact same thing two days earlier on his True Slant blog? He doesn’t even mention that its cross posted. Curious.
Friedman, Dowd and other low hanging fruit on the Tree of Journalistic Mockery are getting kind of boring. And I think Taibbi’s point is well made. All the huffing and puffing going on in this mastubatory navel gazing exercise now called journalism is just fucking tedious. Everything is a financial consideration in modern journalism. Everything. They are in the business of selling stories, so unless that story has lots of sparkly, shiny things, or can induce the rubber-necking public to stop by and stare for a while, it isn’t fit to print. At least not on the front page.
He told me that since taking his current post, in 1995, he has never been asked by Sulzberger what he was planning to write, or how high his travel expenses would be.
Reason number 43 why I will not cry when these guys are gone.
@malraux: How do you have an employee with uncapped travel expenses with no accountability?
Hm, now I wonder if the wife wasn’t secretly footing the bill and letting Tommyboy “make” her money back from the paper so he didn’t feel the need to put TruckNutz on his fleet of cars for beings so unmanly. I can’t imagine a blank check from any news operation, for anyone.
It’s time to stop blaming Friedman and time to start blaming the hundreds of thousands of idiots who buy his books. There will always be a market for optimistic simplistic feel-good -about-America explanations of how the world works, and Friedman was smart enough to fill the niche. Whenever you sit next to someone on a plane reading Friedman it is your duty to mock that person.
Maybe Tommy Obvious can become a taxi driver.
Then he can quote himself ever-so-conveniently agreeing with whatever banal point he’s trying to make in his column that week.