Where’s the beef?

I have something of a morning routine: I get myself a cup of coffee and read

the A section of the New York Times while waking up.

The institutional verbosity

of the Times makes my routine more difficult. But most of the time the NYT manages

to say what the news is, at least.

Not today. Here are the headlines on the paper’s lead




Deal Would Give N.Y.S.E. a Foothold in 5 Capitals – Many Obstacles

It’s a bit verbose, and if you think about it too long it doesn’t make a lot

of sense: a takeover bid isn’t really an "offering", and the deal

would give the NYSE more than just a "foothold" in those capitals.

But the biggest error is one of omission. We know who the bidder is: the NYSE.

We know how much they’re bidding: $10.2 billion. But we have no idea who the

target is.

Such information always appears in the first paragraph, if not the first sentence;

in this case, they’re the same.

The New York Stock Exchange took a big step yesterday toward the creation

of a global marketplace by offering to acquire the operator of five European

stock and futures exchanges for $10.2 billion in cash and shares.

So now we know it’s stock and futures exchanges, and we know the NYSE wants

to pay in cash and shares. But we still don’t know who they’re bidding

for. Maybe in the next paragraph? No, that’s reserved for a quote from the NYSE’s

CEO. Maybe the paragraph after that? No, at that point we descend into classic

NYT portentiousness:

Finance and investment have been global phenomena for decades: Asian central

banks are among the biggest buyers of United States Treasury obligations,

big American commercial banks are joining their London counterparts in wooing

Middle East investors, and hedge funds based in Connecticut buy and sell in

markets from Iceland to Indonesia.

What??? This isn’t news, it’s filler: what’s known in England as "freelancitis"

when writers are paid by the word or the inch. And while I normally roll my

eyes at such stuff, it simply Does. Not. Belong. in this story above the central

and crucial information of who the NYSE is bidding for.

The next paragraph doesn’t help us out on that front either: instead, it’s

devoted to telling us that when the bid was made yesterday, "share prices

around the world were falling, seemingly in concert, beginning in Asia and continuing

in Europe, before recovering somewhat in New York". That’s not even market

reaction to the proposed deal, it’s just intraday noise with no connection to

the story at all.

Finally, in the fifth paragraph, 200 words into the story, we find that the

target of the deal is Euronext.

I’m sorry to say that the perpetrator of this nonsense is my friend Jenny Anderson,

a very good journalist who honed her newspapering skills at the New York Post.

Which is the kind of newspaper which would never, ever wait 200 words to reveal

the name of a $10 billion company being bid on. Clearly, however, the culture

of the Times can turn anybody.

Later on in the section, there’s an interesting

story about the Fulton Street transit hub. In the wake of the news that

the neigbouring World Trade Center memorial is hundreds of millions of dollars

over budget, we’re now told that something similar is going on with the plan

to simplify the mess that is the Fulton Street subway station. Only this time,

far from burying a key piece of information, the Times simply doesn’t bother

to supply us with the architect’s name at all. (It’s Nicholas Grimshaw, an excellent

UK architect who’s not well known on these shores.) They’d never do that to

Michael Arad.

The NYT is examining its front-page reporting with much

laboriousness these days. But for the time being, it would seem, that effort

has achieved nothing.

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2 Responses to Where’s the beef?

  1. miss representation says:

    Grimshaw is probably as popular, if not more so, than Helmut Jahn, in the namecheck derby of fancy curtain wall purveyors who had their heyday a decade (or two, in Jahn’s case) ago. And Jahn still does a lot of work.

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