Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

New York Times Defends AIG Bonuses?! - We Need A Return To Muckracking Journalism . . .

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 18, 2009

Andrew Ross Sorkin, a reporter at the New York Times, took a contrarian position on Tuesday, writing an opinion piece that defended the multi-million dollar bonus payments by AIG.

. . . If government officials were to break the contracts, they would be “breaking a bond,” Ms. Meyer says. “They are raising a whole new question about the trust and commitment organizations have to their employees.”

. . .as unpalatable as it seems, taxpayers need to keep some of these brainiacs in their seats, if only to prevent them from turning against the company. In the end, we may actually be better off if they can figure out how to unwind these tricky investments.

One problem with Mr Sorkin's argument is that many of the people receiving multi-million dollar job retention bonuses have already left AIG. And the other problem is that these people are being rewarded for creating a financial mess that is being paid for by tax payers.

Why would the New York Times deliberately choose such an unpopular position? By mid-Tuesday afternoon it received more than 3,000 protest emails and more than 1500 comments.

There is a great newspaper tradition of crusading journalism, muckraking . . . pointing out corruption, and bringing down the high and mighty. That's the kind of journalism that is missing these days.

From: Muckraker - Wikipedia

. . .Roosevelt saw benefits and disadvantages to muckraking activity. He declared that although these men did good work when they scraped up the ‘filth’ of America, "the man who did nothing else was certain to become a force of evil.”

. . .these journalists, through their research and constant exposure of the wrongdoing by officials in American public life, gave fuel to protests that led to investigations and later on reform of not only Corporate America but the American Government. The Muckrakers’ journalistic efforts helped reform and regulate Wall Street and aspects of big businesses.

I try to be a muckraking journalist when I can. I was a huge big critic of Yahoo's policy towards China, actions that led to a ten year prison sentence for a Chinese journalist when Yahoo revealed his identity.

And Yahoo eventually pulled out of China. I'm not saying it was due to SVW muckraking . . . but, I am saying that we need more muckraking. Especially during these times when journalists are being blamed for not sounding the alarm on our broken economy.

Why isn't the New York Times muckraking? Surely it's not waiting for a better opportunity?

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Please see some SVW muckraking on Yahoo and China:

Despicable behavior by Yahoo management - Shi Tao gets ten years

Chinese Internet Rep Flees From UK Reporter

11.07.06: 24 hours against censorship

Dissidents within YHOO and GOOG will make ethical companies

A View from Within on US Companies and China

1.8.07: Google in China

US Tech Firms Lame Excuse on China Business

Chinese Dissident's Wife to Sue Yahoo

Hong Kong Lawmaker Continues Attack on Yahoo over Journalist Jailing in China

Yahoo gives $1m to fund research into "international values"

Newswatch 8.6.07: Did Yahoo Lie about Chinese Dissent?

Yahoo moves for dismissal of dissidents' case

Newswatch 11.8.07: YHOO's China troubles

Would You Work For Moral "Pygmies?" - The Costs Of Yahoo's Actions In China

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