On Jan. 23, Arianna Huffington was in a hydrogen-powered BMW, traversing the snow-capped scenery between Munich, Germany, and Davos, Switzerland. She was bound for a dangerous blizzard of social networkers, pundits and princes.
“I believe that for as long as you and I are going be alive, there will be old media and new media,” Ms. Huffington said. “The more we incorporate the right accuracy standards, and they adopt the new media passion of speaking truth to power, the better the world will be.”
“We” was the digital media—“they” are the ink-stained wretches of newspaper-land. And this week, those groups will collide. On Jan. 24, the inaugural session of the International Media Council at the World Economic Forum begins, and it is a who’s who of the world’s editors, columnists, media executives and bloggers.
But is there an old way to quaff a martini, or a new way to eat a mini-quiche? Such questions must be answered up on the magic mountain.
Back in Nov. 2006, a W.E.F. spokesperson told The Observer that the media council was “just an idea.” More recently, the same W.E.F. spokesperson didn’t return calls and e-mails seeking comment about the group.
But according to a forum agenda obtained by The Observer, as well as information provided by I.M.C. members, the group has, stunningly, moved from theory to practice in under two months.
Perennial Davos attendee Tom Friedman will be there, along with his colleague on the New York Times Op-Ed page, Nicholas Kristof. Daily newspaper rival Paul Steiger, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, will be on hand, too.
Over at 4 Times Square, Si Newhouse must be cracking the whip, because both of Condé Nast’s I.M.C. invitees—Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter and The New Yorker’s David Remnick—will not be making the trek. Time managing editor Richard Stengel is skipping out of the inaugural meeting: With nearly 300 Time Inc. staffers facing layoffs, it’s probably not a wise move to be caught schussing on the slopes.
Slate editor Jacob Weisberg was also invited to join the I.M.C. and will be making his first trip to Davos out of “curiosity,” he told The Observer. In the early-morning hours of Jan. 24, amidst the alpine splendor, Mr. Weisberg said that he will be writing a piece on Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. (9 p.m. E.S.T. is 3 a.m. in Davos.)
Poor Mr. Weisberg will only get a few hours of sleep before the I.M.C.’s noon networking buffet on Jan. 24, held at the Post Hotel. Shortly thereafter, W.E.F. founder Klaus Schwab will give his introductory greeting before the main event of media machers, a three-hour session entitled “Old Questions, New Answers.” Michael Oreskes, executive editor of the International Herald Tribune, will chair the event.
Social networking is a big topic this year at Davos, suggesting that any 13-year-old American suburbanite, chosen at random, certainly has lots to teach the world’s powerbrokers.
Beginning at 2:10 p.m., the first I.M.C. panel features Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr; Chris DeWolfe, C.E.O. of MySpace; and Chad Hurley, co-founder of YouTube. Blogging will take up the second half of the session, with a panel that includes Ms. Huffington; Oh Yeon Ho, founder of OhmyNews; and Stephen Gan, co-founder and editor of Malaysiakini.
Throughout the five-day event, Davos organizers have asked all attendees—there are more than 2,400—to post a blog entry on the forum’s site. Ms. Huffington will be blogging regularly, as well BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis, who has also solicited videotaped questions—uploaded via YouTube, natch!—for global leaders.
Some of the proposed questions for the I.M.C. session are “What space is there for journalism in this new media world?” and “What does journalism mean now?”
After chewing on the state of their craft, both old and new alike, the I.M.C. gang will head for dinner at La Terrasse, in the Hotel Victoria. Despite the restaurant’s winter garden and idyllic mountain views, conversation might not prove to be so whimsical. The scheduled dinner theme is “Fanning the Flames—Is the Media Fueling the Clash of Civilizations?” One divisive topic: “Is the Western Media Anti-Islamic? Or: “Is the Arab Media Anti-Western?” Bon appétit!
(For I.M.C. members looking to skip the Samuel Huntington–esque banter, steel juggernaut Arcelor Mittal will be hosting a “winter wonderland” cocktail party at the Paulaner Bar, in the Hotel Seehof.)
On Jan. 25, the I.M.C. crowd is scheduled to meet again, for a 7 p.m. networking cocktail party at the Hotel Fluela. That’s followed by a two-and-a-half-hour session titled “Whose Space Is It Anyway?” (Is the answer “My”?) Members will address whether traditional media companies can “stay relevant, vital, and profitable,” and if social communities are just “a passing fad.” (Blasphemy!) Then it’s onto the private bus for a nightcap at the Paulaner Bar Seehof, which according to the I.M.C. agenda will feature the presence of “sports personalities.”
The I.M.C. panels will be over by Friday, but the parties continue.
Only a select few big shots will get into the private lunch hosted by billionaire Ukrainian steel magnate Victor Pinchuk and fellow billionaire financier George Soros. But there’s always Google’s “After Hours” party, held at the Hotel Belvèdére. The late-night soirée features live entertainment, drinks, canapés and desserts.
On Saturday, after shaking off that dot-com-sized hangover, Reuters is sponsoring a mountain retreat, with a private lunch for about 100 of the “top people from the business and media worlds,” according to a company spokesperson. Advertising titan Martin Sorrell, for one, is expected to attend the afternoon event, which includes a run down a mountain, followed by food and drinks at the Parsenn Hotel.
Sadly, all good economic forums in the Alps must come to an end. While many attendees will head to the farewell dinner at the Hotel Central, a select few might attend an unofficial gala at the Morosani Post Hotel, hosted by Davos veterans Sandy Climan, a former C.A.A. executive, and Michael Wolf, the recently resigned president and C.O.O. of MTV Networks. “It’s a very plugged-in group,” said one I.M.C. member, who added that last year the crowd included a number of senior journalists and those kings of the hill, the founders of Google.
While Time Chopping Block Bloodies, Big Names MoDo and Friedman, Lizza and Liptak Rebuff Honcho Stengel’s Come-ons.
When Time managing editor Richard Stengel walked into a packed editorial meeting in the magazine’s midtown offices on Jan. 18, he said, according to a staffer present, “I wonder where the best place for me to stand is?”
Massive layoffs had just been announced a couple of hours before, so a suggestion was offered from the floor: “Chicago?”
Despite efficiency consultants McKinsey & Company prowling around the Time-Life Building over the past few months, and with layoffs in the air, Mr. Stengel has continued with his magazine makeover. For Mr. Stengel, that process has required trading an antiquated editorial apparatus—dreamed up in the days of founder Henry Luce—for a sleeker stable of big-name writers.
Mr. Stengel, according to several sources, has approached four New York Times staffers: columnists Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd, national legal correspondent Adam Liptak and reporter Sarah Lyall, who is currently in the London bureau.
While Mr. Friedman was asked to become a columnist—like recent Time hires William Kristol and Michael Kinsley—Ms. Dowd, who cut her teeth at Time in the early 80’s, would have been writing features. Both columnists didn’t return calls and e-mails seeking comment.
Mr. Stengel also reached out to Matt Labash, a senior writer at The Weekly Standard, and Ryan Lizza, senior editor at The New Republic. Mr. Stengel shouldn’t take the latter rejection too hard: Mr. Lizza also recently turned down two other venerable suitors, The Times and The Washington Post.
Slate senior editor Dahlia Lithwick, science writer Jim Holt and New Yorker staff writer Peter Boyer were also on Mr. Stengel’s wish list. Mr. Boyer, according to multiple sources, was offered a deal with Time and came very close to accepting. He couldn’t be reached for comment.
“Rick’s been talking to a lot of people since Day 1 in this job,” said a spokesperson for Mr. Stengel. “He talks to his friends who are reporters and writers.”
So Mr. Stengel’s friends happen to be among the most established journalists in the country, unlike some of the lesser-known Time staffers packing up their belongings. In the writers’ category alone at Time—which includes senior writers, staff writers and writer-reporters—five out of 18 staffers will have to go in the next two weeks.
While the aforementioned big-name writers could help move newsstand sales, or possibly lead to a more highbrow subscriber base, there’s an obvious downside: Those on the all-star team may not be such team players.
Andrew Sullivan signed a one-year deal with Time to move his popular blog to the magazine’s Web site. He made his new home at Time.com in January 2006. He was fêted in the Upper West Side apartment of former managing editor Jim Kelly—who’s since moved upstairs to become managing editor of Time Inc. (It was well documented in The New York Times’ defunct gossip column, Boldface Names, on March 10, 2006.)
But a contract’s a contract. On Jan. 19, 2007, in a blog entry entitled “Of No Party or Clique,” Mr. Sullivan announced that he was off to The Atlantic. Mr. Sullivan—who less than two weeks earlier was featured prominently on the redesigned Time.com—concluded his post with an entreaty to his readers: “Come along, will you?”
Art Buchwald Beyond the Grave—Who’s Next to Die Online for Times Digital? Jimmy Carter, Mike Wallace—and Bill Clinton?
On Jan. 18, Art Buchwald’s video obituary appeared on the New York Times Web site, just minutes after the announcement of his death—the first in a new online series, the Last Word.
As is so often the case for the selfish living, the question is: Who among us will be next?
An internal Times memo sent that day divulged potential answers. It read: “More to follow, including Mike Wallace, Jimmy Carter, John Morris, Bud [sic] Schulberg …. ”
“It sounded a little macabre, in a way,” said Bill McDonald, the obituaries editor, who declined to confirm if the memo was accurate. “We’re not wishing for anyone to leave us.”
“Those are people that we are thinking about filming,” said Ann Derry, who manages The Times’ television and video unit. Although Ms. Derry wrote the memo, she declined to discuss the contents in detail.
That same day, Editor & Publisher reported that “a former president” has already been interviewed for the Last Word project—and that 10 interviews had been “completed and edited.”
So if Mr. Carter has not yet been filmed, as per Ms. Derry’s memo, which former President is it—Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush?
“It’s under the seal, and there it shall it remain,” said Tim Weiner, the veteran Times reporter who conceived of the project.
Mr. Wallace, according to a spokesperson, has also not yet been filmed.
Mr. Weiner’s video obituary idea had to pass muster with members of the Times masthead: executive editor Bill Keller and managing editors Jill Abramson and John Geddes. He said: “We showed Bill, Jill and John Geddes a rough cut of Buchwald, and Bill said, ‘We can’t not do this.’”
Mr. Weiner is confident that more notable names will agree to be filmed.
“Unless they find the prospect of their own mortality unconscionable, or they have a particular animus against The New York Times,” he said, “I think they’ll say, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea.’”
In the Buchwald video, the late humorist begins with an already-classic opening: “Hi, I’m Art Buchwald and I just died.” Was that scripted?
“Feed a line to Art Buchwald?” said Mr. Weiner. “Are you kidding me? That’d be like teaching Willie Mays to catch a fly ball.”