How Baseball Players Became Celebrities

Gehrig’s name will forever be linked with Ruth’s. They were the best hitters in baseball, but they were polar opposites.

Photograph of Lou Gehrig from Everett

Professional sports right now is a covid-19 ghost town. The games have vanished. There are few events to cover and almost nothing to broadcast. Yet, eerily, the industry lives on. Reporters file stories and analysts hold forth even though the stadiums are empty. Athletes are paid even though they are sitting around the house. A chunk of your cable bill is going to Major League Baseball even though there are no major-league baseball games to watch. M.L.B. is selling Mookie Betts Dodgers jerseys and the N.F.L. is selling Tom Brady Buccaneers jerseys even though no one knows when they will ever play for those teams. In Las Vegas, you can get 3–1 odds on the Yankees to win the World Series.

It’s a reminder that the industry is much bigger than the games and, in a sense, only minimally needs them. Sports sells newspapers, television shows, Web sites, as-told-to books, and exercise regimens. Professional athletes make endorsements, get paid for appearances, take parts in movies, license their names to video games, and have their own product lines. The stars at the very top of their sports make more money from these things than they do from competing. And, of course, there’s the gambling. The idea of games in empty arenas is not as far-fetched as it sounds. As long as you have stars and scores, you have an industry. Hot-dog venders and parking-lot attendants will be out of work, but most of the business can go on.

The rise of sports as big business and the handling of athletes as human capital are often dated to 1960, the year Mark McCormack founded the International Management Group, with Arnold Palmer as his first client. McCormack saw that in sports, as in Hollywood, it’s the stars that sell the product, and he turned athletic success and good publicity into dollars. Thanks to television, the number of available dollars for the clients of sports agents mushroomed.

But the possibilities had been glimpsed and the opportunities realized almost forty years earlier, by a man named Christy Walsh. Walsh was born in St. Louis in 1891, and went to college in Los Angeles. He bounced around a little—worked as a sports cartoonist and a ghostwriter—but it was his background in advertising and publicity for automobile companies that prepared him to become the first sports agent in the modern mold. He wasn’t just a promoter or a handler but someone who took charge of an athlete’s complete on-field and off-field package, who controlled the publicity as well as the contracts. He signed his first client in 1921. And that client turned out to be the greatest sports figure of his day, or possibly, with the exception of Muhammad Ali, of any day: Babe Ruth. Ruth didn’t just do what every ballplayer did but better. On the field and off, he was in a class by himself.

Walsh began working for Ruth just as advertising was joining forces with the new “science” of public relations, a union that produced the entertainment-media-merchandising combine that supplies much of the content for contemporary American culture. Walsh understood how that synergy worked, how the entertainment feeds the media and the media feeds the sales. Stories in the papers about Babe Ruth visiting an orphanage, say, are good for the Babe Ruth brand. They raise the value of Ruth’s next endorsement deal. But stories about Babe Ruth also sell newspapers, which then can sell more advertising space. It’s in everyone’s interest (including the orphanages’) to make Ruth a magnet for public eyeballs. All Ruth has to do is to keep hitting home runs and winning championships. The agent takes care of the rest.

This multiplier effect is why the stars’ incomes keep rising exponentially—why Tiger Woods, who has made about a hundred and twenty million dollars in prize money, is said to be worth close to a billion. Everyone in the combine wants Tiger to continue to make money so they can continue to make money off Tiger.

As several writers, including Jane Leavy, in “The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created” (2018), and Thomas Barthel, in “Babe Ruth and the Creation of the Celebrity Athlete” (2018), have explained, Ruth seems to have been the first athlete to leverage his success in this way, to make more money off the field than on it. By 1926, his twelfth year in the major leagues, Ruth’s salary was fifty-two thousand dollars, far more than any other ballplayer’s, but he made at least twice that much in outside income. Shortly after ending the World Series that year by being tagged out trying to steal second base, he went on a twelve-week vaudeville tour for which he was paid a hundred thousand dollars.

It’s no coincidence that the decade in which this entertainment-media-merchandising combine developed is known as the Golden Age of American sports. When writers use that term, they are not talking only about the games. They are talking about the stars, people like Ruth, Red Grange, Bobby Jones, Johnny Weissmuller, Jack Dempsey, Bill Tilden, Helen Wills, Gertrude Ederle. They dominated their sports. They set records. And the combine loves records.

Christy Walsh did not invent celebrity product endorsements and appearance fees. Before Ruth met Walsh, he had already endorsed a brand of baseball bat and of cigars, and a children’s book, “The ‘Home-Run King’; or, How Pep Pindar Won His Title,” had been published under his name. Walsh simply widened the stream. He arranged for Ruth to act in vaudeville and movies. He put Ruth and some of his teammates on barnstorming tours, playing exhibition games around the country. (Each year, Ruth was paid to play from fifty to a hundred off-season games.) Ruth’s endorsement appeared on more than a hundred products, including Quaker Oats and All-America underwear. (The Baby Ruth candy bar was marketed without Ruth’s consent. Ruth sued, but the courts backed the candy-maker.) His face was on the cover of magazines from Time and Vanity Fair to Hardware Age and Popular Science. In 1934, when the Associated Press ranked the most photographed people in the world, Ruth was No. 1, ahead of F.D.R., the Prince of Wales, and Adolf Hitler.

Walsh’s first deal for Ruth was a newspaper column, though the star never wrote—or likely even read—a word of it. Ruth’s ghostwriters were usually reporters who travelled with the team, hung out with Ruth, and picked up enough odds and ends—Ruth telling the story of his most recent home run, for instance—to turn out a weekly column. And the money was good. In the first year, after Walsh and the writers had taken their cuts, Ruth made fifteen thousand dollars. Walsh went on to create a stable of more than thirty ghostwriters who produced columns under the bylines of athletes such as Ty Cobb, Dizzy Dean, Walter Johnson, and Rogers Hornsby. Among them was a twenty-four-year-old first baseman named Lou Gehrig.

Gehrig’s name will forever be linked with Ruth’s. They were the best hitters on the best team in baseball, the New York Yankees. Between 1920, the year Ruth started playing for the Yankees after being sold to the team by the owner of the Boston Red Sox, and 1938, Gehrig’s last full season, the Yankees won ten American League pennants and seven World Series. (Ruth also won two championships as a pitcher for the Red Sox, setting a Series record of twenty-nine and two-thirds consecutive scoreless innings, which would not be broken until 1961.)

The 1927 Yankees have been called the greatest team in baseball history. With Ruth hitting third and Gehrig cleanup, the Yankees won a hundred and ten games, and lost only forty-four. Ruth batted .356 and hit sixty home runs, a single-season record that lasted for thirty-four years and has been surpassed by only four men, three of whom are widely believed to have been jacked up on steroids. Gehrig hit .373, with forty-seven homers and a hundred and seventy-three runs batted in—a record for R.B.I.s at the time and not an easy thing to do when the man ahead of you hits sixty home runs. In the World Series, the Yankees beat the Pirates in four straight.

Gehrig idolized Ruth as a ballplayer, and Ruth was easy to get along with. They travelled together, played bridge together, and barnstormed together. They had both started out as pitchers—Gehrig pitched in college, but Ruth won ninety-four games in his big-league career and had a lifetime E.R.A. of 2.28, seventeenth on the all-time list—and they sometimes pitched to each other in exhibition games. Ruth was often a guest for dinner at Gehrig’s house.

But they were polar opposites. Ruth was all flamboyance and swagger. He bought expensive cars and wrecked them. He wore raccoon coats and smoked big cigars. He gambled and caroused. His annual contract negotiations were big news. He was famous to the public for his appetite for food and drink; he was famous to his teammates for his appetite for sex. He made no secret of it. Fred Lieb, who covered the Yankees, wrote, “His phallus and home-run bat were his prize possessions, in that order.”

On road trips, Ruth would be out all night partying, getting back to the hotel at dawn. “I don’t room with Babe Ruth,” his assigned roommate on one trip, Ping Bodie, is supposed to have said. “I room with his suitcase.” The team, in exasperation, once hired a detective to follow him around one night when the Yankees were in Chicago. The detective reported back that Ruth had been with six women.

It had no effect on his play. “The Babe was always doing something,” Marshall Hunt, a reporter who covered Ruth year-round for the Daily News, recalled. “Perpetual motion. . . . I don’t think I ever saw him sitting around.” The key to Babe Ruth, though, was this: everybody loved him. “God, we liked that big son of a bitch,” Waite Hoyt, the ace of the 1927 Yankees team, said. “He was a constant source of joy.”

Everybody respected Lou Gehrig. They did not love him. He was good-natured but distant. He had a distinctly un-Jazz Age persona. “This sturdy and serious lad takes copybook maxims as his guides in life and lives up to them,” a Times columnist wrote after the Yankees won the Series in 1927. “ ‘Strive and succeed.’ ‘Early to bed, and early to rise.’ ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ ‘Labor conquers everything.’ And all the rest of them.”

Ruth had a gift for baseball. He was not only the best power hitter on the Yankees; he was also the best bunter. When he played the outfield, he never threw to the wrong base. Those were things Gehrig had to work at. Fielding was a challenge. Just figuring out which foot to put on the bag (he played first base, the traditional position for oversized sluggers with limited defensive skills) was a challenge. “He was one of the dumbest players I’ve ever seen,” Miller Huggins, Gehrig’s first Yankee manager, said. “But he’s got one great virtue that will make him: he never makes the same mistake twice.”

“Ruth has the mind of a fifteen-year-old,” the president of the American League once said in frustration during some Ruthian commotion. Gehrig was a case of arrested development, too, but in a different way. Until 1933, when he turned thirty, he lived with his parents. He brought his mother to spring training. When the team was on the road, he would leave the hotel after dark and walk the streets by himself so his teammates would think he had plans. He usually signed whatever contract the Yankees sent him. In 1927, the year he was the American League M.V.P., his salary was eight thousand dollars. The following year, it was raised to twenty-five thousand. Ruth was making seventy.

In short, Gehrig was a Golden Age anomaly. In 1929, The New Yorker ran a profile of him, with the interesting title “The Little Heinie.” “Lou Gehrig,” it began, “has accidentally got himself into a class with Babe Ruth and Dempsey and other beetle-browed, self-conscious sluggers who are the heroes of our nation. This is ridiculous—he is not fitted in any way to have a public.” The reporter asked Gehrig if he planned to get married. “My mother makes a home comfortable enough for me,” he said. Unlike Ruth and Dempsey and the rest of the Golden Age stars, Gehrig did not want attention, and this was because, unlike the others, he did not need attention. He stayed in his lane. He liked being boring.

Part of the mythology of American sports in that era was that it was a means of social mobility, a way for the children of farmhands and factory workers to make their way into the middle class, and even, for special talents, to acquire wealth and celebrity. In the case of baseball, at least, the myth was mostly a myth. Ballplayers in Gehrig and Ruth’s time came from families that were relatively well off. Steven Riess, in “Touching Base,” a study of the sport in the early years of the twentieth century, reported that, of players active between 1900 and 1919, only eleven per cent had fathers who were unskilled or semi-skilled laborers, even though forty-five per cent of workers nationwide were semi-skilled or unskilled. Ten per cent had fathers who were professionals, against three per cent in the population as a whole.

But the myth was true for some of the Golden Age stars, Ruth and Gehrig among them. When Ruth was seven years old, his parents sent him to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Orphans, Delinquent, Incorrigible, and Wayward Boys, in Baltimore, basically a reform school run by brothers of the Order of St. Francis Xavier, and he spent most of the next dozen years there. It’s where he learned to play baseball. “I didn’t have a thing till I was eighteen years old, not a bite,” he said years later, when he was living the high life. “Now it’s bustin’ out all over.”

Gehrig’s parents were German immigrants. His father was a metalworker who was often unemployed. The family was held together by Gehrig’s mother, Christina, a dynamo who cooked, cleaned, and did laundry to support the family, and who took over the life of Lou, her only surviving child. They lived in Yorkville, in upper Manhattan, and were poor even by the standards of the neighborhood. They later moved to Washington Heights. Lou’s nickname at school was Fat.

The Gehrigs spoke German at home; Lou did not learn English until he was five. (German was also the language in Ruth’s house, and he spoke some German when he came over for dinner.) Gehrig got the attention of the sports world when he was in high school, after hitting a tape-measure home run at Cubs Park, in Chicago, where Gehrig’s team, New York City’s best, had gone to play Chicago’s best. That was in 1920, the year Ruth came to the Yankees.

Gehrig enrolled at Columbia (his mother had worked in a Columbia frat house), starting, painfully, in the extension school. He found schoolwork a struggle, but he was essentially a recruited athlete, playing football and baseball and clouting mammoth home runs.

Before Ruth came along, most major-league baseball was “small ball.” Hitters choked up on the bat and tried to advance the runner. It was a game of bunts and stolen bases. Ruth was a free swinger. He struck out a lot, as home-run hitters do, but when he connected he hit circus shots that flew over the fences and often landed on a street outside the park. It turned out that people found the monster homer more exciting than the hit-and-run. Ruth transformed the sport.

Scouts now found themselves tasked with discovering “the next Babe Ruth,” and Gehrig qualified. He signed with the Yankees in 1923, and on June 1, 1925, he took over at first base. He would play there for 2,130 consecutive games, a month shy of fourteen years. This was an era in which ballplayers had nicknames: Pepper Martin, Mule Watson, Muddy Ruel, Rabbit Maranville, Dazzy Vance, Pie Traynor. For years, sportswriters tried to come up with a nickname for Gehrig, but nothing seemed to stick. Then, in 1931, midway through the consecutive-game streak, a reporter for the New York Sun named Will Wedge called him the Iron Horse. It stuck.

A minor irony of the Ruth-Gehrig dichotomy is that Ruth didn’t look like an athlete. He had a big upper body but slender wrists and ankles and skinny legs—“toothpicks attached to a piano,” as someone described them. Gehrig was built like a power hitter. He was muscles from top to bottom—his heinie was not little—and, while Ruth’s homers were usually towering fly balls, Gehrig’s were line drives. Also unlike Ruth, Gehrig was extremely good-looking. He was designed for the combine.

That is what Christy Walsh must have felt when he signed Gehrig up, in the summer of 1927, the Yankees’ annus mirabilis. It was not the pennant race that was attracting the fans then. It was the so-called Home Run Derby between Gehrig and Ruth. (The press would reprise the derby in 1998 as a race between a pumped-up Mark McGwire and a pumped-up Sammy Sosa. The second time as farce.)

Ruth had set the single-season home-run record, fifty-nine, in 1921, and he boasted of his determination to break it. Gehrig was keeping pace, and the home-run lead seesawed between them through the summer. Walsh realized this was a good time to syndicate a column for Gehrig. “There was a ready market at boom prices, for the autobiography of this clean-living, level-headed son of a poor New York family,” as he put it in his memoir, “Adios to Ghosts” (1937).

There were twenty-nine first-person Lou Gehrig columns, run under the headline “Following the Babe.” “Gehrig tells his story of dreams come true—high school victories, college glory, and big league fame—in a manner that will inspire every boy and parent in the land,” an accompanying description proclaimed. The columns appeared in the Oakland Tribune, the Pittsburgh Press, and the Ottawa Daily Citizen—three outlets obscure enough that they remained undiscovered for decades.

They were finally exhumed by Alan Gaff, who has brought them out as “Lou Gehrig: The Lost Memoir” (Simon & Schuster). “No matter who wrote down the words, there is no doubt that Lou’s memoir came directly from the heart,” he writes. Well, some doubt is possible. Like most sports autobiographies before Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four,” in 1970, Gehrig’s “memoir” adheres to the code of the professional athlete, which is never to speak ill of another professional athlete or of one’s sport. So Gehrig (or his ghost) writes of Ty Cobb, “Ty has been panned a lot. But he’s a great fellow. . . . I consider Ty Cobb one of my best friends in baseball.” A recent biography, “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty,” by Charles Leerhsen, suggests that Cobb’s reputation as an especially vicious racist is undeserved. (Gehrig, for his part, was in favor of integrating the sport, and said so.) But it is undisputed that Cobb was a mean competitor who got into fights with opposing players and fans. Gehrig supposedly once tried to get into the Tigers’ locker room after a game to beat him up. The incident is explained away in one column as a performance for the fans.

And it’s like that in all the columns. Everyone is a great fellow; baseball is a noble sport—“I don’t believe I would have met a finer group of men anywhere than I have met in baseball. Nor a squarer, fairer lot of men, either.” Are these Gehrig’s own words and voice? The information about his life clearly came from him, and one imagines the ghostwriter also asked him for his opinions of other famous players, like Cobb and Ruth, and then transformed whatever he said into anodyne language.

But reproducing the ghosted subject’s actual voice was never the ghostwriter’s job. Walsh would have stopped him if he tried. A ghostwriter was not supposed to write the way his celebrity talked, Walsh thought. He was supposed to write the way the public thought his celebrity talked. It’s not about expression. It’s about promotion. Still, Gehrig was a good guy, and he thought in clichés. If he had written the columns himself, they probably would not have sounded much different.

Unless you lived in or near a major-league city and could get to the stadium, newspaper accounts and box scores were almost the only way you could follow a team. That’s why Walsh could make good money with his ghostwriting syndicate—the national appetite for baseball news and gossip was much greater than the supply. And one reason for this had to do with the way the league did business when Gehrig and Ruth played.

The owners of the Yankees, gentlemen known as “the two Colonels,” Jacob Ruppert, Jr., and Tillinghast Huston, knew what they were doing when they paid a hundred and ten thousand dollars, plus a loan of three hundred thousand, to get Ruth from the Red Sox. Ticket sales were the main source of revenue, and Ruth started paying dividends right away. In his first year, 1920, he hit fifty-four home runs, and home attendance was more than a million, the first time any club had attracted that many fans. The Yankees were then sharing the Polo Grounds with the Giants, but in 1923 they moved into a new stadium in the Bronx, with seating for fifty-eight thousand fans. They made a lot of money.

They could have made more. In “Creating the National Pastime,” the historian G. Edward White points out that, even as it was becoming the American sport, baseball was a business run in a strangely backward way. Basically, it seems not to have understood who its consumers were, or, even stranger, how many of them there were.

Team owners and league officials resisted several changes that would have helped the product and enhanced revenue. A glaring failure was the refusal to integrate the sport. Everyone knew there were great ballplayers in the Negro Leagues; Gehrig and Ruth sometimes played exhibition games against them. But baseball remained a Jim Crow sport until 1947.

There was also fierce resistance to night games. The technology needed to play night baseball was in place by 1909, when a minor-league game was held under the lights in Cincinnati. Everyone agreed that the conditions were fine. But the first night game in the majors, between the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies, was not played until 1935. The first night game at Yankee Stadium was not played until 1946.

The Reds played seven night games in 1935; attendance was 130,337. Attendance for the team’s sixty-nine home day games was 324,256. The lesson was obvious. But it should have been obvious all along, or at least since the introduction of Sunday games, sixteen years earlier, which had had a similar effect. Many sports fans are working-class people. They can’t go to a weekday game during work hours. Whether it was baseball traditionalism or some hope to cast the sport as a professional-class diversion, or some combination, Major League Baseball was slow to adapt its product to the lives of its fan base. Teams in the Negro Leagues were playing at night long before, because that was the only time their fans could see them.

From the perspective of today’s sports business model, nothing is more peculiar than prewar baseball’s inability to grasp the financial potential of broadcasting. Some teams broadcast home games on local radio stations, but the stations did not pay a fee. In most cases, anyone with a radio license could sit in the stands and broadcast a game. It was not until 1936, a year after Ruth retired, that there was an American League policy of charging for broadcasting rights.

Radio turned out to increase attendance, too, especially in places where fans living in rural areas followed the games on the radio, and were sometimes motivated to drive two hundred miles to a city to watch a game. Still, none of the New York teams, the Yankees, the Giants, or the Dodgers, broadcast home games until 1939. That was the year Gehrig retired. In a way, it was his retirement, not his play and not even his streak, that made him an icon.

“I have one true friend,” Gehrig says in one of the ghostwritten columns, “my mother. . . . She is now, and will always be, the greatest pal I ever had.” She certainly made every effort. Jonathan Eig, in his biography of Gehrig, “Luckiest Man” (2005), says that Christina Gehrig systematically wrecked all of Gehrig’s nascent romances, once going to a woman’s home town to dig up dirt on her. In 1932, when the Yankees were playing World Series games in Chicago, Lou became interested in Eleanor Twitchell, a socially active twenty-eight-year-old with a sense of fashion, not Mrs. Gehrig’s type. They began dating the following spring and were married in September.

Eleanor Gehrig changed her husband’s life. She freed him from his mother’s house; she took him to the ballet and the opera. (A favorite was “Tristan und Isolde,” at which, she says, he wept, because, of course, he understood the words.) And she called on Christy Walsh to do promotional work. Walsh got Gehrig to do ads for Camel cigarettes and Aqua Velva. Gehrig was the first athlete to have his face on a Wheaties box.

A frank woman, Eleanor Gehrig left a memoir, “My Luke and I,” which includes, along with other uncensored remembrances, a portrait of Christina Gehrig and what it was like to live in her house. It tells us a lot more about Lou Gehrig than his own memoir does:

Built something like a lady wrestler, with yellowish gray hair snatched back in a bun. No hairdresser for her, certainly no makeup. Not that it would have mattered anyway, since she was in a state of steaming perpetual motion, no idle hands, chores around the clock. A huge breakfast prepared for her husband and son, then an attack on the sinkful of dishes, then an almost compulsive session with the vegetables and meat for the night’s dinner.

Finally, she would jam a hat on her head and leave for Yankee Stadium with Lou, in time for batting practice. Afterwards, back in the kitchen while Pop walked the dogs again and the parrot kept shouting baseball lingo until he was covered for the night. And at last the evening meal, starting with caviar on toast, thick soup, a Caesar salad, meat, potatoes, the vegetables, oversized dessert, the whole works. In the backwash of this way of life, several maids came and went as members of the cast; they simply got in the way of the steamroller.

After dinner and the dishes, we would settle in the living room. Mom would grab either the crochet or knitting bag and get her fingers flying, uttering sage little philosophies like “what goes up must come down,” and Pop would invariably nod in agreement.

Eleanor saw Ruth with unsentimental eyes, too. “As for the mighty Bambino,” she tells us, “he seemed to me to be a pot-bellied, spindly-legged, good-natured buffoon. But he was clearly the big man when it came to baseball, or to anything else, for that matter. . . . You had to look at him and feel that you were watching one of the wonders of the world.”

The marriage was happy but short. Gehrig’s body began to fail him in 1938. He played in all one hundred and fifty-seven games that season, keeping his consecutive-game streak alive, and the Yankees won the World Series. But his hitting dropped off. By the following spring, it was clear that he could no longer play, and on May 2, 1939, the streak ended. He flew to Minnesota and entered the Mayo Clinic, where he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—soon known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

It seems, in Eig’s account, that the doctors never told Gehrig outright that A.L.S. is incurable. But athletes know their bodies, and he must have understood fairly soon that this was the end. He died, “like a great clock winding down,” Eleanor said, in 1941. He was thirty-seven. When his body was displayed at the Church of the Divine Paternity, on Central Park West and Seventy-sixth Street, thousands of people stood in line to view it. Babe Ruth cut ahead of everyone. As he stood in front of the casket, he wept. Seven years later, Ruth would be dead, of throat cancer. In 1995, Gehrig’s consecutive-game record was broken by Cal Ripken, Jr. The combine was all over it.

But before he died Gehrig had, at last, his Ruthian moment. This was the speech he gave at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, his farewell to baseball. By then, everyone had heard the news. Tributes were spoken; gifts were presented. Ruth was there, said some words, put his arm around Gehrig for the cameras. Gehrig desperately wanted not to have to speak. This was exactly the kind of attention he had spent his life trying to avoid.

The announcer told the crowd that Gehrig was too moved to say anything, but a chant went up, and so he walked to the microphone. Eleanor later said that he had written an outline just in case; he clearly had some sentences memorized. Amazingly, only four of those sentences have been recorded and survive. Versions of the whole speech that you read have been pieced together from newspaper stories.

But we do have Gehrig’s voice at the start. “For the past two weeks, you’ve been reading about a bad break,” he says. “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” And at the end: “I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.” There is nothing self-pitying in the speech, no self-denial, no defiance. He is helping other people get through his pain. This was not colorless or boring. This was a man looking at death. In an age of showmen, in the very House That Ruth Built, it was a transcendent moment of selflessness. ♦

Source:The New Yorker


HBO Max Wants to ‘Crush’ Netflix. Is It Too Late?

AT&T’s streaming platform goes live on Wednesday. At $15 a month, it’s more expensive than its rivals and comes at a time when household income is dropping.

HBO has been an innovator for much of its nearly 50-year run. Now, with the unveiling of HBO Max, it’s playing catch-up.

In the 1970s, when people still referred to it as Home Box Office, HBO was a pioneer in bringing recent movies to the American living room in all their uncut glory. Another innovation came in the late 1990s, when HBO ushered in the era of prestige TV with original programs built around protagonists like Larry Sanders, Tony Soprano and Carrie Bradshaw who could not exist comfortably within the limits of the broadcast networks.

But with the launch of the ambitious HBO Max streaming platform on Wednesday, the cable channel is a late entrant to the streaming wars.

AT&T, the parent company of HBO since 2018, plans to spend more than $4.5 billion on the project over the next few years. The company hopes to have 50 million HBO Max subscribers by 2025 and envisions that the service will eventually generate billions in annual profits as it takes on Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Apple TV Plus and Peacock, among others, in the increasingly crowded field of online entertainment.

The idea of creating a major streaming platform drove AT&T’s decision to buy Time Warner, the media empire that housed HBO, TBS, TNT, CNN and the Warner Bros. film and television studios.

When it is fully up and running, HBO Max, available at $15 a month, will offer 10,000 hours of programming with a wide range of content meant to appeal to every kind of audience, not just the HBO crowd.

The platform will include HBO series like “Game of Thrones” and “Succession”; sturdy sitcoms from the Warner Bros. television archive like “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory”; some 2,000 Warner Bros. movies, including the eight Harry Potter films and blockbusters featuring DC Comics superheroes like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman; and original fare like “Love Life,” a series starring Anna Kendrick, and “Let Them All Talk,” a film directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Meryl Streep.

The executive John Stankey led AT&T’s charge into streaming media.

Soon after AT&T completed its $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner, John Stankey, a veteran AT&T executive with limited experience in entertainment, broke down the divisions across the newly acquired properties to create WarnerMedia. Shortly after that, at a town-hall-style meeting in Manhattan before an audience of HBO employees, he let them know their territory was under a new boss.

“As I step back and think about what’s unique about the brand and where it needs to go, there’s got to be a little more depth to it,” Mr. Stankey said. “There’s got to be more frequent engagement.” To achieve that, he added, HBO had to become “broad enough” to attract a larger audience.

A leadership shake-up followed, one that included the departure of HBO’s chief executive, Richard Plepler, who had led the network to more than 160 Emmys.

Mr. Stankey was promoted this year to one of the biggest jobs in corporate America: chief executive of AT&T. He will take the reins from Randall L. Stephenson, the leader of AT&T since 2007, on July 1.

The future of the revamped AT&T largely depends on HBO Max.

The choice of Jason Kilar as WarnerMedia’s new chief executive was another sign of the company’s emphasis on streaming media. A onetime head of Hulu, Mr. Kilar is a veteran of the earliest days of on-demand video.

Since starting the job this month, he has been working closely with the WarnerMedia leadership team, including Robert Greenblatt, the chairman of the entertainment group, and Kevin Reilly, the head of content.

Jason Kilar, a onetime head of Hulu, oversees Warner Media, the home of HBO.

Mr. Kilar has charged ahead with putting together a future iteration of HBO Max that will allow for commercials. When it is ready, the company will be able to offer a cheaper version of HBO Max, in addition to the $15-a-month, ad-free version, that will be a direct competitor to advertising-supported streaming services like Hulu and NBCUniversal’s Peacock.

HBO itself is not going away. The premium cable network, whose latest shows include “The Plot Against America” and “Run,” will continue under its president of programming, Casey Bloys. But AT&T will focus on redirecting viewers’ attention to the new streaming platform. The phone giant hopes that HBO’s 35 million subscribers, each of whom pays $15 a month, will shift their loyalty to HBO Max, which costs the same.

To Mr. Stankey, it’ll be a gauge of brain power. “I look at it as a degree of an I.Q. test, which is: Why wouldn’t you want twice the content for the same price?” he said at an event for investors in October.

The HBO network can currently be bought in two ways: online through HBO Now, or through a cable provider, which offers digital access through HBO Go. HBO Max is an altogether new, much larger product that includes HBO proper.

A potential stumbling block for it is the cost. Netflix’s no-frills plan costs $9 a month. Disney Plus charges $7 a month. But HBO Max is asking people to spend $15 a month, at a time when household budgets are constrained by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Even before the outbreak, industry analysts called the pricing “unreasonable.” Now many customers are looking to cancel their HBO accounts, largely because of the cost, according to a study prepared for The New York Times by the global research consultancy Kantar.

The analysis found that one in five people who subscribed to HBO Now said they planned to cancel their subscription in the coming months; a similar proportion said they planned to drop their subscriptions to the HBO channel through their cable providers.

That’s a high opt-out rate. A little more than 7.4 percent of Netflix customers said they planned to dump their accounts, according to Kantar, and about 8.6 percent of Disney Plus customers said the same. Amazon Prime Video appears more durable, with 1.2 percent saying they would cancel.

AT&T cannot convert all HBO subscribers with the push of a button. Customers of the phone giant who already have HBO, as well as those who buy it directly from the network, won’t be much of a problem. But the company has a challenge in bringing aboard those who get HBO through Comcast, Amazon and Roku — three of HBO’s biggest vendors. WarnerMedia is in negotiations with those companies.

Longtime HBO subscribers will also have to get used to a revised brand identity. The HBO name will no longer stand for Tony Soprano or Jon Snow, but will serve as the marquee name of a mass-appeal platform meant to rival Netflix, which has 183 million subscribers, 63 million of them in the United States.

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen and Kit Harington as Jon Snow in a scene from the signature HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

Matthew Ball, a venture investor and the former head of strategy for Amazon Studios, said major streaming platforms needed more than shows beloved by critics to succeed. “If Netflix only offered HBO-style content, it would be smaller,” he said.

HBO Max is a different animal than the boutique network that gave it its name, he added.

“It’s an attempt to go after every customer,” Mr. Ball said. “There is no reason to believe the Max-related expansion can’t appeal to every customer Netflix currently has that HBO does not.”

Some people in the industry say that the rival streaming services may eventually reach agreements that will allow them to share their customers in some way.

“They will have to start to combine into more user-friendly aggregations,” said Craig Moffett, a co-founder of the Wall Street research firm MoffettNathanson. “It’s not necessarily the case that some won’t make it — but it is almost certainly the case that some won’t make it on their own.”

That type of cooperation has precedent in the cable TV business: HBO was often sold to subscribers in a bundle with similar channels like Showtime and Starz. But that approach may not fit Mr. Stankey’s mind-set.

In the summer of 2018, Mr. Stankey met with leaders of the former Time Warner properties. In a meeting with the HBO team, several executives raised the possibility of bundling HBO Now with Netflix, according to several people who were present. Proponents of an alliance noted surveys that showed an overlap between the two platforms’ customers, the people said.

Mr. Stankey, who stands six-feet-two and speaks in a deep bass that can ripple across a room, said, “No! They are the enemy. We’re going to crush them,” according to the people. (WarnerMedia did not respond to requests for comment on the meeting.)

Several of those present saw it as a knee-jerk response from a longtime AT&T hand used to battling rivals Verizon and T-Mobile. Indeed, the wireless industry has been plagued by price wars (and declining profits) as the companies fight it out for customers who are constantly switching to a better offer.

But the telecommunications industry has zero-sum rules. While the average streaming subscriber pays for three platforms, according to Kantar, almost no one buys more than one mobile service at a time.

AT&T’s $85 billion gamble on Warner Media was partly a way for the company to make its phone service more attractive. It plans to offer HBO Max discounts to phone-plan subscribers and hopes to hang on to them by providing content that will keep them glued to their screens.

In an interview last month, Mr. Stankey said the “winner in all this” — meaning the streaming landscape — will be the company that does the best job of “innovating,” and that includes both content and technology.

“The customer is driving different forms of entertainment, and it’s changing by the day,” Mr. Stankey said. “But we have a tremendous base of assets, and we’ve wrapped it in a compelling product with innovation. That’s what HBO Max is. That’s why I like our chances.”

Source:The New York Times

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Facebook Starts Planning for Permanent Remote Workers

The move is a stark change from an office-centric culture. But there’s a catch: Salaries are likely to change to match local costs of living.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Facebook said on Thursday that it would allow many employees to work from home permanently. But there’s a catch: They may not be able to keep their big Silicon Valley salaries in more affordable parts of the country.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, told workers during a staff meeting that was livestreamed on his Facebook page that within a decade as many as half of the company’s more than 48,000 employees would work from home.

“It’s clear that Covid has changed a lot about our lives, and that certainly includes the way that most of us work,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “Coming out of this period, I expect that remote work is going to be a growing trend as well.”

Facebook’s decision, the first among tech’s biggest companies, is a stark change for a business culture built around getting workers into giant offices and keeping them there. Using free shuttle buses, free cafeterias and personal services like dry cleaning, tech companies have done as much as possible over the years to give employees little reason to go home, let alone avoid the office.

If other giant companies follow suit, tech employment could start to shift away from expensive hubs like Silicon Valley, Seattle and New York. The option to work from home could also provide more reason for tech workers who complain that their enviable salaries still aren’t enough to buy a home in San Francisco or San Jose to consider settling in other parts of the country.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s announcement followed similar decisions at Twitter and the payments company Square, both led by Jack Dorsey. Mr. Dorsey said last week that employees at his companies would be allowed to work from home indefinitely. At Google, employees have been told they can work from home through the end of the year, but the company has not made any indications about permanent plans.

There are signs that remote work is popular among technologists. After Mr. Dorsey’s announcement, Google searches for “Twitter jobs” spiked, according to Google Trends.

Aaron Levie, the chief executive of the business technology company Box, wrote on Twitter that “the push happening around remote work is as game-changing for the future of tech as the launch of the iPhone” more than a decade ago.

Tech executives have long believed that person-to-person communication was a big part of the creativity that went into generating popular products. They built giant campuses that reflected that belief, from the ornate offices of Apple, Google and Facebook in Silicon Valley to the new Amazon headquarters in Seattle.

Still, the biggest tech companies were trying to expand beyond their main offices before the pandemic, as an older generation of companies like Intel had done. Amazon, for example, intends to open a second headquarters in Virginia. The coronavirus pandemic could accelerate those plans.

“Before the virus happened, a lot of the discussion about the tech sector was about how to bring people to work sites and create affordable housing,” said Robert Silverman, a professor of urban and regional planning at the State University of New York at Buffalo. “This is kind of a natural progression.”

An employee exodus from the biggest urban tech hubs, combined with layoffs, could have dramatic local impacts. Housing costs in the Bay Area, for example, have fallen since the pandemic began, according to the rental firm Zumper. Rents in San Francisco fell 7 percent in April, and were down 15 percent in Menlo Park, Facebook’s home.

Mr. Zuckerberg long worried that employees who worked remotely would lose productivity. Facebook once provided cash bonuses to employees who lived within 10 miles of its headquarters. In 2018, Facebook expanded its main campus with elaborate new offices designed by the star architect Frank Gehry, including a 3.6-acre roof garden with more than 200 trees.

Just last year, Facebook started moving into a 43-story office tower that it had leased in San Francisco, and the company is still reportedly in talks for a significant office expansion in New York, as well.

In March, the coronavirus lockdown forced companies to send employees home. Many tech companies, including Facebook, emptied their offices before local shelter-in-place orders.

Now, more than two months later, executives are discovering that their remote workers performed better than expected. Mr. Zuckerberg said employees remained focused even though they were working from home.

Facebook will begin by allowing new hires who are senior engineers to work remotely, and then allow current employees to apply for permission to work from home if they have positive performance reviews.

Starting in January, Facebook’s employee compensation will be adjusted based on the cost of living in the locations where workers choose to live. Facebook will make sure employees are honest about their location by checking where they log in to internal systems from, he said.

Mr. Zuckerberg said the shift could offer more benefits than inconveniences for the company. Allowing remote work will allow Facebook to broaden its recruitment, retain valuable employees, reduce the climate impact caused by commutes and expand the diversity of its work force, Mr. Zuckerberg said.

So far, Facebook, Square and Twitter are being far more aggressive than their counterparts in the industry. Their work is mostly done in software code, which can be handled remotely.

At Apple, on the other hand, many employees are hardware engineers who need to be in the company’s lab, particularly because of the company’s secrecy around its products. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said in April that the company’s main office in Silicon Valley would be closed until at least June and has not updated that timeline.

Start-ups could also find it difficult to manage a remote work force. Allowing workers to live in the Midwest could keep costs down, but Silicon Valley has a giant talent pool from which start-ups draw their workers. Also, many venture capitalists, mostly based in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, expect the companies they invest in to be based nearby.

At Los Angeles-based Snap, the maker of Snapchat, employees are allowed to work at home through September. Evan Spiegel, Snap’s chief executive, said in an interview that he was reassessing the situation regularly and considering guidance from health authorities about when to reopen.

“People want certainty, and there’s a huge amount of pressure as a leader to make definitive statements,” Mr. Spiegel said on Wednesday. “I think it’s important that we remain flexible in a situation that is changing rapidly.”

Source:The New York Times


5月20日,荣耀X系列首款5G机型荣耀X10正式发布,搭载麒麟820 5G SoC,拥有业界目前已上市手机中最多的9大5G频段、超级上行技术的同时,还采用了RYYB高感光摄影、鹰眼级AI抓拍、90Hz/180Hz全速屏等领先技术,在5G、游戏和影像等方面带来全方位的旗舰级体验。业界普遍认为,这款产品以其强大的产品力和跨级进化将会加速5G手机普及。近期,中国登山队纪念首登珠峰60周年活动选择荣耀手机为唯一指定5G手机,更是认可了荣耀X10在5G行业的重要地位和可靠品质。






具体而言,荣耀X10提供了远超同价位水平的旗舰级5G体验,带来5G十项“全能”:超快5G上行速率、超快5G下载速率、超强5G双卡体验、超强5G天线布局、目前已上市机型中最全频段双模5G、5G双模SA/NSA、智慧5G、超强5G能效比、5G低时延、超强5G信号干扰能力。例如支持了多达9个5G频段,远超同价位基本要求的2-3个频段,保证用户能顺利连接5G,从而避免了有5G信号却无法使用5G的尴尬。同时,荣耀X10还是同价位为数不多支持超级上行技术的机型,实验室实测能够将边缘上行速率体验提升412%甚至更高。5G环绕分布式天线和AI 5G信号疾速恢复不仅让5G信号更加稳定,而且从地库、地铁、地下商场之类5G覆盖不佳的场景返回5G时的速度更快,提供不打折的旗舰级5G体验。

为了支撑对性能要求更高的5G全场景应用,荣耀X10搭载了麒麟820 5G SoC芯片。该芯片在CPU性能上升级了全新三档能效架构,性能更强而能效比更佳,旗舰级的6核Mali-G57架构大幅提升游戏性能,自研达芬奇架构NPU则升级为大核+微核的创新设计,在权威机构ETH AI Benchmark的AI性能排行榜上位居全球前列。屏幕方面则是在荣耀X系列首次采用90Hz高刷新率屏幕,配合180Hz触控采样率,游戏画面更流畅丝滑,操作手感更加“跟手”,势必将受到5G时代游戏玩家的追捧。

拍照方面的进化同样有惊喜,荣耀X10同样开启了荣耀X系列的新时代。首次搭载华为独家的RYYB高感光夜拍三摄,进光量提升40%,全新的ISP 5.0、华为手机端BM3D单反级图像降噪技术、荣耀猫头鹰算法2.0、AI追焦技术……让荣耀X10不仅成为新一代的夜拍神器,还拥有了鹰眼级AI抓拍能力。




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Tesla Owners Try to Make Sense of Elon Musk’s ‘Red Pill’ Moment

A liberal status symbol now has a founder who is moving to the right.

A pivotal scene from the 1999 movie “The Matrix.”

Owning a Tesla, the luxurious electric car, is a major liberal status symbol. It signals nothing more than good taste — the perfect balance of wealth with care for fossil fuels. But the man behind the brand is crafting a very different persona online that may now prove to be a challenge for his fans.

Elon Musk, the bombastic head of Tesla and SpaceX, exhorted his 34 million Twitter followers on Sunday to “take the red pill.” The comment was quickly embraced by his followers, including Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s elder daughter, who announced that she had taken the pill already.

The exchange referred to a scene from “The Matrix,” the 1999 science fiction action film. But the meaning of “red pill,” and the idea of taking it, have since percolated in online forums and become a deeply political metaphor. And with Mr. Musk and Ms. Trump, the phrase is now lodged more fully into the mainstream.

So Tesla owners are having to grapple with a car that carries a few new connotations.

“Honestly, Musk is becoming a liability and the Tesla board needs to seriously consider ousting him,” wrote Markos Moulitsas, author of “The Resistance Handbook: 45 Ways to Fight Trump.” “And I say that as a proud owner of a Tesla and a SpaceX fanatic who truly appreciates what he’s built.”

In “The Matrix,” the movie’s hero, Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, is given the option to take a pill that lets him see the truth.

The world he thinks is real turns out to be an entertaining lie; his body is actually trapped in a farm where people are being used as human batteries. Taking the blue pill would let him return to living in the ignorant but blissful lie, while taking the red pill would launch him into an arduous journey through a brutal but fulfilling reality.

The idea of taking the red pill later grew to mean waking up to society’s grand lies. It was embraced by the right, especially by members of its youngest cohort who organized and spent their time in online forums like Reddit and 4chan.

The truth to be woken up to varied, but it ended up usually being about gender. To be red-pilled meant you discovered that feminism was a scam that ruined the lives of boys and girls. In this view, for a male to refuse the red pill was to be weak.

Red Pill forums were often filled with deeply misogynistic and often racist diatribes. The more extreme elements splintered into groups like involuntary celibates (“incels”) or male separatists (Men Going Their Own Way, or MGTOWs). Conferences like the 21 Convention and its sister convention, Make Women Great Again, sprang up to gather red-pilled men. Being red-pilled became a sort of umbrella term for all of it.

As these conversations seeped into the mainstream, pulled along by a host of other internet language from message boards to establishment Republican conversations on sites like Breitbart, the meaning broadened and got watered down. To be red-pilled can now mean being broadly skeptical of experts, to be distrustful of the mainstream press or to see hypocrisy in social liberalism.

Mr. Musk has been pretty wild online for years now, which has made him a major internet celebrity with devoted fans who call themselves Musketeers. There are fan pages like Musk Memes with nearly 100,000 followers, and a Reddit page with 200,000 members in constant, extremely active conversation.

Most recently, Mr. Musk has been a prominent skeptic online of the coronavirus, calling the response to it a “panic” and “dumb” and wrongly predicting close to zero new cases by the end of April. As of Tuesday, there were more than 90,000 deaths from the virus and more than 1.5 million cases in the United States alone.

The Tesla chief Elon Musk has railed against pandemic policies.

Ivanka Trump replied to Mr. Musk that she had already taken the red pill.

The night before Tesla’s earnings were released last month, Mr. Musk tweeted an anti-lockdown rallying cry: “FREE AMERICA NOW.” He had a showdown with local lawmakers, threatening to move Tesla headquarters out of California and deciding to reopen a Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., despite the local county’s restrictions to prevent the virus from spreading. When State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez objected on May 9 with an obscene tweet, Mr. Musk responded, “Message received.”

Defending his reopening of the Tesla factory, Mr. Musk wrote on Twitter that he would be on the factory floor and offered himself up to authorities. “I will be on the line with everyone else,” he posted on May 11. “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

This month, he and his girlfriend, Claire Boucher, the musician known as Grimes, had a child and named him X Æ A-12. And Mr. Musk announced that Tesla shares were too high and that he was selling almost all his possessions to the point of owning no house.

“We have a phrase, it’s E.M.M. — Elon Moves Markets,” said Bill Selesky, an analyst at Argus Research who tracks how Mr. Musk’s messages impact Tesla’s stock price. “People want to listen to him no matter what he says. He tends to be thought of as a great visionary.”

Mr. Selesky said even Mr. Musk’s detractors parsed every tweet and utterance. “Plus, if you have a Tesla, nobody can ever complain about you because you’re good for society,” he added.

This leads back to Mr. Musk’s message on Sunday, telling his followers to take the red pill.

No. Lilly Wachowski, a “Matrix” co-creator, told Mr. Musk and Ms. Trump in colorful language on Twitter that they could take a hike.

To some extent.

There has long been a strain of men’s rights activism in Silicon Valley, exemplified by James Damore, a former Google engineer who was fired after writing a memo arguing that the reason there are fewer female engineers is biological differences rather than discrimination.

Mr. Damore became a folk hero for a simmering movement in the technology industry of people who thought the efforts toward 50/50 representation at tech companies were absurd. Cassie Jaye, who calls herself a former feminist, made a 2016 documentary about the Red Pill community and said it had flourished in the tech world.

But the more common phrase in Silicon Valley to signal contrarian thinking is “narrative violation,” which is often used to describe an event that cuts against the mainstream media’s consensus on a topic. The idea is that there is a story being told about the world and how it works, but that the story is too simplistic to be entirely true and an event occasionally pops up to remind people of that.


Few products today are as deeply entwined with a person’s brand as Tesla is with Mr. Musk, and so his comments can feel personal for Tesla drivers.

“As a Tesla owner, a 47-year-old male recovering from Covid-19, and someone very concerned simultaneously about the environment, the economy, my kids’ and my parents’ future, this ain’t great,” said Jeff Guilfoyle, a product manager at FireEye in San Diego. “This disease is no joke, and the long-term health impacts are unknown for survivors.”

Many have implored Mr. Musk online to stop.

Raja Sohail Abbas, the chief executive of an outpatient psychiatric clinic in Allentown, Pa., wrote: “I am a Tesla owner and love the company. You have to stop being an idiot about this.”

“Tesla owner and Fan here, but this was a disappointing tweet despite the frustrations of and holdups,” added Alex Goodchild, a D.J. in Brooklyn. “Words are weapons especially when used during situations like the one we’re currently experiencing. You sound just like Trump in this tweet.”

The debate has riven the Tesla community.

“The last two months, there’s been this polarization in the Elon Musk fan club,” said Paula Timothy-Mellon, a technology consultant who moderates that LinkedIn-based fan club, which has 22,000 members. “There are those who are believers in these California guidelines and there are those in favor of his push to re-open Tesla.”

Driving a Tesla often carries great symbolism for the owner (and observers).

“If you own a Tesla, you feel you are directly connected to Elon Musk and people think that Tesla owners are directly connected to the politics of the C.E.O.,” said Sam Kelly, a Tesla owner and investor based in Spain who posts under the name SamTalksTesla.

He added that he did not think the red pill comment meant any big new political awakening from Mr. Musk.

Asked to explain his thinking, Mr. Musk pasted an image of the Urban Dictionary definition of red pill in an email. It read:

“‘Red pill’ has become a popular phrase among cyberculture and signifies a free-thinking attitude, and a waking up from a ‘normal’ life of sloth and ignorance. Red pills prefer the truth, no matter how gritty and painful it may be.”

History shows firing workers during an economic crisis is a mistake

An unemployed man in a coat is seen lying down on a pier in the New York City docks during the Great Depression, 1935.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, IBM’s CEO, Thomas Watson, proved a point that today’s executives should consider. In the worst of times, bravely bucking pressure to lay off workers and instead investing in the business can tee up explosive growth later.

Reports about layoff strategies amid the COVID-19 crisis range wildly. PwC released a survey in April saying that 32% of companies expect to lay off workers in the next month. The White House said unemployment could hit 20% by June. And more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs during the month of April, according to Friday’s jobs report.

Yet some big tech companies – Cisco, Nvidia, ServiceNow – have pledged to avoid layoffs. Some are even giving raises. It would be easy for investors to think those CEOs are delusional.

But IBM’s story from the 1930s suggests they may not be. Watson’s bet nearly destroyed IBM, yet ultimately launched it into nearly 50 years of domination of its category.

Dealing with a crash

The US economy in the first years of the Depression was in terrible shape. GDP contracted by 8% in 1930 and another 7% in 1931. More than 3,000 banks failed. Unemployment pushed toward 20% and soup lines stretched around blocks.

IBM was not huge or well-known at the time, though it had created the then-new category of “data processing.” It made time clocks and tabulating machines – electro-mechanical punch card predecessors to computers – that helped big companies manage information. The market for such products had plunged by half in the Depression. Wages dipped so low, hiring an ocean of clerks to handle data was no more expensive than getting a machine to do it.

I know Watson’s story well: 20 years ago, I wrote his biography after sifting through hundreds of boxes of his personal papers and transcripts of meetings. Watson knew the facts about the broken economy. But the grim outlook didn’t fit his plan. His words intentionally reflected optimism. “I see no signs of a severe recession,” Watson told a journalist for the April 1, 1930, issue of Forbes. “As a matter of fact, I think 1930 will end up as a very good year.”

Watson’s actions backed up his words. He made two pledges: he would keep the factories running and lay off no one; and he would increase spending on research and development.

First, the factories. Watson reasoned that the need for IBM machines was so great, if businesses put off buying them now, certainly they’d buy a lot of them when the economy picked up. He wanted IBM to be ready to take advantage of that demand. So he kept the factories building machines and parts, stockpiling the products in warehouses. From 1929 to 1932, IBM actually increased production capacity by one-third.

As the Depression wore on, Watson’s greatest risk was running out of time. If IBM’s revenue continued to falter past 1933, the burden of running the factories and holding inventory would threaten financial stability. In one meeting, Watson said to his executives about continuing to make machine parts:

“Conditions in this country are going to be better, our sales force is going to get stronger, and later on we are going to be able to do more business. I will take my chances on selling enough machines later to absorb those parts.”

And then, on January 12, 1932, Watson announced that IBM would spend $1 million – nearly 6% of IBM’s total annual revenue – to build a world-class corporate research center in Endicott, N.Y. He set his engineers loose and throughout the 1930s IBM cranked out new products and innovations, finally getting its technology well ahead of competitor Remington Rand and any other potential challengers in the category.

Soon, though, Watson’s gamble on manufacturing and research looked disastrous. The company was running out of cash. In 1932, IBM’s stock fell to 1921 levels. The board of directors discussed ousting Watson, but put it off. As the late management guru Peter Drucker told me in 2000, Watson “didn’t know how close he’d come to collapse.”

No one foresaw the coming impact of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal economic stimulus plan. FDR was elected president in 1932. As part of the New Deal, on August 14, 1935, Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act.

No single flourish of a pen had ever created such a gigantic information processing problem. The act meant that every business had to track every employee’s hours, wages, and the amount that must be paid to Social Security. Then the government had to process all those millions of reports, track the money, and send checks to those who should get them.

Overnight, demand for tabulating machines soared. An officer of the store chain Woolworth’s told IBM that keeping records for Social Security was going to cost the company $250,000 a year (the equivalent of about $5 million today). Businesses that didn’t have machines wanted them. The government needed them by the boatload.

Only one company could meet the demand. IBM had warehouses full of machines and parts and accessories, and it could immediately make more because its factories were up and running. Because IBM had been funding research and introducing new products, it had better, faster, more reliable machines than any other company. IBM won the contract to do all of the New Deal’s accounting.

This combination of events became IBM’s slingshot. Revenue jumped from $19 million in 1934 to $31 million in 1937. It would climb unabated for the next 45 years as IBM dominated the data processing industry.

Drucker said he’d asked Watson (the two knew each other) if he had anticipated the Social Security Act. Of course, the act was debated and written about well before it passed. But Watson said he had no idea it would impose such a record-keeping burden on business and the government. No one did – otherwise Congress may never have passed the act.

Watson’s recipe for success: one part daring; one part luck; and one part hard work to be ready when the luck kicked in.

So what does that say to Uber, which just laid off 14% of its employees, or Airbnb, which cut 25%, or any company looking to save money by slashing R&D?

The COVID crisis is accelerating change in business and society. Healthcare, travel, education, retail, food, and other huge sectors are getting reinvented. While the economic downturn is tragic for millions of workers and small businesses, great change also opens up great new opportunities.

Watson showed that when business leaders have the guts to prepare to jump on those opportunities while competitors hunker down and hope for the best, a touch of luck could tee up a long winning streak.

Source:Business Insiders

Is Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True?

He has delivered revelatory reporting on some of the defining stories of our time. But a close examination reveals the weaknesses in what may be called an era of resistance journalism.

It was a breathtaking story, written by The New Yorker’s marquee reporter and published with an attention-grabbing headline: “Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records.”

In it, the reporter, Ronan Farrow, suggests something suspicious unfolding inside the Treasury Department: A civil servant had noticed that records about Mr. Cohen, the personal lawyer for President Trump, mysteriously vanished from a government database in the spring of 2018. Mr. Farrow quotes the anonymous public servant as saying he was so concerned about the records’ disappearance that he leaked other financial reports to the media to sound a public alarm about Mr. Cohen’s financial activities.

The story set off a frenzied reaction, with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes calling it “an amazing shocking story about a whistle-blower” and his colleague Rachel Maddow describing it as “a meteor strike.” Congressional Democrats demanded answers, and the Treasury Department promised to investigate.

Two years after publication, little of Mr. Farrow’s article holds up, according to prosecutors and court documents. The Treasury Department records on Michael Cohen never went “missing.” That was merely the story put forward by the civil servant, an Internal Revenue Service analyst named John Fry, who later pleaded guilty to illegally leaking confidential information.

The records were simply put on restricted access, a longstanding practice to prevent leaks, a possibility Mr. Farrow briefly allows for in his story, but minimizes. And Mr. Fry’s leaks had been encouraged and circulated by a man who was barely mentioned in Mr. Farrow’s article, the now-disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti, a passionate antagonist of Mr. Cohen.

Mr. Farrow may now be the most famous investigative reporter in America, a rare celebrity-journalist who followed the opposite path of most in the profession: He began as a boy-wonder talk show host and worked his way downward to the coal face of hard investigative reporting. The child of the actress Mia Farrow and the director Woody Allen, he has delivered stories of stunning and lasting impact, especially his revelations about powerful men who preyed on young women in the worlds of Hollywood, television and politics, which won him a Pulitzer Prize.

I’ve been watching Mr. Farrow’s astonishing rise over the past few years, marveling at his ability to shine a light on some of the defining stories of our time, especially the sexual misconduct of the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which culminated with Mr. Weinstein’s conviction in February just before the pandemic took hold. But some aspects of his work made me wonder if Mr. Farrow didn’t, at times, fly a little too close to the sun.

Because if you scratch at Mr. Farrow’s reporting in The New Yorker and in his 2019 best seller, “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators,” you start to see some shakiness at its foundation. He delivers narratives that are irresistibly cinematic — with unmistakable heroes and villains — and often omits the complicating facts and inconvenient details that may make them less dramatic. At times, he does not always follow the typical journalistic imperatives of corroboration and rigorous disclosure, or he suggests conspiracies that are tantalizing but he cannot prove.

Mr. Farrow, 32, is not a fabulist. His reporting can be misleading but he does not make things up. His work, though, reveals the weakness of a kind of resistance journalism that has thrived in the age of Donald Trump: That if reporters swim ably along with the tides of social media and produce damaging reporting about public figures most disliked by the loudest voices, the old rules of fairness and open-mindedness can seem more like impediments than essential journalistic imperatives.

That can be a dangerous approach, particularly in a moment when the idea of truth and a shared set of facts is under assault.

The New Yorker has made Mr. Farrow a highly visible, generational star for its brand. And Mr. Farrow’s supporters there point out the undeniable impact of his reporting — which ousted abusers like New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, and helped rewrite the rules of sex and power in the workplace, sometimes with his colleague Jane Mayer. Ken Auletta, The New Yorker writer who helped Mr. Farrow take his work from NBC to the magazine, said that the important thing is that Mr. Farrow helped reveal Mr. Weinstein’s predatory behavior to the world and bring him down.

“Are all the Ts crossed and the Is dotted? No,” Mr. Auletta said of some of Mr. Farrow’s most sweeping claims of a conspiracy between Mr. Weinstein and NBC to suppress his work.

“You’re still left with the bottom line — he delivered the goods,” Mr. Auletta said.

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, defended Mr. Farrow’s reporting, calling it “scrupulous, tireless, and, above all, fair.”

“Working alongside fact checkers, lawyers and other editorial staff members at The New Yorker, he achieved something remarkable, not least because he earned the trust of his sources, many of whom had to relive traumatic events when they talked to him,’’ Mr. Remnick said in a statement. “We stand by Ronan Farrow’s reporting. We’re proud to publish him.”

Mr. Farrow, in his own statement to The New York Times, said he brings “caution, rigor, and nuance” to each of his stories. “I’m proud of a body of reporting that has helped to expose wrongdoing and to bring important stories into public view.”

It’s impossible, however, to go back and answer the question of whether Mr. Farrow’s explosive early reporting would have carried such power if he’d been more rigorous and taken care to show what he knew and what he didn’t. Is the cost of a more dramatic story worth paying? Because this much is certain: There is a cost.

That becomes clear in an examination of Mr. Farrow’s debut article on Mr. Weinstein, back in October 2017, which provided the first clear, on-the-record claim that Mr. Weinstein had gone beyond the systematic sexual harassment and abuse revealed days earlier by The Times into something that New York prosecutors could charge as rape. The accuser was Lucia Evans, a college student whom Mr. Weinstein had approached at a private club, and then later lured to his office with a promise of acting opportunities. There, she told Mr. Farrow, he forced her to perform oral sex on him.

The Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein inside Manhattan Criminal Court during his arraignment on sexual assault charges in 2018.

But a fundamental principle of the contemporary craft of reporting on sexual assault is corroboration: the painstaking task of tracking down friends and neighbors a traumatized victim may have confided in soon after the assault, to see if their accounts align with the victim’s story and to give it more — or less — weight. In much of the strongest #metoo reporting, from the stories about Mr. Weinstein in The New York Times to The Washington Post’s exposé of Charlie Rose and even some of Mr. Farrow’s other articles, clunky paragraphs interrupt the narrative to explain what an accuser told friends, and often, to explore any conflicting accounts. Americans are now watching this complicated form of reporting play out in the stories about Tara Reade, who has accused Joe Biden of assaulting her.

Mr. Farrow’s first big story on Mr. Weinstein offered readers little visibility into the question of whether Ms. Evans’s story could be corroborated. He could have indicated that he had, or hadn’t, been able to corroborate what Ms. Evans said, or reported what her friends from the time had told the magazine. He wrote instead: “Evans told friends some of what had happened, but felt largely unable to talk about it.”

It appears Mr. Farrow was making a narrative virtue of a reporting liability, and the results were ultimately damaging.

A crucial witness, the friend who was with Ms. Evans when both women met Mr. Weinstein at the club, later told prosecutors that when a fact checker for The New Yorker called her about Mr. Farrow’s story, she hadn’t confirmed Ms. Evans’s account of rape. Instead, according to a letter from prosecutors to defense lawyers, the witness told the magazine that “something inappropriate happened,” and refused to go into detail.

But the witness later told a New York Police Department detective something more problematic: That Ms. Evans had told her the sexual encounter with Mr. Weinstein was consensual. The detective told the witness that her response to the magazine’s fact checker “was more consistent” with Ms. Evans’s allegation against Mr. Weinstein and suggested she stick to The New Yorker version, prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorneys office later acknowledged. The detective denied the exchange, but when Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers unearthed the witness’s contradictory accounts, the judge dismissed the charge. Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers gloated, though, of course, their client was ultimately convicted on other counts.

In his 2019 book, “Catch and Kill,” Mr. Farrow dismisses the incident as an issue with a “peripheral witness” and attacks Mr. Weinstein’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman for “private espionage.”

A similar problem appears at the heart of “Catch and Kill,” in a section in which he describes Matt Lauer assaulting a junior employee at NBC. In Mr. Farrow’s telling, Mr. Lauer’s accuser leaves his dressing room after the assault. “Crying, she ran to the new guy she’d started seeing, a producer who was working in the control room that morning, and told him what had happened.” Mr. Farrow and the fact checker for his book, Sean Lavery, never called “the new guy” to corroborate the story, both Mr. Lavery and the man told me.

“I might look at something and say that’s good enough, there’s enough other evidence that something happened,” Mr. Lavery said, speaking hypothetically, when I asked why he and Mr. Farrow didn’t call a potentially corroborating witness.

But the “new guy” told me that, in fact, he doesn’t remember the scene that was portrayed in the book. He spoke on the condition he not be identified.

When I told Mr. Farrow that in an email last week, he wrote back: “I am confident that the conversation took place as described and it was verified in multiple ways.”

Mr. Farrow did not share his methods. But this much is clear: Mr. Farrow and the fact checker never called the producer. And if they had, that element of the story would have been much more complicated — or would never have appeared in print.

Matt Lauer, on the set of the NBC show “Today” in September 2017. He was fired two months later.

Mr. Lauer was fired from NBC, and a series of reports and an internal investigation portrayed him as a star who abused his power in the workplace for sex. He declined to speak for the record during a telephone conversation, except to say that he had found issues with the corroboration of Mr. Farrow’s reporting on him.

It’s hard to feel much sympathy for a predator like Mr. Weinstein or to shed tears over Mr. Lauer’s firing. And readers may brush aside these reporting issues as the understandable desire of a zealous young reporter to tell his stories as dramatically as he can.

But Mr. Farrow brings that same inclination to the other big theme that shapes his work: conspiracy. His stories are built and sold on his belief — which he rarely proves — that powerful forces and people are conspiring against those trying to do good, especially Mr. Farrow himself.

At the heart of “Catch and Kill” is an electrifying suggestion: that Mr. Weinstein blackmailed NBC executives to kill Mr. Farrow’s story on his sexual misconduct with the threat that The National Enquirer would expose Mr. Lauer’s misconduct if they did not. This is the “conspiracy” in the book’s subtitle. And it is the thread that holds together its narrative.

In Mr. Farrow’s telling, by the end of July 2017, he had nailed down the story of Mr. Weinstein’s pattern of sexual predation, and the NBC brass had begun to shut him down. He has said repeatedly that he had at least two women on the record for his story at the time he left NBC for The New Yorker. He told NPR in an interview, “There is no draft of this story that NBC had that had fewer than two named women.” But NBC has disputed that claim, and an NBC employee showed me what he described as the final draft of Mr. Farrow’s script, as of Aug. 7. It had no on-the-record, on-camera interviews. (It did have one strong piece of reporting that Mr. Farrow took to The New Yorker: an audio recording of Mr. Weinstein appearing to confess to an Italian model that he had groped her. )

Nor does Mr. Farrow provide any proof that NBC executives were acting out of fear of blackmail when they refused to air his story, a central theme he promoted on his book tour. When the ABC host George Stephanopoulos asked Mr. Farrow about “the suggestion that Mr. Weinstein was blackmailing NBC News,” Mr. Farrow replied, “Multiple sources do say that, and the way in which that’s framed is very careful.” Pressed on whether NBC had let the story go “because they were afraid information about Matt Lauer was going to get out,” Mr. Farrow replied, “That is what the extensive conversations, transcripts, and documents presented in this book suggest.”

But the reporting in the book does not bear that out. And in the absence of compelling proof, Mr. Farrow relies on what the critic and private detective Anne Diebel earlier this year described in The New York Review of Books as “New Journalism on the sly” — using novelistic technique to make his case. Mr. Farrow, for example, describes the facial expressions and physical gestures of NBC executives during his meetings with them, and then deduces dark motives.

“If the Lauer threat was indeed made, and taken seriously, then NBC’s killing of the story is not just a case of muddy corporate cowardice; it’s a case of abject journalistic malfeasance and moral failure,” Ms. Diebel wrote. “But in the absence of persuasive sourcing, Farrow’s exploration of the alternatives is insufficient.”

Even Mr. Auletta, a supporter and mentor to Mr. Farrow, told me that Mr. Farrow’s central conspiracy allegation was unproven.

Photographers gathered outside the State Supreme Court in Manhattan in February as Mr. Weinstein arrived for his trial.

The one on-the-record source supporting the core conspiracy theory in “Catch and Kill” is William Arkin, a maverick journalist and acolyte of Seymour Hersh who departed bitterly from NBC soon after Mr. Farrow.

In a curious passage in “Catch and Kill,” Mr. Farrow writes that Mr. Arkin — an ally of his at the network — told him of two anonymous sources who made the charge. In a telephone interview last week, Mr. Arkin told me that his sources, only one of whom offered a firsthand account, had been unwilling to speak to Mr. Farrow for his book. Mr. Arkin said the firsthand source told him that Mr. Weinstein had made a threat to an NBC executive about exposing Mr. Lauer, but that he doesn’t know who told his source. And he said he had no knowledge of the other elements of Mr. Farrow’s shadowy suggestions — the involvement of The National Enquirer, or whether executives actually shut down Mr. Farrow’s story because of a threat. (NBC has denied that Mr. Weinstein threatened anyone and said most of the producer’s communication was with MSNBC’s president, Phil Griffin, who wasn’t directly involved in the reporting on Mr. Weinstein.)

Two other NBC journalists, neither of whom would speak for the record, expressed a different view, which is shared by network executives: That Mr. Farrow was a talented young reporter with big ambitions but little experience, who didn’t realize how high the standards of proof were, particularly at slow-moving, super-cautious news networks. A normal clash between a young reporter and experienced editors turned toxic.

Mr. Arkin said he agreed with NBC’s view that Mr. Farrow didn’t have the Weinstein story nailed by August 2017, when he took the story to The New Yorker. But Mr. Arkin said he also believed that NBC didn’t really want the story.

The right move would have been to “take a 29-year-old and you hold him by the hand and you walk him through the story,” Mr. Arkin said in a telephone interview. “Instead what they did was they took him out to the deep end and threw him in — and then they said ‘Oh my God, you can’t swim.’”

That’s an account less heroic than Mr. Farrow’s. It’s also hard to argue that NBC wouldn’t have been better off staying close to Mr. Farrow and getting the story.

Mr. Farrow’s other irresistible conspiracy has even less to support it: that Hillary Clinton, whom Mr. Farrow had once worked for at the State Department, also sought to kill his reporting and protect Mr. Weinstein. In “Catch and Kill,” Mr. Farrow described receiving an “ominous” call from Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, in the summer of 2017 saying his Weinstein reporting was “a concern.” “It’s remarkable,” Mr. Farrow told The Financial Times about Mrs. Clinton during his book tour, “how quickly even people with a long relationship with you will turn if you threaten the centers of power or the sources of funding around them.”

But Mr. Farrow appears to have misinterpreted Mr. Merrill’s call. Mr. Merrill said at the time that Mrs. Clinton was preparing to do a documentary film with Mr. Weinstein, and the Clinton camp was trying to find out if damaging reporting was about to be published about the producer. He had no way of proving it, but another reporter he spoke to at the time about Mr. Weinstein shared with me text messages that back Mr. Merrill’s account, and contradict Mr. Farrow’s. “We’re about to do business with him unless this is real,” Mr. Merrill wrote the other reporter on July 6. In other words, Mr. Merrill was trying to protect his boss, not Mr. Weinstein.

Predictably, Mr. Farrow’s account was seized on by Mrs. Clinton’s detractors, both on the right and left, who saw it as vivid confirmation that Mrs. Clinton was a devious and manipulative character.

When I asked Mr. Farrow whether he has evidence for his conspiracies, he first referred the questions to his publisher, Little, Brown. Sabrina Callahan, the executive director of publicity for Little, Brown, said in an email: “The book is very careful about laying out the facts uncovered by Ronan around NBC’s contact with Weinstein and his associates — and only going as far as the facts support,” adding, “We would encourage people to read it and form their own conclusions.”

When I asked specifically about the Clinton conspiracy, she said, “Ronan‘s book recounts his own experiences.”

The essence of those responses — the first legalistic in a misleading way, the second to suggest Mr. Farrow’s journalistic conclusions are based on his subjective experience — captures the deepest danger of Mr. Farrow’s approach. We are living in an era of conspiracies and dangerous untruths — many pushed by President Trump, but others hyped by his enemies — that have lured ordinary Americans into passionately believing wild and unfounded theories and fiercely rejecting evidence to the contrary. The best reporting tries to capture the most attainable version of the truth, with clarity and humility about what we don’t know. Instead, Mr. Farrow told us what we wanted to believe about the way power works, and now, it seems, he and his publicity team are not even pretending to know if it’s true.

On Sunday night, Mr. Farrow offered another defense of the word “conspiracy” in his book’s subtitle, saying it “accurately conveys the substance of the book and efforts by powerful men to evade accountability.” He added, “With respect to Weinstein, I carefully lay out the various levers of pressure exerted against my reporting — through personal relationships, private espionage, legal threats, etc.”

Mr. Farrow last year in New York

I’m writing this for The Times, which competed with Mr. Farrow on many stories and shared the Pulitzer Prize with him in 2018 for coverage of sexual harassment. I wasn’t here during that coverage. What first set off my skepticism about Mr. Farrow’s work was reporting in 2018 by Jason Leopold at BuzzFeed News, when I was editor in chief there. (Disclosure: I don’t cover BuzzFeed extensively in this column because I retain stock options in the company, which I left in February. I’ve agreed to divest those options by the end of the year.) That reporting made clear that Mr. Farrow’s article on the Cohen documents was wrong — that they were not missing, but merely restricted to avoid leaks of sensitive materials.

And I found more recently when I dug into the Cohen story that for all Mr. Farrow’s attraction to screenplay-ready narratives, he missed one that was made for this moment. The real story of John Fry, the I.R.S. employee who leaked Mr. Cohen’s records, went like this: Amid the swirl of the scandal involving Stormy Daniels, Mr. Avenatti, her lawyer, took to Twitter one day in May 2018, and demanded that the Treasury Department release Mr. Cohen’s records.

Mr. Fry, a longtime I.R.S. employee based in San Francisco, was one of the legions of followers of Mr. Avenatti’s Twitter account, and had frequently liked his posts. Hours after Mr. Avenatti’s tweet that day, Mr. Fry started searching for the documents on the government database, downloaded them, then immediately contacted Mr. Avenatti and later sent him Mr. Cohen’s confidential records, according to court documents. “John: I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate this. Thank you,’’ Mr. Avenatti wrote to Mr. Fry, according to the documents, then pressed him for more.

Mr. Fry ended up pleading guilty to a federal charge of unauthorized disclosure of confidential reports this January. In Mr. Fry’s defense, his lawyer said he had been watching “hours and hours” of television, and described him as “a victim of cable news.”

I’m writing this for The Times, which competed with Mr. Farrow on many stories and shared the Pulitzer Prize with him in 2018 for coverage of sexual harassment. I wasn’t here during that coverage. What first set off my skepticism about Mr. Farrow’s work was reporting in 2018 by Jason Leopold at BuzzFeed News, when I was editor in chief there. (Disclosure: I don’t cover BuzzFeed extensively in this column because I retain stock options in the company, which I left in February. I’ve agreed to divest those options by the end of the year.) That reporting made clear that Mr. Farrow’s article on the Cohen documents was wrong — that they were not missing, but merely restricted to avoid leaks of sensitive materials.

And I found more recently when I dug into the Cohen story that for all Mr. Farrow’s attraction to screenplay-ready narratives, he missed one that was made for this moment. The real story of John Fry, the I.R.S. employee who leaked Mr. Cohen’s records, went like this: Amid the swirl of the scandal involving Stormy Daniels, Mr. Avenatti, her lawyer, took to Twitter one day in May 2018, and demanded that the Treasury Department release Mr. Cohen’s records.

Mr. Fry, a longtime I.R.S. employee based in San Francisco, was one of the legions of followers of Mr. Avenatti’s Twitter account, and had frequently liked his posts. Hours after Mr. Avenatti’s tweet that day, Mr. Fry started searching for the documents on the government database, downloaded them, then immediately contacted Mr. Avenatti and later sent him Mr. Cohen’s confidential records, according to court documents. “John: I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate this. Thank you,’’ Mr. Avenatti wrote to Mr. Fry, according to the documents, then pressed him for more.

Mr. Fry ended up pleading guilty to a federal charge of unauthorized disclosure of confidential reports this January. In Mr. Fry’s defense, his lawyer said he had been watching “hours and hours” of television, and described him as “a victim of cable news.”

Mr. Farrow has a big following on social media, too, and some of the same tendencies that undermine his reporting show up there. In January, when jurors were being selected for the Weinstein trial, they were asked what they had read about Mr. Weinstein to see if they could serve impartially. Mr. Farrow tweeted that a “source involved in Weinstein trial tells me close to 50 potential jurors have been sent home because they said they’d read Catch and Kill.”

Mr. Farrow was not in the courtroom that day, and he told me last week that his source stands by that figure. But the court reporter, Randy Berkowitz, told me that he recalled laughing with lawyers and court staff the day after about Mr. Farrow’s tweet, which he said was seen as “ridiculous.”

And Jan Ransom, a reporter who covered the trial for the Times, was there. The actual number of potential jurors who read the book, according to Ms. Ransom’s reporting? Two.


An earlier version of this article misstated the month of Harvey Weinstein’s conviction. It was in February, not January. The earlier version also misstated how long after Michael Avenatti’s tweet that he was contacted by an Internal Revenue Service analyst, John Fry. It was later that day, not less than three hours.

Source:The New York Times