Wednesday, September 17, 2008

AMAZING New Yorker piece on Mayor Mike

While researching a story on a Bloomberg poverty program, I came across a priceless New Yorker piece on Bloomberg written shortly after his election. I particularly howled at the outspoken-yet-diminutive billionaire's attitude towards journalists: in short, extreme and justifiable disdain. Here are some choice excerpts below (sadly New Yorker's archives are atrocious - let me know if you'd like to read the whole article and I can send):
Speaking, as usual, without notes, he continued, "Oscar Wilde once said we are dominated by journalism. And that is both the good news and the bad news. The good news is that journalism is what keeps us a free society. If it wasn't for a free, aggressive, investigatory press, we really would have totalitarianism, and we should never forget that, no matter how many times we get annoyed with the press for intrusiveness, or whatever. And I do think sometimes, and this is my personal experience-you have a right to ask, but the great thing about the First Amendment is I have a right not to answer. You have a right to write it; I have a right not to read it. And that was the way I got through my campaign. I basically said I wasn't going to read any of this stuff anymore, and it's amazing, if you don't read it, life goes on." He concluded, "Anyways, congratulations to all of you."

In general, Bloomberg has a hard time masking his feelings toward the journalists who now trail him. Not long ago, he went record shopping, to demonstrate his support for merchants in lower Manhattan, and flipped through a rack of CDs as the cameras clicked away furiously. I happened to be standing nearby when he muttered, to no one in particular, "The dumbest things in the world, they're taking pictures of." (He bought two CDs by Crosby, Stills and Nash.) On another occasion, he was heading into a routine press conference at a Manhattan middle school when he ran into someone he knew. "You're not joining this gaggle!" he exclaimed.

Doubtless it is aggravating to be covered by the New York press, and while Bloomberg has been widely praised for his budget, his appointments, and his restructuring of City Hall, he has also been taunted. The first time he suddenly dropped out of view for the weekend without letting reporters know his whereabouts, the Post ran a picture of a milk carton with his face on it, asking "HAVE YOU SEEN ME?" The next weekend he disappeared, a Post photographer showed up at the home of the deputy mayor for operations, Marc Shaw, in Queens. The paper ran a picture of a dishevelled-looking Shaw, who appeared at the door in jeans and a T-shirt, above a caption identifying him as "the man in charge when the mayor's gone." The conceit was then picked up by David Letterman, who broadcast Shaw's photograph as the lead-in to a Top Ten list of the "Ways New York City Is Different When This Guy's in Charge." No. 1: "First city official since Koch to take a leak in the Hudson."

Yet Bloomberg's disdain for the press clearly goes beyond the missing-person gags. "If I had a heart attack in the sales department, everyone would come around and immediately give me CPR," he once announced to a group of reporters at Bloomberg L.P. "If I had a heart attack in the newsroom, you assholes would stand around and scribble notes." During the mayoral race, I asked him for his reflections on the campaign, and his response was to reflect on the stupidity of reporters. "I don't know whether it's just that they're not all that smart, or maybe they just don't think it sells," he told me. "But there is a focus on finding something wrong."

No comments: