From Jeff Bezos to Elon Musk, from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire’s pace deserves close scrutiny


A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can register for free here.

This era of extreme wealth, growing inequalities, and expected excessive sharing has given rise to a new pace: covering the American billionaire class.

Just consider the final days of the headlines: lots of news and noise about Elon Musk’s turn to host “SNL”. New revelations on Bill Gates’ divorce. There is no shortage of opinions on how Mark Zuckerberg should handle Donald Trump’s suspended Facebook account.

On a more personal note, new complaints about Zuckerberg landholdings in Hawaii. And at least two mind-blowing Jeff Bezos stories: one on his new superyacht which will come with its own “support yacht”, and another on its sale of nearly $ 2.5 billion in stock Amazon. Bezos is also the subject of a new book, “Amazon Unbound”, by Brad Stone, who hits Tuesday.

This is a different category of coverage than, for example, classic Forbes lists or Daily Bloomberg Billionaires Index of the richest people in the world. These lists certainly have some value; Forbes and Bloomberg have dedicated “wealth” teams that do a good job. But since the richest men and women in the world have a disproportionate impact on the rest of us, they also deserve disproportionate attention and scrutiny.

“The other side of inequality”

On TwitterRecode reporter Teddy Schleifer describes his pace as “billionaires in America,” meaning topics like philanthropy, money in politics and inequality. “The media does a great job of covering inequalities from the perspective of the poor,” he told me. “But there is actually a shocking coverage of inequality from the perspective of the mega-rich. What drives these people? Do they feel guilty, for example, of being richer during COVID – or is it not their fault? How do they funnel their billions into a form of soft power through political donations and philanthropy? I consider the billionaire beat to be public service journalism, because it can help us understand the other side of inequality: what it’s like to be outrageously rich. and fluff, but more editorial staff should try to answer these questions. “

How to cover the richest man in the world

Amazon “is a secret company and it’s a secret person,” Stone said when I asked about his book length cover from Bezos and Amazon. So: how do you break the Bezos bubble? “Fortunately, there is a lot of turnover at Amazon”, he said, “and there is a large population of employees who are kind of willing to talk and describe what they saw in the revolution.” As for direct access to Bezos, “he’s only really made a handful of public appearances, usually with some kind of friendly interrogator, and nothing recently,” Stone said. Plus, “he has a lot of channels to go straight to his customers and fans.” All of this deserves careful consideration!

The second richest man in the world makes jokes

On “SNL”, “Musk” wasted no time jumping into jokes on his Twitter account, smoking weed with Joe Rogan and his son’s name, “Frank Pallotta wrote in this recap. Musk also shared that he had Asperger’s syndrome. “To everyone I’ve offended, I just want to say that I reinvented electric cars and send people to Mars in a rocket,” Musk said. “Did you also think I was going to be a normal cold guy?”

>> Among other premieres, Saturday’s “SNL” was the show’s first live broadcast internationally, via YouTube …

Musk’s show – not very funny?

Brian Lowry writes: “Here is my reflex,” The old man screams at the cloud “Reaction to” SNL: “It was another rather mediocre episode, in a second half of the season filled with them. The fact that there is a need to do Much more because of Musk’s appearance / profile frankly says as much about the current traffic-driven media environment as the show itself. show a modest lift, but not huge – are pretty much indicative of how media bubbles can distort our perceptions … “

There is nothing funny about it

The most read story on the WSJ website Sunday night made headlines “Melinda Gates had been meeting with divorce lawyers since 2019.”

Emily Glazer and Khadeeja Safdar reported that Gates’ divorce has been in the works for years. As this NYT story on the “separate worlds” of the two philanthropists, the Journal’s story is largely attributed to insiders and other anonymous sources …

“Maybe billionaires can’t hide anymore”

That’s what Stone pointed out to me after we left the airwaves on Sunday. “Social media has put everyone on the sidelines,” he said. “Everyone in their orbit has a story to tell about them. Elon is an example of someone who embraced him and bent him to his will, enlisting his followers in a fandom. do it almost as gracefully … “

Some information on the research of the publisher WaPo

On Sunday’s “reliable” stone mentionned that Washington Post CEO Fred Ryan led the search process for a new editor, but Bezos is intimately involved: “Last week I understood Bezos was in Washington interviewing some of the finalists for this role … “

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