17 Mar. 2022
The former Bloomberg CEO Justin Smith, quoted by Michael M. Grynbaum at the New York Times, sharing details on the future media startup cofounded with BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith:
“You maybe went to school in the U.S., you’re pretty well educated, you’re connected to your network and your family all around the world — and the quality of your local media is not amazing,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s either state-censored or, it’s just, the journalism’s not great.”
“So what do you do?” he continued. “You say, OK, well, let me let me pick up The New York Times, or let me pick up The Wall Street Journal, or let me pick up The Washington Post. And what do you get? You get exactly what you’d expect if you read something that had the word New York in it, or something that has the word Washington in it. Or you go to CNN and you get a feed from Atlanta, some regional story from the Midwest, and you’re sitting in Singapore.”
Is it just me or does this sound a little dismissive of other media outlets and what is being done in many, many other publications? The Straits Times or even the Guardian surely will appreciate not being mentioned in this example. I’m sure Justin Smith means well, and, like I previously said on this blog, I’m here for a new take at an international newspaper, but totally ignoring what is already available isn’t a very convincing tactic when it comes to promoting your future project. To me, it’s a bit like saying “This new car will solve urban transportation, where taxis are not great and walking is not amazing,” while ignoring buses, bikes, and underground trains. Grynbaum add:
The Smiths, who are not related, have been tight-lipped about plans for their new company, which has captured the fascination of the media industry because of its high-profile founders and their ambitious pledge to compete with international outlets like Reuters, The Associated Press and The Times.
Tight-lipped indeed; or maybe they still don’t know the specifics? As promising as the project sounds, as curious as I was when I first heard about it, today the contours of the future publication remain a bit blurry, and the “new details” don’t say much. Nothing in what Justin Smith is saying is new, and it looks like the Smiths do not agree on certain things just yet. If anything, this short interview made things even more confusing.
It is still early, and we obviously will have to wait, These Things Take Time, but I am now quite let down by this (as much as one can be let down by a non-existent thing). Two months after the initial promise of the announcement, almost nothing new transpires of what this new outlet will be like and on how it will be any different from what is already available today. Of course if the founders only consider CNN and the New York Times to be their competition, they would feel disruptive and confident enough to overhype the project.