Articles by Ken Auletta
How the Math Men Overthrew the Mad Men
Once, Mad Men ruled advertising. They’ve now been eclipsed by Math Men—the engineers and data scientists whose province is machines, algorithms, pureed data, and artificial intelligence. Yet Math Men are beleaguered, as Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated when he humbled himself before Congress, in April. Math Men’s adoration of data—coupled with their truculence and an arrogant conviction that their “science” is nearly flawless—has aroused government anger, much as Microsoft did two decades ago.
The Rise, Reign, and Fall of W.P.P.’s Martin Sorrell
The founder and C.E.O. of the world’s largest advertising-and-marketing holding company had said, “I will stay here until they shoot me!” Then, in a sense, they did.
THE HIDDEN SUCCESSION NEWS IN RUPERT MURDOCH’S SALE OF FOX ENTERTAINMENT TO DISNEY
Murdoch faces a “Sophie’s Choice” between his sons Robert and Lachlan. The sale turns Fox into a company focussed on news and sports, which are Lachlan Murdoch’s great passions.
Don’t Mess with Roy Cohn
Roy Cohn was once the most feared lawyer in New York City. A ruthless master of dirty tricks, he smeared the reputations of his political enemies, helped send the Rosenbergs to the electric chair, and had more than one Mafia don on speed dial. But his most enduring legacy is Donald Trump, whom he took under his wing in the 1970s. In Ken Auletta's 1978 Esquire profile, we meet the man who tutored the president in the dark arts of gossip, power, and politics.
PLUS: on the Esquire Classic podcast, Ken discussES Cohn’s unrelenting cruelty and drive, and how it helped shape Trump
Fixing Broken Windows
Bill Bratton wants to be America’s top cop. His critics say that his legacy is tainted.
Elizabeth Holmes is the C.E.O. of Theranos, a Silicon Valley company that is working to upend the lucrative business of blood testing.
The Hillary Show
Since stepping down as Secretary of State, fifteen months ago, Hillary Clinton has kept a calculated distance from the press and the public. She is talking with close advisers about a possible second Presidential run.
Outside the Box
In the spring of 2000, Reed Hastings, the C.E.O. of Netflix, hired a private plane and flew from San Jose to Dallas for a summit meeting with Blockbuster, the video-rental giant that had seventy-seven hundred stores worldwide handling mostly VCR tapes. Eventually, Hastings was convinced, movies would be rented even more cheaply and conveniently by streaming them over the Internet, and popular films would always be in stock. But in 2000 Netflix had only about three hundred thousand subscribers and relied on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver its DVDs; the company was losing money. Hastings proposed an alliance. Blockbuster wasn’t interested. What a momentous business mistake.
Freedom of Information
Alan Rusbridger has pushed to transform the Guardian into a global digital newspaper, aimed at engaged, anti-establishment readers and available entirely for free. It’s a grand experiment, he concedes: just how free can a free press be?
Michael Bloomberg, whose third and final term as mayor of New York expires at midnight on December 31st, is clearly vexed by the challenges of envisaging his own future and a City Hall without him.
Can a disgraced Wall Street analyst earn trust as a journalist?
Long overshadowed by her brothers, Elisabeth has impressed Rupert Murdoch’s associates.
Did publishers and Apple collude against Amazon? Since introducing the Kindle, in 2007, Amazon had come to dominate the e-book market, with about ninety per cent of sales. In announcing the iPad, Steve Jobs offered publishers an arrangement called the agency model, which Apple used for selling music and apps. The publishers would set prices, and Apple, acting as their “agent,” would take a thirty-per-cent commission and give them the rest…. One publisher warns that books are “in danger of becoming roadkill” in a digital war.
Get Rich U.
Stanford University is so startlingly paradisial, so fragrant and sunny, it’s as if you could eat from the trees and live happily forever. Students ride their bikes through manicured quads, past blooming flowers and statues by Rodin, to buildings named for benefactors like Gates, Hewlett, and Packard. Everyone seems happy, particularly Silicon Valley venture capitalists and investors who think of Stanford as their essential farm system.
At nine o'clock on the morning of September 6th, Jill Abramson was riding the subway uptown from her Tribeca loft. It was her first day as executive editor of the New York Times, and also the first time in the paper's hundred and sixty years that a woman’s name would appear at the top of the masthead. Abramson described herself as “excited,” because of the history she was about to make, and “a little nervous,” because she knew that many in the newsroom feared her.
Steve Jobs 1955-2011
Steve Jobs is dead. One big question is whether the unbelievably innovative culture he forged will live. Jobs was not a great human being, but he was a great, transformative, and historical figure.
Business and Loyalty
The only surprise in the resignation of Rebekah Brooks is that it took so long. She was the editor of the News of the World when a good deal of hacking was done, when police were paid bribes for documents and news tips.
What Murdoch Made
The New Yorker - July 7, 2011
Rupert Murdoch fathered a tabloid culture that reveled in the kind of news that could produce screaming headlines. There is simply no way that Murdoch, who has escaped more snares than Houdini, can cleanly escape the trap he has laid himself.
A Woman's Place
In 2007, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, knew that he needed help. His social-network site was growing fast, but, at the age of twenty-three, he felt ill-equipped to run it. That December, he went to a Christmas party at the home of Dan Rosensweig, a Silicon Valley executive, and as he approached the house he saw someone who had been mentioned as a possible partner, Sheryl Sandberg, Google’s thirty-eight-year-old vice-president for global online sales and operations. Zuckerberg hadn’t called her before (why would someone who managed four thousand employees want to leave for a company that had barely any revenue?), but he went up and introduced himself. “We talked for probably an hour by the door,” Zuckerberg recalls. It turned out that Sandberg was ready for a new challenge.
Murdoch’s Best Friend
Soon after Rupert Murdoch purchased Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal, he transferred Robert Thomson from News Corp.’s Times of London, where he was the editor-in-chief, to New York, to become publisher of the Journal. The family intimate says, “Robert has a unique relationship with Rupert. He’s his closest friend, in the true sense of the word.”
The Dictator Index
A profile of billionaire African mobile phone entrepreneur and inventor Mo Ibraham, who employs his wealth to battle the continent's dictators.
Tim Armstrong's Hail Mary Pass
AOL's purchase of the Huffington Post
You've Got News
The New Yorker - January 24, 2011
By purchasing the Huffington Post, CEO Armstrong seeks to take AOL back to the future, to a time when it played a central role in the Internet.
A profile of Saad Mohseni, Afghanistan's first media mogul.
President Barack Obama is on a mission, his chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau, told me, “not just to change politics in Washington but to change the culture of Washington, and the media is part of it.” This is hardly new. Abraham Lincoln commonly dismissed press criticism as “noise” and “gas” generated by ignorance and editorial self-importance. Marlin Fitzwater, the White House press secretary under Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, compared the media to “an unwanted appendage, like a cocklebur that attaches to your pants leg.” This time, though, the battle between the President and the press is different. There is a third party involved—the Internet—and no one can control a story for long.
Ten Things Google Has Taught Us
Why Google is uniquely successful and what that means for the media world
The Search Party
Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the founders of Google, believe that expanding their company’s lobbying operation in Washington, D.C., has become a necessity.
What might the Wall Street Journal become if Rupert Murdoch owned it?
MAD AS HELL
Lou Dobbs has been reborn as a populist—a full-throated champion of “the little guy,” an evangelical opponent of liberal immigration laws. His hour-long program, which airs at six, features Dobbs in a role that combines Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan. On the air, he boomingly assails the upper management of corporate America for its “outrageous” greed, pay packages, and corruption, its opposition to increasing the minimum wage, its hiring of “illegal aliens,” its ties to “Communist China,” and its eagerness to send American jobs overseas.
Can a wiretap scandal bring down L.A.’s scariest lawyer, Bert Fields?
How Carl Icahn got outmaneuvered by Richard Parsons when he attempted a hostile takeover of Time Warner.
The Dawn Patrol
The curious rise of morning television, and the future of network news.
On the door to Dan Rather's office at CBS are two fading gold lines of script: "Go tell the Spartans, thou who passest by, / That here, obedient to their laws, we lie." The quotation, Rather told me — the words of the Spartans who died holding off the Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae — has served as an inspiration ever since Mrs. Spencer, his fourth-grade teacher in Houston, Texas, first read it aloud in class. "They fought to the last man," he said. "I read that as loyalty. That's what it's come to mean to me. Loyal to the very end. Loyal to their beliefs. Loyal to their code." Rather, it was clear, was talking about himself; it was December, and he and several CBS News colleagues were awaiting the results of an outside investigation into their work which threatened their livelihoods and their reputations.
Bob Shrum is one of the biggest names in the campaign business-but is he prepared to take on Bush?
How George W. Bush’s White House closed ranks against the press corps.
Roger Ailes is a television pioneer, someone who had no background in news and yet created something different in the TV news business. In large part because of Ailes, Fox News, in its short life—it débuted on October 7, 1996—has established an unmistakable identity: it is opinionated and conservative, and its news is delivered by people who themselves are often unabashedly opinionated and conservative. When Ted Turner launched the Cable News Network in 1980, CNN took the idea of all-news radio and transferred it to television. The Fox News idea was to make another sort of transition: to bring the heated, sometimes confrontational atmosphere of talk radio into the television studio.
Beauty and the Beast
A profile of powerful movie studio boss Harvey Weinstein, a brilliant bully.
The Howell Doctrine
A profile of Howell Raines, the executive editor of the New York Times
The Microsoft Verdict
Both sides, it turns out, had reason to be pleased.
The Lost Tycoon
Now he has no wife, no job, and no empire, but Ted Turner may just save the world. Early last year, Turner seemed invincible. He was the largest shareholder in AOL Time Warner, owning around four per cent of the soon-to-be-merged companies; his celebrated name was on the door of a major division, Turner Broadcasting System; and his dimpled chin, gap-toothed smile, and pencil-thin Gable-esque mustache were recognizable everywhere.
Stay Tuned for More of the Same
Bay Area community leaders were petitioning the F.C.C. to reject the merger between AMFM, Inc., and Clear Channel. “This is the flea biting the elephant,” one host admitted.
Why does Bill Gates think that the Microsoft antitrust trial has been such a disaster for him?
What I Did At Summer Camp
A reporter for first time gets inside Herb Allen's Sun Valley C.E.O. retreat.
Dept. of Airwaves
How best to use the HDTV spectrum opening to the broadcast industry? The decision may effect the election in 2000.
The Last Sure Thing
PointCast’s “push” technology was briefly the hottest new thing. Rupert Murdoch’s empire tried to buy it for almost half a billion dollars. What went wrong?
Brave New World Dept.
At the dawn of high-speed cable Internet, John Malone’s sale of Tele-Communications, Inc., to A.T.&T., transforms the long-distance telephone firm into a multimedia telephone and cable company with potentially exclusive access to the Web.
Why are so many politicians and journalists lining up to be insulted by radio host Don Imus? The Don is not pleased when visitors blather. He holds grudges, he is personally insulted when companies don’t reward his favorite charity, and if you don’t amuse him you’re whacked. Each morning, he is quick to let loose on “wimps,” “jerks,” “weasels,” and “punks.”
In the Company of Women
Behaving like a woman was supposed to be bad for business, but the female executives of the entertainment and information industries are turning it to their advantage.
Life in Broadcasting
The Roone Arledge era at ABC news — which began 21 years ago, and which has redefined the look and feel of American news coverage — is ending in June
Mark Willes tore down the traditional wall between editorial and advertising. Will that save the L.A. Times?
The six most powerful media companies are borrowing the ancient Japanese custom of co-opting the competition.
The IMpossible Business
Since Gutenberg, publishing has been in crisis. The current crisis might be its most serious. And the outcome might change the business forever.
The Microsoft Provocateur
For a decade, Nathan Myhrvold, Bill Gates's corporate gadfly, has been writing copious, bombastic, brilliant, and confidential memos for his boss. To read them is to understand a lot about Microsoft — and the future.
Fathers and Daughters
I’ve never been called a “soccer mom,” but I qualify. Unlike my dad, who left the house early each morning and returned expecting dinner on the table, I neither go to an office nor stray far from my refrigerator. As a writer I fit into another category: Work-at-home dad. Which is not so different from “soccer mom.”
The Bloomberg Threat
Why does America's newest media mogul scare Dow Jones?
The Man Who Disappeared
At one time, a whole generation of Times reporters wished they could write like McCandlish Phillips. Then he left them all for God.
When the 1996 Presidential race ended, the press called it an awful, dispiriting campaign. President Clinton and Bob Dole, many wrote, were negative and cynical and had become slaves to the latest poll. Were they right?
Marriage, No Honeymoon
When Disney acquired ABC for more than $19 billion, they created the world's largest media company. Will the merger be as good for the public as it may be for Disney?
BehinD the Times
Many believe that Howell Raines, the current editorial-page editor, is Arthur Ochs (Punch) Sulzberger’s choice as the next editor of the New York Times. Raines, who has won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, has his detractors, including journalists who believe he is arrogant and too pugilistic, but few doubt his qualifications or deny that Raines would invest the newsroom with more spirit.
The Re-education of Michael Kinsley
What's been going on since the Beltway contrarian and the corporate cyber whizzes in Seattle got together to create a new kind of electronic magazine? Some very interesting ideas about journalism.
The News Rush
Last October, the top executives of NBC and of Microsoft met on the fifty-second floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza to talk about a dramatic news partnership. Why are the networks so eager to invade CNN's turf?
These are giddy days in the industry, and C.E.O.s keep losing their heads.
The Wages of Synergy
Comment about journalistic integrity and the corporate restructuring of media. As companies converge, occasions for journalistic conflicts of interest proliferate.
A profile of Rupert Murdoch, who often shuns the normal practices and principles of business and the media to get what he wants. It's a strategy that's working in China but hasn't with Time Warner.
Michael Eisner's comeback and his probable peace with Jeffrey Katzenberg crown a succession of mogul mergers and breakups that tops anything on TV.
The buzzing about whether Michael Ovitz will leave the Creative Artists Agency to head up MCA has become an echo chamber.
Michael Eisner's comeback and his probable peace with Jeffrey Katzenberg crown a succession of mogul mergers and breakups that tops anything on TV.
Pay Per Views
With legislation pending, what can a media C.E.O. do to get Congress on his side? PAC funds help, but the new Republicans want more than just money.
The Race for a Global Network
G.E.'s Jack Welch was trying to unload NBC. But now NBC has a strategy, while CBS reels from Howard Stringer's departure.
Selling the Air
Who will control the airwaves? This year may see a decision, and the battle is on between the new Congress and the F.C.C. — and its chairman, Reed Hundt.
The Human Factor
Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg were one of the steadiest and most successful teams in Hollywood. So why did they force a split that neither man wanted?
The $64,000 Question
Thirty-five years after the quiz-show scandal, a group of network executives consider the question: Is television still cheating?
Network for Sale?
In the wake of Barry Diller's failed bid for CBS, who will own the network isn't clear, but some truths about mergers in the new electronic media are.
Back in Play
Barry Diller has said that network broadcasting is the past, so what does he see for CBS? And what will happen now that Larry Tisch has put CBS in play?
From the time Edgar Bronfman, Jr., skipped college for a career in Hollywood to his decision to take over and redirect a large part of his family's Seagram Company, he has had a clear sense of what he wants his achievements to be. Some nervous executives at Time Warner are wondering where they fit into his plans.
Room at the Top
Joseph Lelyveld ascends to the Times' editorship. It was the naming of the new No. 2--and what it said about the future--that kept everyone guessing.
The Magic Box
Time Warner is testing its futuristic vision of services that will be available from the TV. But how much interaction do Americans really want? And is their interactive model the right one?
Promise Her the Moon
To the television networks, the star power of a Diane Sawyer is ever more crucial. So another contract bidding war has begun--led again by Fox.
John Malone: Flying Solo
John Malone, who engineered the merger between his TCI and Bell Atlantic, is the pioneering cable titan whom Al Gore once called Darth Vader. Despite charges of monopoly and deception, Malone has become the most powerful man in television, and has the industry and Capitol Hill wondering where he'll go next.
Under the Wire
Will the telecommunications revolution end in monopoly or Big Brotherhood? Neither, if Al Gore gets his way.
TV's New Gold Rush
American programming has invaded overseas markets once dominated by state-run television, and ABC's Herb Granath has led the charge.
The ElectroniC Parent
The entertainment industry is scrambling for an answer to violence after Janet Reno’s proposals for taming TV violence, but a San Francisco radio show may already have one.
The Last Studio in Play
Barry Diller and Sumner Redstone differ about where their industry is going, and Paramount may prove to be their testing ground.
Raiding the Global Village
CNN's global dominance faces challenges from new multinational network linkups and from changes in what the world wants to watch.
Opening Up the Times
Can the New York Times, America's family-owned newspaper of record, function as a democracy? Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., who succeeded his father as publisher a year and a half ago, wants to change the power structure of the Times. And he has put his top editors through some soul-searching to see if they can make it happen.
What Won't They Do?
Hollywood decision-makers discuss the social impact of the big screen and the small screen--and where the entertainment industry's responsibilities end.
While NBC and ABC grapple with management successions, mergers, and Mike Ovitz as producer, a new form of cable threatens to change the rules.
Barry Diller's Search for the Future
Diller's new venture began with a laptop and a home-shopping cable network — and it stunned Hollywood. But it may make him billions. And herald the future.
NBC suffered a major blow to its prestige when it lost David Letterman, but will it get the last laugh?
How the Politicians and the Public Learned to Loathe the Media
The swarm of reporters hovered outside Blake’s coffee shop in Manchester, New Hampshire, waiting for the candidate to appear. Suddenly Bill Clinton stepped out into the New England cold—not that you could see him, of course. What you could see were the boom microphones and TV cameras and tape recorders, all diving toward the dense center, reporters frantic to capture the moment—that gotcha! question, that gaffe—that would kill one candidate’s quest for the presidency.
Larry Tisch, Who Mistook His Network For a Spreadsheet
In five years as CEO, he has had one passion: saving money. He’s never understood why his employees hate him so much. Or why he may end up destroying CBS.
Profile of Mario Cuomo, sworn in as governor of N.Y. on Jan. 1, 1983. He is being touted as one of the Democratic Party's prospects for national office. On issues that interest liberals he takes the correct position. But in his speeches he often refers to God, his Roman Catholicism, and to family with the patriotism of an immigrant's son and this makes him popular among more conservative voters. His willingness to compromise casts him as a moderate with potentially broad appeal.
Ralph Nader, Public Eye
The public interest, not public relations, has long been Ralph Nader’s primary concern. Blunt, uncompromising, relentless, Nader moved against powerful, well-financed institutions to alert citizens to myriad hazards.
A Certain Poetry
Profile of Jean Riboud, chairman of Schlumberger, Inc., a multinational corporation dealing mainly with oil drilling. With assets of $16 billion, there are only three other companies worth more: Exxon, I.B.M., and A.T.&T. Riboud, while a hugely successful capitalist, retains the Socialist political views of his youth and numbers among his friends mostly artists and writers. Founded in 1919 by Conrad and Marcel Schlumberger, the corporation's major breakthrough came in 1927 with the invention of the electrical resistance log, which made drilling for oil profitable.
Part I: The New Yorker — November 9, 1981
Part II: The New Yorker — November 16, 1981
Part III: The New Yorker — November 23, 1981
“Reporter at Large” about the underclass or hard-core unemployed. Few training or job programs reach them. An experiment to help, called supported work, was designed by a N.Y.-based nonprofit corp., the Manpower Demonstration Research Corp. (M.D.R.C.). One of its projects is the Wildcat Skills Training Center on W. 37 St. It aims to prepare students for the real world, concentrating on the development of social skills and work habits. The students are criminals, drug addicts, or pushers, alcoholics, welfare mothers.
Profile of Mayor Edward Koch (who became Mayor in January 1978). He was the second of three children, born in the Bronx in 1924. His parents were poor Jewish immigrants from Poland. The Mayor's current popularity results because he is not viewed as a liberal. He calls himself a "sane liberal." Actually he's a pragmatist. He identifies with the center of the national Democratic Party.
More for Less
An in depth report on the extravagant employee work rules and mismanagement of New York City's government, a reason city taxpayers spend three times as much as they did ten years ago to receive the same level of police, fire, sanitation, and education service. And why this is not a liberal or a conservative issue, but a consumer issue.