Friday, May 31, 2013

Why did the Times Hire Andrew Sorkin at 18?

Andrew Ross Sorkin. If you read any business media stuff, you've heard the name. Sometimes it is positive as with his book on the financial crisis or it being optioned into a Hollywood production. Other times it is bad for his friendliness with those he covers. The guy is in his mid 30s and has been at the NY Times since he was 18. Yes, actually since he was 18. While I like to joke that Matt Yglesias must have blown a professor to get a journalism job right out of Harvard, especially the economic stuff he writes considering he has never worked a real job, owned a business or earned a worthless economics degree, Yglesias' path is nothing compared to Sorkin. I do not believe the company line, but I don't think it is a case of daddy and mommy getting him a job. The Times knew what they potentially had in Sorkin, roped him in and cultivated him for a role in their media infrastructure.

His origin story sounds like a well crafted children's book. Just apply yourself kiddies and anything is possible. Let's hear the man explain it. In the Cornell Chronicle, a writer explains,

"If you had ever told me I'd be standing here, I would have laughed at you," Sorkin said, noting he spent much of his time at Cornell writing for the Times, which published 71 of his articles before he graduated. 
He said he "always had a passion for journalism and the media," and founded a sports magazine at age 15. "It was a remarkable education in how persistence, more than talent, really can get you much further than you could ever imagine," Sorkin said. "People don't like to say no." 
When the magazine failed three years later and Sorkin needed a summer job, he wrote Stuart Elliot, the advertising columnist for the Times -- persistently.
Elliot finally accepted him as an unpaid summer employee. "I was ecstatic," Sorkin said. "I was now going to The New York Times for five weeks to Xerox and staple. [Elliot] actually got me a business card that said 'Xerox and Staple Bitch.'" 
But not for long. After a chance encounter with an editor by the fax machine, Sorkin wrote an article for the paper that caught the attention of the editors in chief. Soon, he was promoted to "reporter" and has worked for the Times ever since. 
"If you actually have a passion about something, and you care about it, and you really want to do it, you can," Sorkin said to the students in the audience. "Send the e-mail. Make the phone call. People do not want to say no."
Wow. That is a really sweet story about how pluck and persistence can get you a job with the most powerful paper in the world >dismissive wanking<. Clark Kent has a better cover story for why he is always missing when Superman is around. Even the New York media spins the hustler story. They miss the elephant in the room.

How about this one? Sorkin was hired because of his dad. Not his dad making a phone call (which most likely happened), but his father existing as a partner at Cahill Gordon and Reindel LLP. Sorkin graduated from Cornell in '99 (working for the NY Times while in college), and became an M&A reporter in London, then "chief mergers and acquisitions reporter, based in New York". What does Andrew's dad do? Laurence Sorkin "advises in connection with all aspects of antitrust law such as mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, competitor collaborations, distribution and licensing practices, and price discrimination" (Cahill wiki entry). Cahill has an office in London, too. Laurence does the legal work. Andrew reports on potential M&As. How convenient! How does he gets those scoops and sources? Hypothetically, I think a dad would break attorney-client privilege for their son. At the least, he could nudge him in the right direction. I also think a dad would tell his son who to call for a source. It would be one hell of an 'in' to have him as your dad as you cultivate a source. After decades of M&A litigation and counsel, Papa Sorkin's digital black book must be valuable.

That is what the NY Times saw. They had am ambitious kid itching to write and make it as a journalist who just happened to have a connected dad. The Times brought in little Sorkin to get access to Papa Sorkin's network of information. He can spin a story of being someone's bitch for a summer, but that doesn't hide the fact that he was given a primo opportunity while still a teen for which millions of little Nancy Drew do-gooders would kill. M&A activity since the mid '90s has been absurd, so the Sorkin source was a valuable one. Andrew Ross Sorkin is now just another media tool of the banks and government. Naked Capitalism takes it to him often. Sheila Baer thought he was a twerp in her book. Sorkin also helped poison the well on PPIP, which is partly good had the program been allowed to be rigged (Barofsky wouldn't allow it) but the program could've been good if he hadn't turned congressmen against it with his articles. Instead of PPIP, the banks exchanged their garbage securities at higher values with the FED. Thanks Andrew. I tip my hat to the cathedral here, as they nabbed a good one while young. Sorkin is right. People do not want to say no. They just want to check out your parents first.

*Never knew him at Cornell.


Big Bill said...

You hit the nail on the head. The Virgin Birth story that so many connected people tell of their lives is like that told of the boss's son who started loading trucks as summer work in college and eventually would up being the President of the Company ... "because he was so gifted".

The story of cream rising to the top is the social grease that lets them take their place and be accepted as member of the meritocratic elite.

Fewer people would waste their time moving to New York if they knew the truth.

Portlander said...

Good one. I get so tired of the way the Cathedral's nepotism is completely ignored and glossed over.

That is the reason our country is going to sh*t. The Cathedral prefers the Latin American model and is doing everything in their considerable power to bring it about here.

Anonymous said...

My dad was an executive at Goldman. I was once engaged to the daughter of a lawyer who's a partner at a firm of comparable pedigree to that.

Dinner table conversations with either of these men were frequently about privileged information.

This is the power dynamic in my hometown.

You learn how to gloss over nepotism in college admissions essays. How did you get that amazing internship? Well, my dad picked up the phone. I showed the 'incredible initiative' of saying "Sure, that sounds fun" when my father asked me if I'd like to work at prestige position X. The invented story for how I scored the job comes later, during the interview with an Ivy alumnus, who pretends to be impressed.