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It is considered a benchmark for quality journalism. Right?
Your editorial building in New York is impressive. Your journalists are impressive. The “New York Times” is considered to be the rarely or never achieved benchmark for quality journalism.
In contrast to the output of its more than 1,000 journalists, everything that appears in German is dwarfed. For Swiss media you would need a magnifying glass if you wanted to compare them. Is that so?
From Switzerland it is difficult to judge the positions of the NYT in the tough conflicts within the USA, in the heated atmosphere of the imminent elections for the most powerful office in the world.
When the NYT writes about Switzerland, you can judge its quality
But if the big NYT deals with a topic from little Switzerland, then it is a good opportunity to judge the quality of the research, factual accuracy and unadulterated reproduction of the events.
Especially if it is not a small piece of news about little Switzerland, but a piece of 3211 words, as measured in Anglo-Saxon journalism. Or around 20,000 characters about a single person. The topic is: „The short term and the sudden fall of the only black CEO„.
The lead cannot be blamed for not accurately summarizing the content of the following article: “Tidjane Thiam made Credit Suisse profitable again. But the Swiss rejected him as an outsider, and a sudden scandal took him down.“
Like its copyist «Der Spiegel», the NYT maintains the scenic introduction to a longer piece. It’s a birthday party for the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Credit Suisse. It took place in a Zurich pub, there were shows, including that of a „janitor“ who mopped the floor and danced to it.
Thiam and his companions left the room; it was a black man who played the caretaker. When they returned, they saw a „group of Rohner’s friends“ on stage who were performing their own number – all with Afro wigs.
Introduction, generalization, flashback
After the scenic introduction, the generalization must come: Conversations with a total of 16 – anonymous – sources, close employees, customers, friends and investors would have shown that „race“, i.e. his skin color and origin, was an always present factor during his tenure, and this racism „helped create the conditions for its astonishingly quick exit“.
After the generalization comes the flashback; Thiam’s biography from birth. Up to the takeover of the management of the CS, although he said „twice no“ to Rohner who was courting him.
Then his successful work, although Zurich, Switzerland had always given him to understand that he “does not belong”, finally the argument with his private banking star, the surveillance scandal, the departure, although he was not involved in the affair himself.
To get the tears flowing should not be missing either
Thiam then resigned on February 7, despite the support of major CS shareholders, including Harris Associates‘ David Herro, who publicly stood by his side. At his last media conference, when asked whether his work in England would have been seen differently, Thiam replied “I am who I am”, and someone who sat near him said that Thiam’s eyes glittered suspiciously.
Before we can wipe our tears away, the NYT explains how Thiam had to stay in Zurich to be questioned by the FINMA banking regulator. He urgently wanted to fly to Los Angeles, where his son was dying of cancer at the age of only 24.
Final punch and further work
Right, the final punch is still missing, which is provided by the quote from a sister of Thiam; she asks whether the Swiss would have the honesty to admit that seeing a black man head one of their most prestigious companies was „unbearable“ for them.
Does anything miss? Naturally; Thiam is today fighting the pandemic in Africa as the envoy of the African Union. And other bank bosses got away with much bigger mistakes, so the CEO of Barclays, who wanted to expose a whistleblower using the internal security forces. He got a fine and stayed in office. A white man, of course, as was Jamie Dimon, who owed JPMorgan Chase a loss of $ 6 billion and a fine of $ 1 billion.
Summary of the 100 million man
If you summarize the 20,000 letters: Thiam came reluctantly to CS, caused a painful turnaround at the bank, put it back on the road to success and was then based on the motto „the Moor has done his duty, the Moor can go“ dumped. From a deeply racist Swiss society, who couldn’t bear to see a black man as CEO of one of the two big banks.
In addition, a man who is unwavering his way, from the Ivory Coast to high-class schools to top positions, most recently at the insurance company Prudential. Until he made the mistake of getting involved with the Swiss.
The narrative is clear. But also true?
That would be the narrative, the framing, the clear message of the article. Only: is that also true? Let us assume that all of the events mentioned in the article actually took place this way. Do they then describe Thiam’s activities fully and in a balanced way?
In such a long piece it would certainly have been worth mentioning that Thiam, as head of Prudential, received a fine of 50 million pounds for failing to report a takeover offer to the stock exchange regulator. Actually a reason for dismissal. But he survived that too.
It would certainly have deserved to be mentioned that all, absolutely all of Thiam’s announcements about the future development of CS did not take place. It might also have deserved to be mentioned that during Thiam’s tenure, the already meager share price of CS was almost halved again.
Perhaps it would have deserved to be mentioned that Thiam’s successor will reverse various of his renovation measures. It should also have been mentioned that the appearance with bodyguards and helicopters at events to which Federal Councilors also go by public transport and unaccompanied, actually causes astonishment in Switzerland.
Criticizing blacks can always be racist
Finally, it deserves to be mentioned that it is unusual not only in Switzerland and a clear declaration of war on the Board of Directors to call on important shareholders to publicly criticize the Board of Directors. And finally it deserves mentioning that you can also play the “black” card as a trump card; Can put criticism down by saying or suggesting: If the criticized weren’t dark-skinned, there would have been no criticism. Therefore it is not justified but racist.
But since none of this is in this NYT article, which was written by a total of four journalists, one unfortunately has to part with the illusion that the NYT continues to be the benchmark for all things in journalism. One can only hope that this is an exception, a slip-up. However, one must admit that this hope is not too big.