Role of media groups to ‘contextualize’ info

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

Given the faster, increasingly digital and polarized ways news is disseminated around the world, the role of trusted news organizations is to “contexualize” the bits of information people pick up in various different media, Andrew Ross Sorkin, a financial columnist for The New York Times, said Wednesday in Tokyo.

Sorkin, also founder of Dealbook, a financial news service produced by the newspaper, was speaking at an event to commemorate the Oct. 16 launch of the publishing tie-up between The Japan Times and the International New York Times. The occasion also marked the Oct. 14 rebranding of the International Herald Tribune as the International New York Times.

In his talk, titled “Innovation, Investment and the Japanese economy,” Sorkin shared his thoughts on the changing business and media landscape, where the Internet and social media have democratized the ways people exchange information and shape their opinions on various issues.

He cited his own experience of following a barrage of news reports across different media in late 2009, when news broke that golfer Tiger Woods smashed his car into a fire hydrant near his home, followed by reports suggesting his wife may have attacked him with a golf club.

Sorkin said he first learned of the incident not from The New York Times but from a U.S. gossip news site, adding that he kept on trying to find more about the story, following links to online articles, to magazines, to a local newspaper in Florida, even to a police blotter where pictures of the incident were uploaded.

“We all become reporters,” he said. “We are all triangulating all this different information, connecting all the dots. . . . I went to all these places, I tried to figure out what the truth is and I wasn’t sure, and ultimately, I actually did go to The New York Times.

“One of the unique values of The New York Times and the importance of trusted news organizations is this idea that in this new age, we are all polarized, we are all going to be doing our own reporting and we are all going to go to all sorts of different places, (yet) we go to (trusted news organizations). Everybody still needs a baseline,” Sorkin said.

“Ultimately I imagine, I hope, that you’ll find the place, at The Japan Times, at The New York Times and at the International New York Times, to try to understand what the truth is.”

Sorkin, author of the 2009 best-selling book “Too Big to Fail,” an inside account of the banking crisis that hit Wall Street in 2008, also shared his concern about the “short-termism” dominating the business, financial and political worlds today. In particular, global companies have grown so massive in the scale of their operations that their CEOs can’t have a full grasp of what is going on in their own companies, he said.