Covering America’s billionaire class has become a new beat in this era of extreme wealth, growing inequality, and expected oversharing.
Consider the following headlines from the last few days: There has been a lot of buzz surrounding Elon Musk’s appearance on “SNL.” New details about Bill Gates’ divorce have emerged. There are many different perspectives on how Mark Zuckerberg should handle Donald Trump’s suspended Facebook account.
On a more personal note, there have been new complaints about Zuckerberg’s Hawaiian landholdings. And at least two eye-opening Jeff Bezos stories: One is about his new superyacht, which will come with its own “support yacht,” and the other is about his nearly $2.5 billion sales of Amazon stock. Bezos is also the founder of Amazon.
Teddy Schleifer, a Recode reporter, describes his beat as “billionaires in America,” which includes topics like philanthropy, money in politics, and inequality. “The media does an excellent job of covering inequality through the eyes of the poor,” he said. “But there’s shockingly little coverage of inequality from the lens of the mega-rich. What motivates these people? Do they feel guilty for, say, getting wealthier during COVID — or is it not their fault? How do they channel their billions into a form of soft power through political donations and philanthropy? I do see the billionaire beat as public-service journalism because it can help us understand the other side of inequality: What it’s like to be outrageously rich. It’s a challenging beat given all the gatekeepers and fluff, but more newsrooms should be trying to answer these questions.”
Amazon “is a secretive company and he’s a secretive person,” Stone said when I asked about his book-length coverage of Bezos and Amazon. So: How to puncture the Bezos bubble? “Fortunately there is a lot of turnover at Amazon,” he said, “and there’s a vast population of employees who are kind of willing to talk and describe what they saw at the revolution.” As for access to Bezos directly, “he’s only done a handful of public appearances, usually with a kind of friendly questioner, and nothing recently,” Stone said. Plus, “he’s got a lot of channels to go directly to his customers and to his fans.” All worthy of scrutiny!
Musk “didn’t waste any time jumping into jokes about his Twitter account, smoking weed with Joe Rogan, and his son’s name” on “SNL,” according to Frank Pallotta in this recap. Musk also revealed that he suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. “I just want to say to anyone I’ve offended, I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship,” Musk said. “Did you also think I was going to be a chill, normal dude?”