Brave Thinkers 2012 November 2012

The Bloomberg Way

The mayor of New York on his soda ban, why he doesn't worry about approval ratings, governing in the age of Twitter, and the dumbed-down media

So I think we’ve dumbed down, and it’s not good for society. It’s hard to argue that we aren’t going more towards an instant-gratification, sound-bite kind of world. And I think the technology is driving that; the economics of the business, as I just said, is driving that; the political process is driving it.

On governing in the age of Twitter:

Today, there is an instant poll on everything. And elected officials say “Oh my God, 1,000 people just twittered me or Facebooked me”—or whatever the thing. They don’t even know the difference. “This is a disaster. I’ve gotta go out with a statement right away condemning it.” Maybe that’s what happened to Romney [when he criticized the Obama administration the night news broke of Ambassador Christopher Stevens’s death]. Who the hell knows? … If every time you want to do something, they demand the final results, when you’re just sort of feeling your way and trying to evolve, it’s hard to govern …

In medicine, or in science, you go down a path and it turns out to be a dead end, you really made a contribution, because we know we don’t have to go down that path again. In the press, they call it failure. And so people are unwilling to innovate, unwilling to take risks in government …

Innovation is very difficult. The more exposure there is, the more difficult it is. And people say “Why does government not work?” It is partially because the public demands answers before they are available; it’s partially because [the public] expects a sound-bite solution to how you’re going to cure cancer or bring peace to the Middle East; it’s partially that government fuels those things because it makes it easier to avoid answering and taking specific positions and getting blamed for anything.

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James Bennet is the editor in chief and a co-president of The Atlantic. Prior to joining the magazine in 2006, he was the Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times. More

"I wanted a profound and extreme talent who led quietly, was generous to others, and comported himself with collegial respect," remarked Atlantic Media chairman David Bradley when announcing his selection of James Bennet as the magazine's fourteenth editor in chief in early 2006. "On all scores, but surely these, I have conviction on James' appointment." Before joining the Atlantic staff, Bennet was the Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times. During his three years in Israel, his coverage of the Middle East conflict was widely acclaimed for its balance and sensitivity. His much-lauded long-form writing for The New York Times Magazine was responsible for catching the eye of David Bradley during his year-long search for a new editor. Upon accepting the position, Bennet told a Times reporter that he saw the Atlantic job as "a chance to help, encourage and preserve the practice of serious, long-form journalism." Bennet is a graduate of Yale University who began his journalism career at The Washington Monthly. Prior to his work in Jerusalem, he served as the Times' White House correspondent and was preparing to join its Beijing bureau when he was offered the Atlantic editorship.

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