A handful of stories from around the web that we've been talking about this week:
The Verge: How Silicon Valley promotes a homogenous aesthetic.
The New Yorker: The restoration of Louis Malle’s 1958 film “Elevator to the Gallows."
The Guardian: Tony Allen, Fela Kuti, and Afrobeat.
NPR: A conversation with Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood.
Gawker: The Ailes's small-town newspaper goes to bat for Roger.
The New York Times: Stand up to terrorism and don't stop traveling.
Also, the NYT series on private equity continued this week with an interactive graphic on how PE affects our everyday lives. We thought the graphic could have been better -- label some of those household products! -- and here's a thoughtful response from Fortune's Term Sheet about how PE is often written about in the media.
Sympathy for the Devil: Yesterday the New York Times published an
article reads like a dystopian children's book. It's called "This Is
Your Life, Brought to You by Private Equity." It describes the various
private-equity-backed businesses that the average American interacts
with, with the intent to surprise people who might not have known that
many companies providing basic services like water, infrastructure,
911 operators and garbage collection are now owned by private equity
firms. The article includes scary facts like "Response times for some
ambulance companies under private-equity control have worsened."
Naturally, PE advocacy groups bemoaned the article's lack of context.
American Investment Council spokesman James Maloney issued a response:
"This one-sided slideshow laments private equity's involvement in
public services for the convenience of its narrative."
There's a reason the article lacks context. Private equity is not
well-understood to the average person, and the minute you get into the
weeds of leveraged loans and carried interest, you lose everyone. In
2007, when the SEIU was protesting carried interest, I distinctly
remember that most of the protesters weren't exactly clear on what
carried interest was or why exactly it was so bad. It definitely felt
Consider the comedic lengths The Big Short went to in trying to
simplify and explain the financial crisis to lay people, eight years
after it happened. (Think Margot Robbie in a hot tub discussing the
intricacies of sub-prime loans.) We live in an era of info-tainment. I
think people want to understand, but it's harder than ever to keep
their attention and make them care. Double hard if you're trying to
gin up sympathy for a group of powerful, well-off people.
Moreover, private equity hasn't helped itself over the years. Many
firms prefer to avoid "telling their story," so they're perceived as
shadowy slash and burn profit-mongers. The irony that those profits
are, in theory, paid out to pensioners, is rarely mentioned.
The "private" part of private equity has changed a bit since the years
I covered the industry. Most of the big firms are now publicly traded,
Mitt Romney suddenly looks like a saint next to Trump, and some buyout
firms are even active on Twitter. Yet those changes don't seem to have
changed the average person's perception of the industry, as evidenced
by the Times article.
Term Sheet readers, you are obviously biased, but I'm interested in
hearing your reactions. Is private equity doomed to be forever
misunderstood? Does it matter?