Testy Copy Editor: “Trump-linked” oligarch’s company goes bust
It’s out of vogue to be “fair” to President Donald Trump – often for good reasons – but sometimes we must call out stories whose premises are a little out of line.
Two mysterious companies owned by the Russian oligarch who bought Donald Trump’s Palm Beach mansion filed for bankruptcy in North Carolina Friday, adding to the intrigue about the firms and the rich Russian behind them. (McClatchy)
The oligarch is Dmitry Rybolovlev, who also is the guy whose plane last year was at a few airports at the same time as Trump’s plane. That seems at first glance to be the “intrigue” the headline alludes to, given the prominence (second paragraph) the writers gave to what, for all we know, were mere coincidences. No one has reported that the planes were in the same place for nefarious reasons, but it’s widely insinuated.
But no, the intrigue surrounds a battery plant near Charlotte, N.C., in which Rybolovlev was the “main shareholder.” The companies that own the battery plant, which failed, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The story goes on to detail the many bad things Rybolovlev and his associates might have done.
Trump is not mentioned as such an associate.
So, the story has nothing to do with Trump. The airport intersections are the only way to connect him to Rybolovlev, and they’re not much of a connection. Otherwise, the story is the sort that U.S. media would mostly ignore.
Where Trump has a questionable connection, report it. The relationship with Rybolovlev has not been shown to be one.
Apologies in advance for any links to this column posted by political websites. We are nothing if not apolitical.
We note with interest, albeit a few months late, that the New Yorker’s “Financial Page” columnist, James Surowiecki, has left the magazine.
We have great respect for Surowiecki, even though he occasionally confuses the stock market with the economy. We don’t know the circumstances of his departure, and we suppose it’s none of our business.
The Twitter post announcing his career shift is a little enigmatic.
I’m going to be working on a book (or books), and looking for other interesting projects. Get in touch if you have a good idea.
— James Surowiecki (@JamesSurowiecki) March 10, 2017
This overwrought headline did appear on The Street, whose journalistic standards are lacking, but there’s no good reason to ask a question in a headline that the story doesn’t answer, especially with a “who knows” tacked on the end.
As a matter of fact, there’s no good reason to ask a question in a headline, even if it is answered in the story. Make headlines tell the reader something substantive. If you can’t come up with one, the story probably should be spiked.
Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times writes “How I lost my 25-year battle against corporate claptrap.” She’s referring to the nonsense issued by businesses, but the claptrap is repeated in the media, over and over, ad nauseam. Usually, the offense is running an empty quote from one executive or another, but often business writers will adopt the claptrap as their own.
A contributing editor for the Testy Copy Editors Facebook page commented: “Businesses may run their guff unmediated by buying ads. The rest of us are under no obligation to run the guff at all.”
Phillip Blanchard is a former business editor at the Washington Post. Previously he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times and newspapers in upstate New York. He is founder of Testy Copy Editors. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org