OLD Media Moves

Portfolio resorts to list journalism

April 18, 2008

TheDeal executive editor Yvette Kantrow writes Friday that Conde Nast Portfolio, which was supposed to bring back long-form journalism to business writing, has resorted to a hackneyed trick — it’s got a list in its latest issue.

Conde Nast PortfolioKantrow writes, “For its ‘Brilliant Issue’ (oh, brother), Portfolio brings us the ’73 Biggest Brains in Business,’ a bizarre and arbitrary compendium of pop culture icons (Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg), fashion designers (Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs), assorted do-gooders (microlenders, philanthropists, environmentalists), academics, lobbyists, artists, and, yes, a handful of actual businesspeople (Rupert Murdoch, Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, and oops, Jeffrey Immelt). Julian Robertson and the Google boys also made the list; Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, all favorites of master listmaker Fortune magazine, did not.

“How does Portfolio explain a list that manages to include both actress Tina Fey and acquisitive Indian mogul Ratan Tata? ‘Brilliance is a slippery quality; it can be relative, temporary, or a matter of taste,’ it intones, using Steve Schwarzman as Exhibit A. Schwarzman looked brilliant when he took his Blackstone Group LP private equity empire public last year, the magazine explains, but now that the stock isn’t doing well, he no longer seems so smart.

“So there you have it; brilliance, at least according to Portfolio, isn’t a measure of intellect or mental keenness, but a temporal thing, which, if you’re a businessperson, is lost the moment your stock starts to sag, in the same way that a Hollywood starlet allegedly loses her sex appeal as soon as her taut skin starts to slacken. It’s an honor that can be bestowed or revoked on people at will, by the market, by the public and, of course, by magazine editors in search of a gimmick for their covers.”

Read more here.

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