The business journalist as manager
Hank Gilman, the deputy managing editor of Fortune, has a book out called “You Can’t Fire Everyone, and Other Lessons from an Accidental Manager” where he discusses his management style in the various business news operations he’s worked out.
One of his interesting management philosophies is that if you believe a business journalist would be an asset to your staff, you wait for them to come to you.
Gilman writes, “This concept is evident in my relationship with Allan Sloan, who has worked for me twice now and threatened to work with me on other occasions. I first met Allan in the late eighties. He was working for Newsday, a Long Island newspaper, and self-syndicating his column and generally pissing off a whole lot of people like Donald Trump. The best thing about Allan, and there are many, is that he understands numbers as well as the CEOs and their financial teams. He knows what he’s talking about, and they know what he’s talking about. That’s a pretty serious skill for a business journalist.
“But enough of the digression. When I met Sloan, I was an assistant business editor at The Boston Globe and was among his early customers for his syndicated column. I had seen his work in Newsday, and I always thought his column was one of the best in journalism, period. But I had no illusions that he would come to work for the Globe. (Whenever I meet anyone of extraordinary talent, I try to figure out how to get them to work for me whether I have a chance or not.) But I knew we both had long careers in front of us and told him never to accept another job without talking to me first. And he did just that when a few years later I landed at Newsweek. He had decided to leave Newsday and I was competing with Money magazine for his services. But Allan remembered how comfortable he was working with me at the Globe (as a buyer of his column) and I think he appreciated that I was a true fan who valued his work. I also think he thought he made a promise to me.
“Strangely, about ten years after I left Newsweek, I helped hire Allan again at Fortune. My dream was to have Allan and Carol Loomis, another legendary superstar, in the same workplace at the same time. (That’s what amounts to entertainment for me.) I figured if I waited long enough, that would happen. And it did. But in a very strange way. Allan was still at Newsweek — he claims I abandoned him — and Andy Serwer, my current boss, was a writer at Fortune. They got into a feud, in print and online, over the Time Warner and AOL merger. (Allan said it was a terrible idea and Andy basically said the merger wasn’t a great idea, but it wasn’t the end of the world.) Then they attacked each other in various ways. Not fun for me, who liked them both a lot.
“The details aren’t important, but I had a little problem. I knew I wanted Allan to join Fortune at some point, and I also knew that it wouldn’t happen unless Andy was okay with it. Andy was a big talent at Fortune at the time, and any manager with half a brain would want to keep him happy.”
Gilman brings Sloan and Serwer together for a few lunches and the two discover that they had a lot in common.
The book is full of anecdotes involving Gilman and other high-level business journalists of the past 30 years. If that interests you, then I recommend buying the book.