Saturday, May 07, 2005

Tom Friedman, New York Times rug merchant

For years I've admired Tom Friedman, the NYT columnist who writes about globalization. He's especially good at telling the Bush administration, or the Arab world, or Israel, or Times readers (myself included), when they don't "get" globalization or geopolitics.

Lately he's gone over the top selling his new book The World Is Flat. Any author appreciates an opportunity to hawk their new book -- it'll help put his daughter through Harvard someday. But Friedman has lost his compass.

Friedman's most recent column in The Times was essentially an advertisement for his book. He begins by, um, casually mentioning he's currently on book tour, then twice alludes to his "world is flat" metaphor. Watch him carefully as he tours the talk circuit: he'll mention his book title as often as he can remind Oprah or Wolf Blitzer or Gwen Ifill or Dr. Phil that "the world is flat."

Tom Friedman is no longer a serious and respectable columnist; he's a multimedia huckster. Hmm... he's now the Mitch Albom of The New York Times.

Several years ago I encountered Friedman at the Burger King at Detroit Metropolitan Airport -- no doubt he was en route to Asia. I nearly told him how much I admired his writing, but I chose to give the man some space. Now he'd probably say "This hamburger is flat -- and the world is flat -- did you know that? I wrote a book about the flat world. You can buy The World is Flat in the bookstore near gate A45."

Times columnists often publish books that attract a wide audience; more power to them. But does The Times explicitly offer their columnists free column inches for their book ads?

1 comment:

TR said...

Rich...What, no cynicism? I'm trying to be fair, balanced, and of course, flat....

Flatulently Yours,