Anya Schiffrin

Police and the 15-M movement

July 29, 2011

The Spain of my childhood was a dictatorship. It was a country of  beggars, priests, old women in black, guardia civil in their ominous hats. It smelled of garlic, cologne,  dark tobacco and sometimes sewage. It was dangerous to speak of politics in public and  my grandfather, an officer in the Republican Army, died in exile.

Can we please calm down about DSK?

May 23, 2011

The world seems to have gone sex mad this week:  the male libido dominates the news all across Europe and  even in Tunisia – where there is some local news of interest — the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn was the lead on the evening news when we got there. It’s a terrible story but a juicy one and I don’t blame my fellow scribes for going to town on it. It’s also confusing with the narrative in constant flux as new details have emerged. If DSK is guilty of this serious accusation then he must be punished, of course. But I am afraid that by trivializing the story with gratuitous details we are losing sight of the main point. Rape is not the same as sexual harassment, and these problems are totally different from affairs in the work place.

Tunisia’s spring

May 19, 2011

It turns out that starting a revolution in the age of social media is a full time occupation. After bringing down their government, launching dozens of new television and radio stations and about 70 new political parties and posting endless leaked documents on Facebook all the while working on rewriting their constitution, many Tunisians are now busy speaking at conferences, answering questions from journalists and politely agreeing to meet the endless flood of people coming to their country to learn more about the revolution.

Lunch with Saif Gaddafi

May 3, 2011

I don’t remember why we had lunch with Saif Gaddafi. The invitation came through an intermediary about five years ago.  It was him and a friend and Joe and me. We met at an old hotel in Rome and lunched in the rather formal dining room. He and Joe talked for a couple of hours about economic development and some of the different possibilities for a country like Libya. Nothing too exciting — irrigation and credit, the need to spend money on education, share the oil wealth, create jobs. He invited us to visit and someone from the Qaddafi Development Foundation followed up a few months later.

Out of office … forever

April 25, 2011

I am so jealous. I wrote to Nassim Taleb this week. He is famous for writing The Black Swan and also has a section on his website devoted to his predictions of the 2008 economic crisis (which began in 2007 with the collapse of the mortgage market). Note the apt url if you decide to click on it. Anyway, the reason I am struck by admiration and envy is the auto reply I received:

from The Great Debate:

Does everyone have a price?

April 7, 2011


On Monday I went to Bloomingdales, the Gap and Starbucks but passed on a visit to Magnolia Bakery. Instead I  stopped by the St. Moritz bakery where you can order hot chocolate and sit by a video of a cozy winter  fire that overlooks the indoor ski slope and is just around the corner from the largest candy store in the world, which happens to face an aquarium that occupies an entire wall on one side of the world’s largest shopping malls. This by the way is opposite of what claims to be the world’s largest candystore whose mission statement is to make every day “happier’. Earlier, while exploring the watery depths of the bright Pink Atlantis Hotel (one of the white elephants of the property crash of 2007) I knew it was really the last kingdom because the fish swam around two cracked thrones and other kitschy stone artifacts.

from The Great Debate:

A case of social-media identity theft

March 29, 2011

A few years ago I needed to reach the Central Bank governor of Nigeria (yes, I know that sounds like the beginning of an e-mail scam). I went on to Facebook and saw there were several profiles and finally chose the one that seemed the most likely, which included a smart photo of him speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos. I friended this man and duly received a reply. The next time I saw him I mentioned that we were friends on Facebook. His reply was “What is Facebook?”

from The Great Debate:

Japan shows another side of the press

March 14, 2011


By Anya Schiffrin
The opinions expressed are her own.

Sitting in Japan in the days after the Friday earthquake and watching the official broadcaster NHK cover the disaster has been an unusual experience. There has been the typical blanket television coverage of this tragedy but the flavor of the reporting is different than it would be in the U.S. “Restrained” is how one friend described it. Over and over we’ve seen the same awful footage of the enormous dirty wave sweeping up cars and houses as it inches slowly along the land.

from The Great Debate:

The known unknowns of business journalism

February 14, 2011

By Anya Schiffrin

Journalists love thinking about journalism so I was happy recently to spend some time reading 18th and 19th century Indian newspapers, part of the collection housed at the Jawaharal Nehru Library in New Delhi.   With my new book BAD NEWS: How America’s financial press missed the story of the century just published, I was looking at early examples of business and economics coverage.  In addition to its outdoor canteen that serves samosas and masala chai for 25 cents, the Nehru library has a formidable collection with everything from old communist party papers and the Bombay Spectator to the famous “Hickey’s Bengal Gazette or the  original Calcutta General Advertiferand the missionary newspaperFriend of India.These short papers carried all sorts of amusing advertisements on the front page. Instead of classified ads for cars, they advertised carriages imported from London, bolts of indigo and all sorts of scary medicines. There were also plenty of announcements for clipper ships bound for China and looking for cargo consisting of opium.