When we first learned that PepsiCo president Indra Nooyi had given an unusual commencement speech at the Columbia Business School commencement ceremony at Madison Square Garden on May 15, we turned to the New York Times for an account of the speech. No luck. When we obtained a copy of the text of the speech from PepsiCo, we thought the Times might take an interest in the story we had found in its own back yard. No luck.
Today we’re finally in luck, sort of. The Times business section runs the following item by Melanie Warner under the heading “Land of the free, home of the blog”:
As PepsiCo’s president and chief financial officer, Indra K. Nooyi has given all sorts of speeches. None, though, fired up passions like the one she gave last month at the Columbia Business School [Ed: It wasn’t at the school, it was at the school’s commencement ceremony at Madison Square Garden].
In trying to extol the benefits of cultural sensitivity when doing business abroad [Ed: As maintained by PepsiCo’s public relations officers…], Ms. Nooyi employed the metaphor of a hand and compared America’s reputation to that of the middle finger. “If used inappropriately – just like the U.S. itself – the middle finger can convey a negative image,” she said.
Sensing an attack on America, the bully-boy blogosphere went into overdrive [Ed.: Wrong. Speaking for ourselves, we asked to see the text of the speech; then we reported our readers’ reactions to it.] One posting by a Columbia student set off dozens of others. [Ed.: Wrong again.] Many challenged her patriotism [Ed.: Not us.] Others suggested she return to India, where she was born [Ed.: Not us]. Some made the knee-jerk threat of a product boycott. [Ed.: Not us. Who the hell are we talking about? Are we too busy to name a name or provide a quote?]
PepsiCo hastened to apologize, and so did Ms. Nooyi. [Ed.: Why?] On PepsiCo’s corporate Web site, she said that “I have come to realize that my words and examples about America unintentionally depicted our country negatively and hurt people.” For good measure, she added: “I love America unshakably – without hesitation – and am extremely grateful for the opportunities and support our great nation has always provided me.”
In characterizing Nooyi’s speech based on a one-sentence quote, and in characterizing Nooyi’s unnamed bully boy critics, the Times skips basic reporting and goes straight to editorial judgment. In doing so it fails to provide the reader information necessary to form his own judgment. Times have changed, but not the Times. (Thanks to reader Bill McLane; heading via the halyard shanty “Blow Boys, Blow.”)
UPDATE: Ed Driscoll comments here.