In his weekly “Stories I’d Like to See” column, journalist and entrepreneur Steven Brill spotlights topics that, in his opinion, have received insufficient media attention. This article was originally published on Reuters.com.
1. Where is Citi’s board?
In the wake of the shareholders’ stunning 55 percent vote against the 2011 compensation packages approved by the Citigroup Board of Directors for CEO Vikram Pandit ($14.9 million) and other top executives, why hasn’t anyone put a microphone in front of Citi’s blue-chip board members—who include former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, Rockefeller Foundation President and former University of Pennsylvania President Judith Rodin, and former Stanford business school dean Robert Joss—asking them to explain their decisions? Although the shareholder vote (which came because a provision in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law required it) is only advisory, it was meant to encourage exactly that kind of accountability for decisions made by board members, who in this case earned $225,000 to $612,500 last year, depending on their committee assignments. So far it seems that only outgoing Citigroup Chairman (and former Time Warner CEO) Richard Parsons has been put on the spot by the press.
2. What happened to boxing?
The New York Times has recently been doing a series of jaw-dropping enterprise stories related to sports (such as this one about horse racing) written by reporters from the paper’s sports and other departments (in this case the investigations unit, I think). I happened to read one of them the same night last week that I was watching a rerun of one of the old Rocky movies, and that’s when it hit me: Why doesn’t a team from the Times or from another major news outlet tackle an epic sports story that is obvious to anyone who remembers Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Floyd Patterson, and then tries to name the current heavyweight champion. (Is it one of the Klitschko brothers or someone else I wouldn’t recognize if he passed me on the street?) Why haven’t we read the definitive tale of “The Decline of Boxing”?
Sure, Muhammad Ali was, and is, one of a kind. And some could argue that future Philippine presidential contender Manny Pacquiao, and maybe Floyd Mayweather, have star power in the lower weight classes that compares to that of Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler or Sugar Ray Leonard. But there’s no doubt that boxing occupies nowhere near the center ring in American or world sports that it once did. There’s no Norman Mailer or David Remnick writing about boxers, no large swath of the population awaiting the next big match.
How come? What changed in our culture? What changed in the business of boxing? Did wars between competing boxing leagues with different titles to award shred the sport? Did advances like pay-per-view at home drain the drama and spectacle out of hundreds of thousands of people going to arenas to watch a closed-circuit video feed? Has the generation of celebrated trainers and promoters—fictionalized in the Rocky series but true to life in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s—not been replaced? Was it lousy regulation of the sport, or overregulation? What can be done about it? Or should nothing be done, because it’s a dangerous, dehumanizing sport anyway?
3. What’s happening at the Peace Corps?
I recently had the chance to read a moving email that a family friend sent to his friends recounting how he and fellow Peace Corps volunteers had to leave Mali in an emergency evacuation following the recent coup there. “My heart is shattered,” he began, before describing the work he had done in a small village among people who lack the “opportunities that we take for granted in the West,” and then explaining how devastated he was to have to leave a country where “the coup completed the perfect storm, as it came in conjunction with a civil war that Mali has been fighting in the north.”
I haven’t read much about the Peace Corps lately. Its work in an increasingly troubled and interconnected world should be worth lots of attention, especially because it has just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
What kinds of jobs do the volunteers do? How has it changed? Are applications up or down lately? Have the enrollment demographics shifted? Is the work more dangerous in the post-9/11 world? And has the Corps been able to escape the polarization of domestic politics in the U.S. that has undercut other government programs?
4. Three follow-ups from the GSA road-trip scandal:
As more information emerges about the federal General Services Agency’s $800,000 boondoggle conference near Las Vegas, three related stories come to mind.