Audit Notes: a big Dealbook conference, Gawker on unemployment, buzzed into oatmeal, etc.

An assembly of titans at the Times, listening to the jobless, etc.

For better and worse, conferencing is becoming a big part of the media landscape. We do a mini-version, too.

The New York Times’s Dealbook is pulling together a whopper on Wednesday, attracting one more the more star-studded casts I’ve seen for its post-election “Opportunities for Tomorrow” conference on Wednesday. The cast includes some of the most notable names in finance, economics, and business: Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, Stephen Schwarzman, Ray Dalio, Marc Andreesen, Columbia’s Glenn Hubbard and, on the other side of the spectrum, Paul Krugman (the latter two will not be paired on the same panel, if you’re wondering), Twitter’s Dick Costolo, and several others, including Arthur Sulzberger, and some of the Times’ top columnists and editors.

On the one hand, congratulations are in order. No doubt it will be worth tuning in to the livestream from Times HQ. You never know what you may learn.

Still, it’s worth noting these events involve, let’s say, a significantly enhanced degree of collaboration, beyond the normal journalism give-and-take, between news organizations and the powerful people and institutions that they cover. Pam Martens offered a biting take on the proceeding, calling it an “unseemly marriage of the plundering herd on Wall Street and the so-called paper of record assigned with the arduous task of delivering unbiased investigative reports to the public.”

This is part of the new media world. For many reasons, it will be well worth watching.

—Meanwhile, the parade of legal settlements of illegal activities in the financial sector continues, today with HSBC reportedly settling money laundering allegations that it it “transferred billions of dollars on behalf of sanctioned nations like Iran and enabled Mexican drug cartels.” The deal, with the Manhattan district attorney and Justice, includes penalties of $1.9 billion. Dealbook calls the deal a “major victory” for the government, but, let’s just say, these things are relative.

—Gawker deserves many kudos for its “Unemployment Stories” series, which lets people just write about the experience of being without a job or just scrapping by with jobs that don’t pay enough. It’s just a good, simple idea, and the perfect use of the Web’s limitless space. Yes it’s anxiety provoking to read, but also just interesting to learn (from articulate people) what they’re going through and how material issues begin to consume the whole person. Here’s a bit from Vol. 19, “This shit is real and humbling.”

But the material losses weren’t the hardest. In less than ten months I experienced the complete eradication of everything I’d worked for in my career, along with my confidence, my dignity, my identity, my optimism, and any hope I had for the future. I started tanking my (elusive) job interviews. The pressure of knowing the opinion of a perfect stranger was the deciding factor in whether or not my life improves dramatically or just keeps careening off the rails began to manifest as overly self-deprecating humor and compulsive joke telling. I used to be great at interviews, confident and easygoing, suddenly I’m Rodney Dangerfield. Except I wasn’t funny. I was raw and desperate and completely gutted, and now I can add makes other people feel uncomfortable to a growing list of unemployment side-effects.

I wish there were names attached, but the candor of these anonymous stories helps make up for it. The fact is, un-and under-employment is the biggest economic story of our time, but those stories are just hard to do.

—The old adage used to be “never get into a fight with someone who buys paper by the ton and ink by the barrel.” Well, now everyone has lots of paper and ink, so the practice of doing a harsh profile becomes a bit more complicated. This is something buzzfeed’s Jack Stuef learned when he went after Matthew Inman’s cartoon site, the Oatmeal. The response is the blogging version of shock and awe.

—Finally, The Wall Street Journal has a insightful take on the big money issues facing college sports in an era of shrinking public funding for universities as well as shrinking advertising revenues for sports networks.

Like dynastic rulers desperate to protect their holdings, the two sides have engineered an alliance. The schools have offered up their most marketable asset, college football. The networks have agreed to marry the sport to the most important segment of their audience: the millions of viewers across the country who can still be counted on to drop whatever they are doing to watch live sports.

As a dowry, TV has agreed to pump about $25.5 billion in rights fees into college conferences and their member schools over the next 15 years. That includes a recent deal for ESPN to televise major-college football’s first playoff—a four-team bracket launching in 2014—that is valued at $5.6 billion over 12 years. The schools, meanwhile, are doing whatever is needed to maximize what they can command from TV: playing more games, jumping to new conferences, abandoning long-standing rivalries, dismantling the old system of postseason bowl games and, last June, approving that first-ever playoff.

The piece provides plenty of more reasons to believe that the current setup is unsustainable.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman. Tags: ,