Monday, February 18, 2008
Coming to America

I would normally be writing from London or some European city on a quick road trip for CNN.

This month I am in New York temporally covering the markets and business news.

Though I was born on the East Coast of the USA, London has been my home for 18 years, so it always amazes me how different it is to cover news in America.

The evidence could not be starker than in general news. This week, 24 hours after a multiple shooting, CNN had the brother of the killer on air live talking about his dead sibling. In Europe you would be lucky to have a still photo of the shooter, let alone any video of a family member after the first 24 hours.

The same principle applies in business news, though thankfully its not usually about life and death.

My first week here, we were at the new Gucci store on 5th Avenue, less than 24 hours before the opening of the luxury brand’s largest store in the world. It was not an exclusive, so the CEO Mark Lee has to take an hour out of his schedule for us and then for each of our competitors. It may be a European brand, but he is San Francisco-born and has an American feel for news. Sure, it was all PR and we were lead around to show how “marvelous” everything was, but he did not shy away from questions about a possible U.S. recession, about the weak dollar and about opening a behemoth when many Americans are spending less.

In Europe we may have been allowed in a store for the ‘pre-launch’ party or something. However, we may have been behind ropes or only allowed access to certain parts of the floor. In addition, we certainly would be forbidden from interrupting the last minute panic all stores suffer. In the case of Gucci, builders were shushed, ladders moved and Gucci-hired photographers from Hong Kong told to get lost so their lights did not bother us.

The difference was even starker the night before Gucci. We covered a “cougar” speed dating evening. “Cougars” are older women (over 35) interested in meeting younger men. In this case, some women I think were over 45 and some of the men were certainly under 25. The twist this night; the women had to be rich, with more than $4 million in the bank. Sure, it is a bit of fluff for a Valentine’s piece, but only a handful of the ladies refused to be interviewed. One, Gail, was happy to spill all for the camera; an honest assessment of why a wealthy older woman who is in fashion would subject herself to a very public evening.

Even if this kind of event would take place in London or Paris, I know we would have few people to interview.

Americans do all seem to be waiting around for their 15 minutes, whether for good news or bad. You can certainly question that. Nevertheless, when it comes to business news, the willingness of companies to co-operate, the willingness of analysts to travel through mid-town traffic for a 15-second sound bite, the willingness of the average person to comment about anything is refreshing. I don’t look forward to March when I get back to trying to get companies to return my phone calls.

-- From Jim Boulden, CNN Correspondent, in New York.

I guess this would be one of the "intangibles" from which America (USA) gets its strength.
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