BROOKE GLADSTONE: We're back with On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. Larry Ellison [sp?], founder and chairman of Oracle Corporation, is a serial liar. Steve Case, chairman of AOL/Time Warner and his brother used to cheat in neighborhood basketball games. Bill Gates, the world's richest corporate tycoon, rocks back and forth like an autistic child. These and other fascinating details are reported in the book The New Imperialists by Washington Post technology reporter Mark Leibovitch. He joins us now. Mark, welcome to OTM.
MARK LEIBOVITCH: Thanks, Bob.
BOB GARFIELD: Bill Gates, Steve Case, Larry Ellison, John Chambers from Cisco and Jeff Bezos [sp?] from Amazon.com -- these guys are carved Free Enterprise' Mount Rushmore. But, but by and large these men seem to have avoided the kinds of darts and cruise missiles that tend to go along with being a famous industrialist. Are, are these men so unblemished? Are they coated in Teflon? How have they managed to manage their images?
MARK LEIBOVITCH: All of these companies have extremely tautly run PR machines that, I mean are very, very tightly controlled, and what so many people in the media, and I'm -- as a technology reporter for 5 years -- probably just as complicit in as anyone, is that so many people focused on the gee whiz of new technology and the voyeurism of new wealth that they did tend to define these people in a very shorthand mythology that was well suited for the Internet speeds and, and the short news cycles that define that era.
BOB GARFIELD: Uncritically looking at some people who deserved to be looked at critically?
MARK LEIBOVITCH:Oh, absolutely! I mean I have -- one of my favorite anecdotes was John Chambers [sp?] who became CEO of Cisco I think in '94 or '95 --he's a sales guy. Everyone was put on this earth to help him sell or to buy from him. And he did an interview in I think maybe '96, '97 with Larry Fischer [sp?], a technology reporter of the New York Times. And it was your typical interview in which the PR person babysat the whole thing and, and Chambers was very cordial and he -- ended all of his sentences with Larry, because he and Larry Fischer were of course such good friends. And at the end of the interview, he looks at Fischer and he says well, Larry, it's been a pleasure and I hope you'll send me a copy of this ad when your story comes out which-- [LAUGHTER] I think wonderfully distills the blurred line between what the media was doing and, and even on the other end how CEOs perceive the media's role in this.
BOB GARFIELD:A hammer, Mark, thinks everything is a nail, and this is a media show, so let's talk for a moment about Bill Gates' media diet. This is a guy who was in charge of his company's technological side, who was responsible to the board of directors for all matters relating to microsoft, who's in the middle of a brutal anti-trust battle with the government, who runs the world's largest charitable foundation - but he still, I understand from reading your book, has time to read more in a month than most Americans read in a lifetime.
MARK LEIBOVITCH: What's fascinating is Bill Gates, for as much as he's been through is, is paying as close attention to what the media is writing about him and his competitors as you can imagine. He has incredible encyclopedic recall of seemingly everything written about him or Larry Ellison or, or anyone he would consider a rival. I mean this is someone who micromanages his public image, even now, to a very, very minute degree. He spent probably the equivalent of 5 hours just e-mailing these elaborate responses to my questions that, that really didn't seem that relevant to anything.
BOB GARFIELD:One last question -- The New Imperialists were on everybody's mind about 2500 Nasdaq points ago. Is there a possibility you may be too late with this? That some of the bloom is off the rose?
MARK LEIBOVITCH: The possibility that I'm too late with this? Well I'd never thought of Bob. [LAUGHTER] I mean-- [LAUGHS] the caveat that goes with any high tech, you know, writer is that everything can change and, and-- the saving grace here is that I didn't try to write this as a definitive slice of, of history. I think -- I wrote it as a, a snapshot from a revolution in progress, and the good news is that these 5 guys are still essentially monopolists if not in the legalistic sense certainly in the sense that they dominate whatever market they're in. And these are the people who are building the virtual world that is changing people's lives even now as we are-- you know, we might have other concerns and, and we might not be making as much money.
BOB GARFIELD: Well, Mark, it's very nice speaking with you and your ad will run this weekend.
MARK LEIBOVITCH: [LAUGHS] Thanks, Bob.
BOB GARFIELD:Mark Leibovitch is the technology reporter for the Washington Post, three time Pulitzer Prize nominee and author of The New Imperialists: How Five Restless Kids Grew Up to Virtually Rule Your World. [MUSIC]