Jan 27, 2021

Axios AM

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  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,194 words ... 4½ minutes.

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1 big thing: Wall Street's populist revolt
Data: FactSet. Chart: Axios Visuals

A popular rebellion, organized by the powerless against the powerful. It may sputter in politics, but it certainly seems to be working on Wall Street:

  • The market value of gaming retailer GameStop closed at more than $10 billion yesterday, on record volume of more than $26 billion, Felix Salmon and Courtenay Brown write.
  • 📈 "GameStop" was searched more on Google in the U.S. yesterday than "Biden" or "Tesla."

The winners: A ragtag group of traders from Reddit and TikTok, led by a man calling himself "Roaring Kitty."

  • The losers: Hedge-fund short-sellers who are learning — the hard way — the John Maynard Keynes maxim that the market "can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent."

How it works: Thanks to Robinhood and other stock-trading apps, trading options in GameStop (or BlackBerry, Bed Bath & Beyond or any other smallish company Wall Street traders have bet against) is easy, fun, and carries a commission of exactly $0.

  • Giant hedge funds like Melvin Capital now find themselves at the mercy of thousands of small investors using the internet to coordinate buying attacks.

The bottom line: Short-selling — betting that a company's stock will fall — is a crucial element of efficient markets. But, thanks to Reddit, it's also never been more dangerous.

  • Wall Street veterans say the newbies' lack of experience and diversification mean they’ll eventually get crushed by their trades.
  • So far, however, the small guys are laughing all the way to the bank.

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2. Wanted: New media bosses, everywhere 

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Reuters, HuffPost and Wired are all looking for new editors. Soon, the N.Y. Times will be, too, Axios Media Trends expert Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: The new hires will reflect a new generation — one that's addicted to technology, demands accountability and expects diversity to be a priority.

WashPost executive editor Marty Baron announced yesterday that he'll retire at the end of the month, following a monumental nine-year run at The Post, and 45 years in journalism.

  • 👀 Sources tell Axios that The Post has eyed both internal and external candidates, including Steven Ginsberg (the Post's national editor during the Trump administration), former Post managing editor Kevin Merida (now at ESPN) and National Geographic editor in chief Susan Goldberg (who helped lead that newsroom's digital transformation).

The trend extends to TV newsrooms:

  • NBC News tapped Telemundo veteran Cesar Conde to lead MSNBC, CNBC and NBC News. MSNBC vet Rashida Jones will be the first woman of color to lead a major cable news company when she becomes president of MSNBC in February. Susan Zirinsky became the first female president of CBS News in 2019. Suzanne Scott was named Fox News' first female CEO in 2018.

What to watch: The next big TV newsroom shakeup is expected at CNN, where the network's boss Jeff Zucker is reportedly eyeing an exit.

  • N.Y. Times executive editor Dean Baquet is 64, and chatter about his successor is perennial at the paper.

The big picture: Trust in traditional media is at an all-time low in America.

3. Bill and Melinda Gates warn of "immunity inequality"
Graphic: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill and Melinda Gates warn today in their foundation's annual letter about "immunity inequality" — a deadly gap between wealthy people, with access to COVID vaccines, and everyone else, managing editor David Nather writes.

  • Why it matters: As long as there are large swaths of the world that can't get vaccinated, it'll be impossible to get the pandemic under control.

Melinda Gates writes: "Everything depends on whether the world comes together to ensure that the lifesaving science developed in 2020 saves as many lives as possible in 2021."

  • Bill Gates calls for the creation of a "global alert system" to detect disease outbreaks as soon as they happen, as well as the use of "germ games" to help train first responders.

🎧 Hear Niala Boodhoo of "Axios Today" interview Melinda Gates, including her take on why Amanda Gorman, 22, was so inspiring at the inauguration:

She's a poet, but there are probably another 10,000 of her who have ideas about how to fix the nation. ... We need to put young people forward. They see what's going on in society.

Hear it here.

4. One year of coronavirus
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University. Map: Axios Visuals

1 year ago today, Axios debuted a map tracking the spread of a novel coronavirus with 2,000 confirmed cases worldwide, mostly in China, and five in the U.S.

Today, the sea of red says it all, health care editor Sam Baker writes:

  • 100 million cases worldwide, led by the U.S. with 25 million.
5. Rebellion against Silicon Valley (the place)

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images

For the first time, the Bay Area is facing the prospect of losing its crown as the top destination for tech workers and startups, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

  • Why it matters: With the Bay Area’s housing crisis and mounting quality of life problems bubbling over, many are using the pandemic to move to cities that better suit their lifestyles.

As many as 89,000 households have left San Francisco since March.

  • A small-but-vocal group of investors, workers, and entrepreneurs, including Keith Rabois and Joe Lonsdale, have been loudly advertising their exits from the Bay Area and New York, and encouraging others to follow suit.
  • Miami and Austin are being praised as new tech hotspots.

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6. Young people want checks on tech
Data: Generation Lab. Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The next generation of college-educated Americans thinks social media companies have too much power and influence on politics, Stef Kight writes from a survey for Axios by Cyrus Beschloss' Generation Lab.

  • A majority of young Democrats (52%) said major tech companies should be regulated more by the government. A plurality of young Republicans (43%) said the same.

Keep reading.

7. Senate heads toward Trump acquittal II

Photo: Senate TV via AP

Senate President Pro Tem Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), who'll preside over the second impeachment trial of former President Trump, swears in members of the Senate.

  • 45 Senate Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, voted to dismiss the trial — signaling Trump is likely to be acquitted.
  • The 5 Rs who joined all Ds: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).

Scoop ... Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows joins the Conservative Partnership Institute, a group run by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, Alayna Treene reports.

8. Telework's tax mess

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Our tax laws aren't built for telecommuting, and this new way of working could have dire implications for city and state budgets, Axios @Work author Erica Pandey writes.

  • What's happening: By and large, Americans owe income taxes where they work. So if a New Hampshire resident is commuting to a Massachusetts-based company, that person will pay taxes to Massachusetts.

The pandemic upended that system. Now, that same New Hampshire resident is following stay-at-home orders and working from home every day. So does that worker owe Massachusetts any tax money?

  • It's a huge question that has reached the Supreme Court.

Keep reading.

9. 🎞️ What we're watching: Film inspired by V.P. Harris
María Magdalena Campos-Pons. Photo: Tommy Oliver via "When We Gather"

Debuting free online during a 35-minute program at 7 p.m. ET tonight:

"When We Gather," envisioned by artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons, includes a three-minute art film, directed by Codie Elaine Oliver ("Black Love") and narrated by Emmy and Golden Globe winner Alfre Woodard.

  • The film will remain online through Feb. 15, then will travel to (or be streamed by) museums, libraries, universities and dance groups. Go deeper.
10. 1 smile to go: "Star Wars" stamps coming this spring
Photo: USPS

Tied to this year's 50th anniversary of Lucasfilm (Really! Founded 1971), the pane features: IG-11, R2-D2, K-2SO, D-O, L3-37, BB-8, C-3PO, a GNK (or Gonk) power droid, 2-1B surgical droid and C1-10P (Chopper).

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