Even as Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes was battling a slew of investigative journalists and nagging regulators, the good press that she has enjoyed over the last couple years continued throughout this month.
This week, she was on the cover of an edition of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, and she is also on the cover of this month’s issue of Inc. She has been on the cover of Forbes and Fortune, and she was named one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People” of 2015. She got a lengthy write-up in the New Yorker late last year, and Wired has called the implications of her work “mind-blowing.”
The promise of Holmes’s efforts at Theranos is in its blood-testing technology, which was called into question by a damning Wall Street Journal investigation earlier this month. Theranos claims it can dramatically lower the cost of diagnosing medical conditions, which is the kind do-gooder techie venture that is bound to get you lots of favorable media attention.
Big names including Oracle founder Larry Ellison have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Theranos, which was last valued at around $9 billion. This has made Holmes the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, worth about $4.5 billion, almost all of it on paper. Very few stories about the company fail to mention these facts.
The picture of Holmes that emerges from all these prominent write-ups is that she’s a Stanford dropout-turned-entrepreneur who doesn’t have a much of a life outside of her work at Theranos.
She even has a Soylenty answer for why she does the Steve Jobs thing of wearing the same outfit everyday (“It makes it easy, because every day you put on the same thing and don’t have to think about it — one less thing in your life,” she told Glamour). But which of these stories gives the best details? Which covers play up Holmes’s Jobsian tics the most? Which ones best capture Holmes’s work and her ascent to Silicon Valley stardom?
We’ve put together a ranking of some of her biggest stories, evaluating the praise they lavish on her and on Theranos, the new information they surface and the quality of the cover. If you have any additional insights, suggestions or responses, give me a shout on Twitter or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Honorable Mentions/Technically-Not-Cover Stories
“Blood Simpler” — Ken Auletta, the New Yorker, December 2014
“The Time 100, Titans – Elizabeth Holmes” — Henry Kissinger*, Time, April 2015
“This Woman Invented a Way to Run 30 Lab Tests on Only One Drop of Blood” — Caitlin Roper, Wired,
5. “This CEO Is Out For Blood” — Roger Parloff, Fortune, June 2014
Best Quote: “When I finally connected with what Elizabeth fundamentally is, I realized that I could have just as well been looking into the eyes of a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates.” — Stanford chemical engineering professor and Theranos adviser Channing Robertson
Most Ominous Empty Detail: “Precisely how Theranos accomplishes all these amazing feats is a trade secret. Holmes will only say — and this is more than she has ever said before — that her company uses ‘the same fundamental chemical methods’ as existing labs do. Its advances relate to ‘optimizing the chemistry’ and ‘leveraging software’ to permit those conventional methods to work with tiny sample volumes.”
Best Holmes Lifestyle Detail: “She admits — laughing nervously at the eccentricity of it — that after a meal she sometimes examines a drop of her own or others’ blood on a slide, and says she can observe the difference between when someone has eaten something healthy, like broccoli, and when he’s splurged on a cheeseburger.”
4. “Forbes 400: The Freshman, #121” — Forbes, September 2015
There isn’t really any detail to this one because it’s just about how rich she is, but this magazine cover looks like a “Silence of the Lambs”-inspired interpretation of Steve Jobs brandishing an iPod.
3. “How Playing the Long Game Made Elizabeth Holmes a Billionaire” — Kimberly Weisul, Inc, October 2015
Best Quote: “I really believe it’s like the four-minute mile. When one person does it, more and more people do it.” — Elizabeth Holmes, on entrepreneurs becoming billionaires.
Most Ominous Empty Detail: “Theranos’s new headquarters is hardly a haven of hospitality. While the building is being renovated, there is no lobby for visitors, who are greeted by an NDA. In July, when Joe Biden arrived at the company’s sprawling, unmarked manufacturing facility, journalists who had been waiting for more than an hour were abruptly escorted out after a mere 10 minutes of remarks.”
Best Holmes Lifestyle Detail: “Holmes is a vegan because avoiding animal products allows her to function on less sleep. She says she ‘doesn’t really hang out with anyone anymore,’ aside from her younger brother, who joined Theranos as a product manager four years ago. She didn’t take a vacation during the entire decade of her 20s and doesn’t date. ‘I literally designed my whole life for this.'”
2. “Five Visionary Tech Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World” — Laura Arillaga-Andreessen, New York Times Style Magazine, October 2015
Best Quote: There aren’t any good ones.
Most Ominous Not-So-Empty Detail: “Update: After this profile was published online, there were new developments involving Theranos.”
Best Holmes Lifestyle Detail: Since dropping out of Stanford’s School of Engineering during her sophomore year in 2004, she has spent nearly every waking moment working on bio-engineering breakthroughs … (She only pauses in her work to run — seven miles a day.)”
1. “Hot Startup Theranos Has Struggled With Its Blood-Test Technology” – John Carreyrou, Wall Street Journal, October 2015
* The former Secretary of State is also a Theranos board member.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.