Category Archives: Media

Where Do We Go From Here?

Felling a man of Harvey Weinstein’s stature was undoubtedly going to create aftershocks. It must help that the actresses coming forward with accusations against him are famous, people we recognize, people we believe we love even if we don’t actually know them. It helps us to care about them and, as female crew members afraid to come forward about their own abuse told The Hollywood Reporter, it helps the actresses:

“We don’t have the power that Rose McGowan or Angelina Jolie has,” says one female below-the-liner, and others agree that it is a lot easier for a production to replace a woman on the crew than it is to lose a bankable actor or director.

The female crew members told THR they’re afraid to come forward, lest a producer deem them “a liability” or “a troublemaker.” It’s not the men who abuse that are liabilities, it’s the women who would be so inconvenient as to not shut up and take it. One crew member says what many of us know about human resources departments: “Human resources is not there for us; it’s there for the company. To protect it from a liability.” Again, here, the liability is the person who tells the truth, not the person who behaves wrongly.

Still, since the New York Times and the New Yorker published their Weinstein exposés, less famous women have revealed abuse by powerful men. Men have followed with apologies. (The best one came from Ryan Gosling, who said he was disappointed in himself for not knowing about Weinstein’s treatment of women sooner — we’ll come back to this.) Kim Masters was finally able to get an outlet to publish a piece she’d been doggedly working on for months, in which a producer on the Amazon show The Man in the High Castle came forward to report harassment by a top Amazon executive, who has since resigned.

The #MeToo campaign on social media — originally created by a black woman activist, Tarana Burke, 10 years ago and popularized in the wake of Weinstein by actress Alyssa Milano and others — brought out even more stories beyond the entertainment industry. The #MeToo campaign also seems to have been eye-opening for a lot of men. Maybe you think we should be pleased about this, but I feel more like Alexandra Petri, who wrote in the Washington Post, “I am sick of having to suffer so that a man can grow.”

I received a late-night email this week from someone who crossed a line with me 13 years ago. He wrote that he “struggled for a while tonight” with the email, which made me laugh, that he thought I should care that he “struggled” for a few hours that night, after 13 years. But of course he thought that. His whole email was about him. He wasn’t sure if he had done anything wrong, but thought maybe he had. He appeared to not remember that 10 years ago, I had written him an email of my own, telling him how his violation had hurt me. He had dismissed it then, telling me — a college student who had worked up a tremendous amount of courage to even write him that email — that I was overreacting. Hysterical woman, your feelings are incorrect. He wants forgiveness now, but can’t be bothered to go through his email and see that I told him, a decade ago, exactly what he did wrong and how it hurt me.

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How the Brazen Are Falling

Ronan Farrow’s recent piece in The New Yorker, the culmination of a 10-month investigation, tells the stories of 13 women — some named, others not — accusing movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault, including three who charge he raped them. Their accounts are supported by interviews with 16 current and former executives and assistants at Weinstein’s companies, showing how Weinstein’s abuse of women was systematic, facilitated with the cooperation of a team of producers and assistants who knowingly deposited young women into the hotel room of a despicable predator. As Farrow notes, the allegations “corroborate and overlap with” those published by the New York Times last week.

Like most serial predators, Weinstein had a pattern that the recent exposés have made clear. He or a producer or assistant lured women to his hotel room, where Weinstein would either be in or change into a bathrobe and then attempt to make the woman massage him or watch him shower. In some instances, as with actress Asia Argento, he would forcibly perform oral sex on them, force them to perform it on him, or force himself inside them.

The fact that Weinstein was addicted to power, not sex, is evident, particularly in listening to an audio recording Farrow obtained, in which Weinstein panics when model Ambra Battilana Guttierez balks at entering his hotel room. He wheedles, cajoles, pleads and threatens. “Don’t embarrass me,” he whines. “I’m a famous guy.” Then: “Don’t ruin your friendship with me.” It’s a conversation uncomfortably familiar to any woman who has ever rejected a man only to be met with a shocking display of entitled anger mixed with self-loathing. It’s possible, though it seems physically impossible, that Weinstein hates himself more than we hate him. How could he not?

Weinstein also preyed on the insecurities of young women, creating them if they weren’t already there, making overt comments about their weight. Generally, I don’t believe in attacking the appearances of bad people — their actions and words should be fodder enough — but there’s something galling about someone who resembles Jabba the Hutt as much as Weinstein does telling women who rebuff him that they need to lose weight to succeed in Hollywood. He was proof enough they’d do fine with mountains of money and a penis.

Men addicted to power who secretly hate themselves often see themselves as victims when anything doesn’t go their way. Weinstein displays this in his comments after his outing. “In the past I used to compliment people, and some took it as me being sexual, I won’t do that again,” he said petulantly. “I will go anywhere I can learn more about myself,” he said, self-absorbed as ever. He boasted of organizing a foundation for women directors at the University of Southern California. “It will be named after my mom and I won’t disappoint her.” Harvey, I promise you: You already have.

It’s hard not to feel anger towards the employees who helped Weinstein abuse women, especially when Farrow describes how they would give women a false sense of safety by showing up to meetings at the start before trapping them alone with Weinstein. The employees told Farrow they feared retaliation by Weinstein as much as the women did.

Lisa Bloom, an attorney who is Gloria Allred’s daughter, has already abandoned Weinstein, after previously agreeing to take his money to help him better his image. His current spokesperson, identified in Farrow’s piece, is also a woman, which is undoubtedly strategic. Sallie Hofmeister, former business editor at the New York Times and assistant managing editor at the Los Angeles Times, is now accepting Weinstein’s money and letting her name be used with such statements as “with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual,” which is essentially an insanity defense. Weinstein wants “a second chance,” Hofmeister tells us, which would have been relevant information sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s.

For the record, public relations is not like law. People are entitled to a legal defense. No one is entitled to a spokesperson.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking and enraging part of Farrow’s story is the consistency with which women blamed themselves for what he did. From Lucia Evans, a former aspiring actress who was scared off from pursuing that as a career because of her encounter with Weinstein:

“He forced me to perform oral sex on him.” As she objected, Weinstein took his penis out of his pants and pulled her head down onto it. “I said, over and over, ‘I don’t want to do this, stop, don’t,’ ” she said. “I tried to get away, but maybe I didn’t try hard enough. I didn’t want to kick him or fight him.” In the end, she said, “He’s a big guy. He overpowered me.” At a certain point, she said, “I just sort of gave up. That’s the most horrible part of it, and that’s why he’s been able to do this for so long to so many women: people give up, and then they feel like it’s their fault.”

And Asia Argento:

When he returned, he was wearing a bathrobe and holding a bottle of lotion. “He asks me to give a massage. I was, like, ‘Look, man, I am no fucking fool,’ ” Argento said. “But, looking back, I am a fucking fool.”

Argento, who insisted that she wanted to tell her story in all its complexity, said that she didn’t physically fight him off, something that has prompted years of guilt.

“If I were a strong woman, I would have kicked him in the balls and run away.”

She said that she told Weinstein, “I am not a whore,” and that he began laughing. He said he’d put the phrase on a T-shirt.

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‘The Grexit Is Upon Us’: Graydon Carter Departs Vanity Fair

Graydon Carter is ending his quarter-century-long turn at the helm of Vanity Fair, leaving large shoes (or, more precisely, a large, probably smoky, corner office) for whomever inherits the post to fill.

Michael Grynbaum at the New York Times broke the story of Carter’s departure, recounting a conversation held over Carter’s West Village kitchen table, in a room that is, of course, “adorned with a stuffed perch fish from the 19th century (an idea Mr. Carter said he borrowed from the Earl of Snowdon, ex-husband of Princess Margaret), a ‘Resist’ poster and a “Dump Trump” illustration by their 8-year-old daughter.”

I spent a recent weekend at my grandparents’ house on Long Island with my friend Alexis, who noticed a basket in their living room holding decades of back issues of food magazines, as well as a well-curated archive of Vanity Fair issues dating back to the mid ’90s. My grandmother had kept every issue featuring British royals (particularly Princess Diana, whose death marked the only time I’ve ever seen my grandmother — who lost her own mother very young — cry) or Kennedys (American royals) on the cover. The only outlier was a “Game of Thrones” cover (also royalty, technically). We spent the weekend poring over all of them, gleefully reading aloud to one other from regular features like Dominick Dunne’s Diary (my favorite included a defense of Martha Stewart, at the time both a felon and a friend, and an excoriation of a Kennedy who had spoken ill of Dunne on television) and noticing a delightful formula that seemed to serve as the architecture of each issue: a luxurious profile of some obscure royalty or old money scion; a less flattering look at some arriviste nouveau riche; a true crime story, ideally committed by someone wealthy or pretending to be wealthy; a glowing writeup of a new Hollywood darling; a reverent paean to a worthy Old Hollywood icon. These tropes were the bones of each issue and they held up well, decades later. Read more…

‘Vanity Fair’ Just Published Their Burn Book for Jared and Ivanka

No one burns the elite quite like Vanity Fair, and Sarah Ellison’s recent profile of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump is a perfect example. The duo come off as bratty and inept, not just powerless to make an impact on their presidential patriarch, but fundamentally incompetent to do much at all. Ellison reveals that Ivanka’s big idea for how to save Planned Parenthood was to suggest the organization stop providing abortions. Another notable anecdote involves Reince Preibus asking Kushner what he and his best friend Reed Cordish, who Kushner employs at the White House seemingly just to keep him company, are up to work-wise. Kushner snaps, “Reince, we aren’t getting paid. What the fuck do you care?” (Honestly, did you ever expect you’d be Team Reince in any fight, ever?)

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Choire Sicha’s New Role: Editor of The New York Times Styles Section

Choire Sicha

Choire Sicha is a very special human being. Just look at these Twitter mentions congratulating him on his new role as editor of The New York Times Styles section. It’s a trip through the past 20 years of New York media featuring an all-star cast of writers, many of whom he helped shepherd to fame (or at least a steady job).

Choire makes people feel good about themselves and their work, and this of course is what makes an editor truly great. Like any other nobody with a blog, I have my own Choire story: I started Longreads shortly after he and Alex Balk started The Awl, and he was supportive and encouraging from the start. (He also condemned me for not having Renata Adler anywhere on the site yet.) Great editors will save you from future embarrassment.  Read more…

Inside the Content Machine

Assembly line workers

Many of the freelance writers I know cobble  together their income from a mix of projects:  journalism, copy writing, web production work, and cranking out content widgets. Call that last bit what you will — content marketing, brand journalism, native advertising — skilled writers can make good money in this sector of the word market.

And there’s a fat supporting industry to all that content marketing gold — books, classes, fancy conferences. On Tablet, Sean Cooper attends a content marketing conference to find out how the content industry is selling itself — and selling itself out.

…the roaring fire that was 20th-century nonfiction magazine literature has been hosed down to wet coals. In this new 21st-century post-literature era, the techniques and tools of the journalism trade have been plundered by scavenger industries, which rightly foresaw profit opportunities in what has been called branded content, native advertising, or content marketing, which agglomerates techniques used to build characters, create narrative arcs, and establish tones of voice that once served as conduits for nonfiction writers attempting to intimately mind-meld with readers. While journalism continues to struggle, burgled storytelling devices are being leveraged at scale by content-marketing agencies and branding studios that publish content stories to satisfy shareholder expectations. One industry analysis estimates that the content-marketing business will be worth $215 billion in 2017. The Struggling Writer is here to see them count the money.

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The Press Has Always Been a Guest in the President’s Home

Cameras snap, laptops click, recorders flip on and reporters lean forward. On one side, the White House Press Secretary; on the other, the media — gladiators of free speech or mad dogs out for blood, depending how you see them. The great American press briefing is an ecosystem with its own traditions and its own inscrutable rules that has survived, in one form or another, for more than a hundred years. Under the Trump administration, the White House press briefing may not survive the summer.

It’s easy to forget that the the modern press briefing — in which a member of the government routinely meets with select members of the press — is a relatively new custom in the history of the presidency. It’s also easy to forget its informality has always been an illusion.

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For the New York Times, a Bittersweet Ending for its Public Editor Role

The publisher of the New York Times announced in a staff memo Wednesday that the position of public editor — an ombudsperson of sorts, meant to be an advocate for the paper’s readers — is being eliminated. The current occupant of the role, Liz Spayd, was expected to remain until summer 2018, but her tenure will now end on Friday.

According to a screenshot tweeted by Times reporter Daniel Victor, the memo read:

The public editor position, created in the aftermath of a grave journalistic scandal, played a crucial part in rebuilding our readers’ trusts by acting as our in-house watchdog. We welcomed that criticism, even when it stung. But today, our followers on social media and our readers across the internet have come together to collectively serve as a modern watchdog, more vigilant and forceful than one person could ever be. Our responsibility is to empower all of those watchdogs, and to listen to them, rather than to channel their voice through a single office.

NPR media reporter David Folkenflik noted on Twitter that the first public editor’s tenure also “coincided with growing outcry over failed WMD/Iraq coverage.” But as Huffington Post media reporter Michael Calderone noted, the “grave journalistic scandal” the publisher referred to was in 2003, when reporter Jayson Blair’s plagiarism and fabrications were revealed. In a lengthy story on their own investigation into Blair’s wrongdoings, Times reporters wrote that “something clearly broke down in the Times newsroom. It appears to have been communication — the very purpose of the newspaper itself.” Read more…

In 1975, Newsweek Predicted A New Ice Age. We’re Still Living with the Consequences.

Antarctica

Jack El-Hai | Longreads | April 2017 | 6 minutes (1,500 words)

Last year was the hottest on record for the third consecutive pass of the calendar. Glaciers and polar ice melt, plant and animal species go extinct at a rapid rate, and sea levels rise. Clearly the consequences of climate change are immense.

Does anyone out there think we’re at the dawn of a new ice age?

If we had asked that question just 40 years ago, an astonishing number of people — including some climatologists — would have answered yes. On April 28, 1975, Newsweek published a provocative article, “The Cooling World,” in which writer and science editor Peter Gwynne described a significant chilling of the world’s climate, with evidence accumulating “so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it.” He raised the possibility of shorter growing seasons and poor crop yields, famine, and shipping lanes blocked by ice, perhaps to begin as soon as the mid-1980s. Meteorologists, he wrote, were “almost unanimous” in the opinion that our planet was getting colder. Over the years that followed, Gwynne’s article became one of the most-cited stories in Newsweek’s history. Read more…

When Does a Company Decide You Are Human?

Here are two stories to read in the wake of the horrific behavior of both United Airlines and law enforcement agents who bloodied and dragged a passenger off of a flight in Chicago on Sunday. Read more…