Miki Agrawal, co-founder and “She-EO” of menstrual underwear phenom Thinx, raised eyebrows when she stepped down from her role in the company in early March. Agrawal had long been infamous for her company’s boundary-pushing ads and her well-publicized hesitance to use the word “feminist.” Within days of Agrawal’s announcement, Racked published a gripping article examining corporate dysfunction and alleged sexism at Thinx, and Agrawal struck back with a lengthy post on Medium that detailed her “incredible ride” with the company. “I didn’t put HR practices in place because I was on the road speaking, doing press, brand partnerships, editing all of the creative and shouting from the rooftops about Thinx,” she wrote. Less than a week later, Agrawal was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee.
Such is the power of the corporate hit piece: Fueled by eyewitness accounts, scorned ex-employees, and juicy tidbits about a CEO’s bad behavior, a corporate identity that took years to build can unravel in days. These piquant stories might smack of a slow-motion trainwreck, but they satisfy more than our inner gossips and gawkers. Today, the myth of a CEO is often of their own making—once minted by years of climbing the corporate ladder, now CEOs are made in weeks or months. CEO, we are told, is less a work status than a state of mind.
“Aaron Sorkin knows the weight of last words, and his last words to me, as we walk-and-talk out of the HBO press room, are: ‘Write something nice.’ He says this in the ‘Smile, honey’ tone of much less successful jerks.”
Those words launch Prickett into a funny, cutting attack on the pretentions and assumptions of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. Through her eyes, the creator of A Few Good Men and The Social Network is guilty of an insufferable nostalgia for white male power, and she uses a press junket interview for Sorkin’s HBO show The Newsroom to diss the iconic writer in a way that’s both entertaining and thought-provoking.
Liveliest Profile of a Sprawling Corporation and its Straight-Laced Chief Executive
Big companies and their CEOs are tough to report on. Disney, led by the profoundly un-flamboyant Bob Iger and guarded by its disciplined phalanx of PR professionals, may be one of the toughest. That’s why Reingold’s story is so masterful—it explains Iger in way that’s vivid, thoughtful, and rigorous, giving us a sophisticated picture of him and his plans for the company. I wish Reingold would profile News Corp., Viacom, and every other American company, for that matter.
Investigative Story Responsible for Spurring Most Unintended “Holy Shit!” Uttterances
For me, this story’s surprises came in waves. First, there was the shock at how systematically and rampantly Wal-Mart bribed its way into Mexican retail. Next, there was awe at how Barstow nailed every crucial aspects of the ensuing cover-up. This is investigative reporting at its best—even-handed and rigorous, with no room for perpetrators’ excuses or squirming.
Best Confirmation that Super PACS and Karl Rove are Just as Creepy as We Thought They Were
You probably remember the media firestorm that followed this story, which quoted Karl Rove joking about killing Todd Akin (“If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”). The glimpse of the inner workings of Super PACs that follows in Kolhatkar’s fly-on-the-wall account is fascinating reading, even months after the election.
Best Confirmation of, Admit It, What We All Were Kind of Wondering While Watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony
Those hot-bodied Olympians are having lots and lots of sex! Alipour illustrates hook-up culture in the Olympic Village with kickass reporting (big-name athletes go on the record, and are surprisingly candid) and just the right tone: The story is lighthearted and detailed without being prurient or icky, a tough order for a gossipy sex piece.
Clearest Portrait of a Misunderstood and Deadly American Subculture
Following the Tucson, Arizona shooting, Laskas set out to understand gun culture by working at a gun store in Yuma and profiling its clerks—the last line of defense between us and mass murderers. I love the way she leaves politics aside and zeroes in on her subjects’ humanity. The story appears in Laskas’s new book, Hidden America, a collection of her GQ stories about the many professional subcultures that make the U.S. work, from oil drillers to coal miners to migrant fruit pickers. Read it, read it, read it.