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Internet + Journalism + Inside Baseball Gossip = Schadenfreude
May 24, 2010 10:54 PM   Subscribe

When New York Observer publishes a thin article, apparently mostly based on a press release, about the altruistic new career direction of ABC News VP Mimi Gurbst, who "liked to advise her colleagues on various ways to improve their personal and professional lives" reader comments tell us that oh boy, did she ever! One of the many, many comments by ABC News alumni, from former ABC journalist Richard Gizbert, sums it up: "Finally: Don’t you just LOVE the internet? Don’t you just LOVE seeing this whole thing backfire on Mimi and the underhanded underling who tried to get away with this piece of fiction?" Oh snap!
posted by orthogonality (83 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
And beyond the gossip and back-biting, if the comments are to be believed, they throw a lot of light on the reasons behind the long decline of ABC News.

You must read all the comments.
posted by orthogonality at 10:59 PM on May 24, 2010


Here's the (original) comment by Richard Gizbert.

Actually, that may not work. It seems like sometimes the internal anchors do, sometimes they don't ... It's titled "Disclosure Time."

Still, yeah, inside baseball. Seriously inside.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:05 PM on May 24, 2010


Another try at the link. The site has a permalink bug ... that link will break as soon as the comment is off page 5 ... seems to work for now.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:07 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've worked somewhat extensively with ABC News. Re: Mimi and others, they're believable and accurate. The comment entitled "Why did Mimi survive for so long" is exactly right. Especially this:
And how about that "digital revolution"? "Digital" is the new euphemism for younger, cheaper, knows less. The digital journalists now in the field are well meaning kids, but beginners who have not honed the most basic tools of journalism: how to write, how to report, even how to identify a real story. How many times have producers re-written stories from the field off the wires in New York? It's too mean spirited to name names, but it happens all the time now.
If they started naming names at all the different networks, we'd be here until doomsday. :P


Thanks for this. Sad on many levels... but also quite nice to see that people care about the decrease in reporting quality at the network.
posted by zarq at 11:12 PM on May 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


This takes me back, in more than a few ways, to my days reading about the company I worked at on Fucked Company during the Dot Com implosion. Only more fucked up.
posted by Artw at 11:22 PM on May 24, 2010


Careful what you write and read!
Submitted by beentheredonethat on Mon, 05/17/2010 - 13:52.


Schneider and company have already contacted The Observer and asked them to remove some of the "hurtful" and negative comments. HR (Diane) and legal (Menton) are most likely scrubbing the computer traffic to attempt to identify the detractors. Having been involved in some of Jeff's white washes before, I can tell you, be cautious. These guys will do anything to protect Westin or those David has agreed to support. All internal computers have key loggers on them (and they will report even draft copies of notes or IMs containing key words to internal investigators)

posted by stammer at 11:22 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fascinating look into the decline of an organization.
posted by cell divide at 11:26 PM on May 24, 2010


Vicious gossip and back-biting: news at 11.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:26 PM on May 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: All internal computers have key loggers on them (and they will report even draft copies of notes or IMs containing key words to internal investigators)
posted by davejay at 11:35 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Shouldn't that be "Vicious gossip and back-biting news: at 11.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:43 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would love to see how many unique IP's are behind those comments. No doubt she is heinous, but still it would be fascinating to see just *how* heinous.
posted by smoke at 11:47 PM on May 24, 2010


Towards the 7th or 8th page of comments there is some interesting stuff about why none of the mainstream media are picking up on the story - containing as it does allegations of illegal practices and so on. The implication is that ABC is working hard behind the scenes to stop this from breaking through into the mainstream. Kinda interesting.
posted by memebake at 12:06 AM on May 25, 2010


I'm not in the media, don't want to work in the media, and have no informed opinion about the industry's development, future, or current political economy.

To any efforts to get even with toxic middle management anywhere, however, I give my full enthusiastic endorsement. Fantastic.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:18 AM on May 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


A response letter defending Mimi has been posted by The Observer, from a former ABC producer.
posted by jacalata at 2:02 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


♫ Memories
Light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were ♫
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:07 AM on May 25, 2010


I can't imagine why anybody would waste a minute of their lives on network broadcast journalism these days.
posted by bardic at 2:13 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


All internal computers have key loggers on them (and they will report even draft copies of notes or IMs containing key words to internal investigators)
And Mimi's the problem?
posted by doublehappy at 2:34 AM on May 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Mimi and IM use the same letters. THINK ABOUT IT.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:59 AM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


uh, can you pass the bong around first?
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:04 AM on May 25, 2010


A response letter defending Mimi has been posted by The Observer, from a former ABC producer.

Yours very sincerely,
Col. Nigel Maurice Smythers-Toddley, RAF, Retd., Guildford
posted by maxwelton at 3:05 AM on May 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


I work in this newsroom on occasion, and I can tell you that this article and the comments are being passed around, celebrated, giggled over and high-fived about. This woman was a major source of chaos and discomfort in the company, pretty much the opposite of everything the article says. I'm loving that it was posted here....
posted by nevercalm at 3:50 AM on May 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Having worked with a few unreasonable people before (as I'm sure many of you have), I find the most frustrating aspect of the resilience of negative, destructive, poisonous coworkers/managers is the fact that they are so rarely (or at least so tardily) fired. Where are the big muckety-mucks in this story and why were they be unable to get rid of her for over 20 years? If you were running a newsroom and you noticed a producer driving off some of your best talent, wouldn't you deal with him/her?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:22 AM on May 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


I think the person who comes off worst in this is Felix Gillette. I kinda feel bad for the guy, showing his ass like that. FWIW, Gawker hinted that ABC didn't pitch the story to Gillette at all, but he sniffed around and thought it was worth printing, without any comment from Mimi. What a strange piece. Sure did reveal a lot, though.
posted by mediareport at 4:27 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm most alarmed at this fact that this woman is on track to become a Harvard-certified high school guidance counselor.
posted by availablelight at 4:43 AM on May 25, 2010 [10 favorites]



Take another look at the comments.

3 of the first 4 and one not too far below are written by the same person. Granted, different log in, but word usage, comma prevalence, and a few other textual quirks make me wonder if, perhaps, a small "clique" had a vendetta against her.

Oh, not to mention the format of the different usernames is very similar.

You don't need keystroke logging. Just have the producers look for someone who writes e-mails with a total disregard to proper paragraph separation of topics.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 4:44 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


if, perhaps, a small "clique" had a vendetta against her.

It was the other way around....she had a small group that was her gang, and tortured everyone else. The comments, as vitriolic as they are, are nothing compared to what people are saying.
posted by nevercalm at 4:52 AM on May 25, 2010


Oh, not to mention the format of the different usernames is very similar.

Yeah, I noticed this as well, but sort of ignored it on the assumption that commenters were old media types whose nicks would be unoriginal, and this was backed up by one comment suggesting that someone who knows the internet could archive the thread. Some of the posts have superficial similarities, but this could be down to a homogeneous ABC office style of writing. The paragraphing might also be an illusion caused by the stripping of line breaks from the comments?
posted by doublehappy at 5:00 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've sat through discussions where people have wrung hands about the fate of newspaper and traditional journalism, talking about the incredibly hard times the industry is now facing. Occasionally I'll suggest that the real problem is not technical or social changes but horrific mismanagement by an insular group of individuals who were unable to make critical changes to adapt when the time came for real leadership. People usually got mad at me and went on to brainstorm about monetization and the Kindle or iPad or whatever.

Nearly all industries face external competition, threats that can make their products irrelevant, and changing consumer preferences. Traditional journalism has been dying for a long time and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:09 AM on May 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


ABC News needs a diversion. If only they could torpedo and enemy ship or something.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:13 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some of the posts have superficial similarities, but this could be down to a homogeneous ABC office style of writing. The paragraphing might also be an illusion caused by the stripping of line breaks from the comments?

Actually, I'll concede you may be right. As I read your comment I recalled an incident at my old station where the news director railed the use of semicolons in their copy, and sure enough, I never saw one again. I mean, good riddance and all, but I can see how that sort of environment could create a "homogeneous" style of writing.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 5:32 AM on May 25, 2010


Disclosure: I know Richard Gizbert very well. Please let me assure you that he is a credible commentator on this one (despite his own personal history with Mimi, see below) and that this is far more than your standard nasty office poliitics.

Here's his full comment (that page hates flashbock, and I don't doubt that this piece will be scrubbed by the Observer soon):


My name is Richard Gizbert. I was a London based ABC correspondent for 11 years.

In 2004, Mimi Gurbst fired me for refusing assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan. My kids were 13 and 11 at the time. I had already covered war zones for six years when I gave up that kind of work in 1999.

ABC had a voluntary war zone policy but that didn’t matter. My work was in demand from the shows, but that didn’t matter either. Mimi wanted to send a signal to other correspondents and producers. So I sent her a signal back.

I took ABC to a UK employment tribunal for unfair dismissal. We put Mimi on the stand in London. That was fun. It was striking how, when taken out of her world and forced to operate from a position of no power for change, her legendary charm and mischievous smile left the judges completely unmoved.

We won the case, and in 2006 were awarded $100,000 in compensation.

ABC paid the money and tried to turn that into some kind of victory. It claimed to have won the case when all it won was, on appeal, one narrow aspect of the ruling. The misleading news release came from Jeff Schneider’s office, and quoted David Westin. No surprise there, then.

(Incidentally, the New York Times bought ABC’s lie in a piece it did on the buyouts last week. But that’s the mainstream media for you).

End of disclosure bit.

Do I have a personal axe to grind with Ms. Gurbst? Absolutely. If you believe that disqualifies me from making a contribution to this strand, you can ignore what follows.

When I first read to Observer puff piece, I wasn’t thrilled with the quality of Mr. Gilette’s journalism. But I was so elated with the news of Gurbst’s departure, so happy for my friends at the network, I didn’t give much thought to what appeared to be another exercise in ABC spin-mastery.

But when the floodgates opened I was transfixed. And I realized that although this deeply unpleasant woman stole my job in the most dishonest, cowardly and illegal way, I was not the real victim of her reign. Not even close.

That’s because I was based in London. I only had to do New York once a year, for a two day visit. I endured Couch Time With Her Miminess for about 30 minutes, max, per annum.

Mimi’s real victims were ABCers based in New York, those who had to deal with her presence every day; the desk types, producers and correspondents who saw her doing her thing in that glassed-in office.

How dispiriting that must have been; the realization that no matter how hard you work, no matter how good a journalist you are, if you’re on the wrong side of that couch then Mimi’s ex-nanny is probably going to end up being your superior.

We heard the stories in London. We understood where the danger lay. But we didn’t have to live with it - see it – each and every workday.

That’s what struck me about the ferocity of the responses in the comments section, the palpable desperation to set the record straight.

And just because I have chosen to put my name to this does not mean, for an instant, that I think less of those who wrote anonymously. I’m out of there. Climate change comes slowly, and Gurbst’s departure will not mean an instant change in the climate of fear that she helped create at 47W.

Finally: Don’t you just LOVE the internet? Don’t you just LOVE seeing this whole thing backfire on Mimi and the underhanded underling who tried to get away with this piece of fiction?

Mimi's so toxic that she's not just damaged the ABC brand. She’s taking down The Observer too!

posted by bumpkin at 5:46 AM on May 25, 2010 [24 favorites]


I wish I had a dollar for every vile, nasty, petty manager I've ever had or worked with. And every one of them wore a halo as far as upper management was concerned.

allen.spaulding used the term "insular" to describe management, and I think that hits the nail directly on the head. Most management teams create and live in their own little worlds - handing down edicts that are (many,many times) horribly detached from reality.

I would love to run an experiment where, for a year or two, the policy was "take everything management tells you to do and do the exact opposite". that company would probably end up rolling in money and happy customers.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:28 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gotta laugh at the silence from Huffington Post on this story - which is, you know, *exactly* up their gossip/media alley. This piece about the lack of coverage suggests friends in the right places still matter:

...one has to wonder if Mimi Gurbst’s close friendship with Huffington Post Senior Editor Willow Bay — who is married to Disney CEO Iger — provided Gurbst with protection from corporate interference in her actions.
posted by mediareport at 6:31 AM on May 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Occasionally I'll suggest that the real problem is not technical or social changes but horrific mismanagement by an insular group of individuals who were unable to make critical changes to adapt when the time came for real leadership. People usually got mad at me and went on to brainstorm about monetization and the Kindle or iPad or whatever.

this.
posted by Jon_Evil at 6:44 AM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


man i wish this kinda hate exploded every time a puff piece announced the resignation of a shitty boss.

where's the equivalent anonymous Mineral Management Service comments page?
posted by Hammond Rye at 6:59 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


You don't need keystroke logging. Just have the producers look for someone who writes e-mails with a total disregard to proper paragraph separation of topics.

Bathtub Bobsled, you seem to intimate that a total disregard to good composition will uniquely finger a single journalist at ABC.

I assure, this is not so.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:01 AM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is fascinating. How did she become so powerful? How did she start her career? Were her parents wealthy and powerful?

She sounds like a moron. Like a really scary, evil moron.

Willow Bay used to be on Good Morning America. I remember seeing her name and wondering if it was real.
posted by anniecat at 7:02 AM on May 25, 2010


Agreed, Jon_Evil-- I was going to highlight the same segment of allen.spaulding's comment.

When you're part of an oligopoly for a long time, it's human nature to take your exalted position as a given. When technological change affects your control of distribution of content, or expands the amount of content that consumers can access, stultified industries don't always react intelligently.

It's always seemed to me that the problems with the news media compare to the problems of the record industry. I remember reading this article a decade ago about the disconnect between consumers' expectations and the industry's actions on how to get music. And if the info at this post is correct,
the RIAA didn’t start reporting download sales until 2004 (i.e. after iTunes was introduced)... In the current CD to download changeover (and yes, I’m taking it as gospel that CDs are on their way out), the music industry didn’t have a meaningful industry supported “new format” offering until about four years after CD sales had peaked. In essence, the music industry is complaining that a distribution format they grudgingly accepted less than five years ago isn’t making up for their losses elsewhere. Or to be precise, the many competing, mutually incompatible, consumer unfriendly electronic formats that the industry keeps tossing out there aren’t making up for the losses.
When you're an oligopolist, you can afford to have Mimis around running businesses like fiefdoms (taking it for granted that she's as bad as the Internet seems to think). Things have changed.

I took all the reporting (and editorial writing) at the Times and the Post for granted eight years ago, so I supported the invasion of Iraq. Now I realize that, in addition to my being an uninformed consumer of news, I was being poorly served by the media. It's easy and emotionally gratifying for them to blame the dastardly thieving Internets for all your problems, as if there's no problem whatsoever with the content. But in the real world...

PS-- it's a shame that Richard Gizbert doesn't talk up Al Jazeera a bit more. I don't get the BBC, so AJ is light years ahead of any other TV news network. It's very, very good.
posted by ibmcginty at 7:16 AM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


My favorite comment from the Gurbst thread at Gawker.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:20 AM on May 25, 2010



It's easy and emotionally gratifying for them to blame the dastardly thieving Internets for all your problems, as if there's no problem whatsoever with the content. But in the real world...


Tell me about it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:33 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"She said that she was working for the ABC News-- it was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use."

Come to think of it, the lyrics to the whole song seem to fit.
posted by ibmcginty at 7:36 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is fascinating. How did she become so powerful? How did she start her career? Were her parents wealthy and powerful?

Many reasons. But her abuses of power are certainly not unique.

I used to work frequently with a producer for one of the local morning shows who absolutely *hated* her show's meteorologist. So she started to send the weatherperson outside to report the weather -- especially when conditions were terrible. Blizzard? Let's do it from the roof of the station! Hailstorm? Report from the side of the road on the New Jersey Turnpike. Hurricane? Let's cover the beach erosion angle.

There's an internal "greatest hits" reel floating around the engineering staff that I watched once.
posted by zarq at 7:46 AM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Additional reading.

Vanity Fair's Michael Hogan glossed over the story with a rote, "I would paste a few here, but I have no way of verifying the claims made. But by all means ... check them out for yourself." and is being attacked in the comments for it.

MediaBistro: When online commenters attack

Big Journalism: "Inside the Sausage Factory: A Retirement at ABC News Brings Out the Long Knives"
posted by zarq at 7:52 AM on May 25, 2010


BTW, Richard Gizbert says he now works for Al Jazeera English, for a programme called Listening Post. I had never heard of Gizbert before, but if you can get AJE that show is pretty good.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:57 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sigh. I can't even find a picture of her online or additional information about her beyond these articles. I like to know more about a person. Where do they live? What's her salary? How'd she get where she is and where was the turning point in how much power she got? Where did she go to school? Was this a rags to riches story, or a riches to riches story? What does her husband do?

And, I don't doubt she's a major bitch and terrible boss, I'm curious why this is the first time most people are writing about her online? I'm not on the "in" of journalism, but I figured there'd be more information, at least on blogs, about internal politics in the most powerful media organizations. I know there are the tall, cool blondes of the fashion world, but I don't know anything about this and I want more details.
posted by anniecat at 8:05 AM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


availablelight : I guess I'm most alarmed at this fact that this woman is on track to become a Harvard-certified high school guidance counselor.

Yeah, from the sounds of it, she'll have the cliques operating with predatory efficiency in no time. Fortunately, if movies have taught me anything, she'll be brought down by a pirate radio station operating nearby, or maybe a new loner who elicits the help of a weird girl to slowly kill off all the evil kids.

Either way, she should really keep her eyes peeled for Christian Slater.
posted by quin at 8:34 AM on May 25, 2010 [16 favorites]


Sigh. I can't even find a picture of her online or additional information about her beyond these articles.

Not unusual. Producers are supposed to stay out of the limelight. They're not supposed to be the story, any more than publicists are.
posted by zarq at 8:45 AM on May 25, 2010


A response letter defending Mimi has been posted by The Observer, from a former ABC producer.

I looked this lady up on Facebook and she lives in Greenwich Village and has a blonde friend named Duby and a friend named Buffy. She married a rich finance guy. She attended the Kent School.

I just don't think there's any real meritocracy in certain industries: journalism, movies, television, fashion, publishing...actually, maybe there's no real meritocracy at all in anything, and it's just worse or more obvious in some places.

It matters who you're friends with and it matters a thousand times more if it's in an industry that is appealing to a lot of people. It's too bad. If I'd been involved in this kind of thing, I would have secretly blogged about it.
posted by anniecat at 8:46 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm most alarmed at this fact that this woman is on track to become a Harvard-certified high school guidance counselor.

I bet she ends up doing guidance counseling at Brearley or Dalton, or becomes an independent couselor to get people into Harvard and Yale.
posted by anniecat at 8:47 AM on May 25, 2010


I just don't think there's any real meritocracy in certain industries

There actually are, in every one of the industries you mention. I've worked alongside fashion designers, publishing houses and journalists for years, and can say that without a doubt. However, what an outsider may perceive as a "merit" in their favor may not be what an industry insider thinks it should be. In business, success is usually measured by a good ROI.
posted by zarq at 8:54 AM on May 25, 2010


I think the person who comes off worst in this is Felix Gillette.

Felix may be more clever than we think. There's a certain over-the-top-ness to the descriptions of Gurbst and her new career, which coupled with her refusal to be interviewed for what's ostensibly a friendly valedictory, which invites reading between the lines or even a wink-wink-nudge-nudge in-joke.

Or maybe Felix was even savvy enough to hope for the torrent of comments the article unleashed. Someone who knows Felix Gillette would have to tell us if he's subtly clever.
posted by orthogonality at 9:11 AM on May 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Felix may be more clever than we think. There's a certain over-the-top-ness to the descriptions of Gurbst and her new career, which coupled with her refusal to be interviewed for what's ostensibly a friendly valedictory, which invites reading between the lines or even a wink-wink-nudge-nudge in-joke.

That's really interesting -- it did read pretty oddly to me that she declined to comment.

Thanks for posting; I found reading through the comments really interesting and it's both fascinating and worthwhile to have a glimpse into this.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:46 AM on May 25, 2010


A response letter defending Mimi has been posted by The Observer, from a former ABC producer.

The comments in response to that article are very telling as well. It seems like a genuine.

The whole thing is semi-amazing. It's one thing to be a god-awful boss. It's quite another to become world famous for being a god-awful boss and coworker.

I'm curious. If descriptions of the woman are correct, it seems like she'd take legal action. But can she afford it? (Can she afford not to?)

I'll ask the first question that the article begs to ask: "Did Mimi Gurbst have an intimate sexual relationship with Willow Bay?"

Yikes.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:02 AM on May 25, 2010


...which coupled with her refusal to be interviewed for what's ostensibly a friendly valedictory...

Contractually, she may not be allowed to speak to the media.
posted by zarq at 10:17 AM on May 25, 2010


This Askme and this comment from another Askme go really well together with this post IMHO.
posted by yoHighness at 10:17 AM on May 25, 2010


> an insular group of individuals who were unable to make critical changes to adapt when the time came for real leadership.

When the message from the Real Leaders would be "This ship is headed for the bottom, cut your losses, fire everybody from CEO to parking valet, liquidate the physical plant, we'll all go become beachcombers (the ones who make it to shore)" it's hard to be surprised when nobody wants to hear any Real Leadership.
posted by jfuller at 10:27 AM on May 25, 2010


There's a certain over-the-top-ness to the descriptions of Gurbst and her new career, which coupled with her refusal to be interviewed for what's ostensibly a friendly valedictory, which invites reading between the lines or even a wink-wink-nudge-nudge in-joke.

I agree, now that I think about it. Felix was the set-up man. It's the only way they could create a public forum that would attract attention. Fascinating (or extremely depressing) office politics.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:31 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nothing in any of Gillette's other peices in the Observer leads me to believe Gillette may be more clever than we think.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:34 AM on May 25, 2010


How do the bastards stay in power? Because they manage to wedge themselves into the chain of communication and prevent any viewpoint other than theirs from reaching the higher-ups (anything not from them is from a disgruntled and untrustworthy minion). Then they can sit there and put a "ME" stamp on any success and a "THEM" stamp on any failure.

I saw my entire division backstabbed, betrayed, crippled and plundered by a single individual. They played golf with the owner of the company and the biggest board members. They managed to lose customers worth millions of dollars by overtly interfering with our processes and products, got our entire office shut down and came out as the hero who had saved the company from our incompetencies.
Until it went out of business a few years later. Heh. Not a big enough place to absorb the kind of losses they could produce, unlike a huge behemoth along the lines of ABC.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:37 AM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Did Mimi Gurbst have an intimate sexual relationship with Willow Bay?

This sounds like the title of a wacky 1960s comedy directed by Frank Tashlin.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:48 AM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


To be a part of the group you had to be at least 3 of the following: white/good-looking/rich/pedigree/Ivy(or fancy boarding school) or date/marry/be associated with people who fit that bill 2. If female, wear expensive jewelry and shoes. Talk about the size of your boyfriend’s penis, how good/bad the sex is, and how much money he and his family make.


I'd like to say I haven't seen this in other workplaces, but I have.
posted by anniecat at 10:55 AM on May 25, 2010


Having worked with a few unreasonable people before (as I'm sure many of you have), I find the most frustrating aspect of the resilience of negative, destructive, poisonous coworkers/managers is the fact that they are so rarely (or at least so tardily) fired. Where are the big muckety-mucks in this story and why were they be unable to get rid of her for over 20 years? If you were running a newsroom and you noticed a producer driving off some of your best talent, wouldn't you deal with him/her?

Here's what I've observed. "Toxicity" is a fuzzy notion that doesn't necessarily leave an unambiguous paper trail. In large organizations, it's assumed that a firing (or even an involuntary change of position) will result in an immediate lawsuit. Without enough hard evidence of very specific wrongdoings (e.g., sexual harassment, fraud, direct and deliberate violations of terms of the employment contract, etc) for the lawsuit to be dismissed, it's regarded as less costly to keep the toxic person around.

And given that toxic personalities tend to also be extremely tenacious, narcissistic, and self-serving, fear of lawsuits is probably well-justified. IMO, it's a structural, systemic vulnerability without an easy or obvious solution.
posted by treepour at 11:07 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Agreed, lentrohamsanin, and I'd add "like a soap opera". Does anybody actually believe the plot of the "news" they watch/hear/read, regardless of who directs/edits the "show" it is?
posted by drogien at 11:25 AM on May 25, 2010


Bathtub Bobsled: Just have the producers look for someone who writes e-mails with a total disregard to proper paragraph separation of topics.

Based on my extensive experience in getting emails from "important" people in large organizations, this would only implicate every executive in the place.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:45 AM on May 25, 2010


Someone who knows Felix Gillette would have to tell us if he's subtly clever.

I knew him in high school. No slouch, but not someone I remember as having been one of the stand-out intellects in that peer group, either. Then again, it was a long time ago.
posted by killdevil at 11:49 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, if I were to tell you that a certain male "quasi-journalist" entertainment news figure was routinely high on drugs at the office (which he would buy from someone who also worked at the office) and routinely sexually harassed the male employees (we're talking serious stuff, not kidding around),

Awww...and Ryan Seacrest seems like such a nice guy.
posted by anniecat at 12:01 PM on May 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just have the producers look for someone who writes e-mails with a total disregard to proper paragraph separation of topics.

Given that every single comment on the Observer piece features a single return -- instead of a proper double return -- between paragraphs, I'd say it's a flaw in the Observer's comment system, not a reason to question the intellect of all the commenters.
posted by lisa g at 12:02 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, if I were to tell you that a certain male "quasi-journalist" entertainment news figure was routinely high on drugs at the office (which he would buy from someone who also worked at the office) and routinely sexually harassed the male employees (we're talking serious stuff, not kidding around),

Pat O'Brien just can't catch a break.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:11 PM on May 25, 2010


i'm terrible at guessing blind items but asparagirl is trying to tell us Charlie Rose can't internet and drinks too much DayQuil

but let's be fair -- his web site IS the cutting-edge future of online news gathering.
posted by Hammond Rye at 12:12 PM on May 25, 2010


I don't know anything about the inside baseball in this case, but the tone of the "mean girl" comments to the Observer article sticks in my craw a little. It's pretty clear the woman was a difficult, even toxic, boss, but I do find myself wondering whether a guy named Mike Gurbst in the same position, with the same track record, would have gotten the same kind (tone and quantity) of criticism for the same sins.
posted by immlass at 12:42 PM on May 25, 2010


Can we please, for the benefit of future researchers, have the Gizbert tag amended to its conventional spelling?
posted by Flashman at 12:53 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hunh. Small world. I used to carpool to elementry school with the guy who wrote this article. Unless there is another Felix Gillette running around out there.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 1:14 PM on May 25, 2010


mrgrimm, she won't sue. Truth is a defense in U.S. libel cases. For her to have a hope of winning such a case, her lawyer would have to put Gurbst's supporters on the witness stand -- which would then call for the defendants to put their own witnesses on the stand, which would make the whole donnybrook even uglier and more public than it already is.
posted by GrammarMoses at 1:41 PM on May 25, 2010


She sounds like a real jerk but what bothers me the most about this is that, from what I have read, it is an example of favoritism winning out over talent. People who she hung out with, for whatever superficial reasons, were given access and were promoted over those who refused to play that game. Once favoritism becomes the basis for personnel decisions, the end has begun. Office politics at its most heinous. The predictable result is that the organization, in this case ABC News, is reduced in quality (and perhaps near about destroyed).

Overall a pretty fascinating look at the inside of the network news biz.
posted by bluesky43 at 2:44 PM on May 25, 2010


She sounds like a real jerk but what bothers me the most about this is that, from what I have read, it is an example of favoritism winning out over talent.

When you have a company full of blonde women who are thin and went to posh boarding schools and fancy colleges competing with other college graduates, there isn't anything at work but favoritism, from society, from the company, from the boss. The people, I think, who claim that they're rightfully deserving of something have the privilege to claim that because they already benefited from a fair amount of favoritism themselves, either by being hired because of their college, their look, their rapport with the interviewer, but they want to say it's due to their raw skills or talent or how much effort they put in. Their problem is just that they didn't make it past certain levels -- they aren't favored enough. Unless there are objective measures for who receives promotions and raises and love from the company and boss, favoritism will always be the substitute.

I can bet that those favorites of Mimi's would argue that they worked harder than anyone and that's how they got where they were. I'm sure they think they deserve praise and promotions. Who wouldn't, once it's been gotten? I'm sure they think they're very talented.
posted by anniecat at 3:05 PM on May 25, 2010


Gubrst sounds horrible, but if you read the comments you see a lot of people pointing fingers higher up to those who allowed this destructive person to remain in her position of power and generally cultivated the sort of climate where this sort of behavior was ok. I have to say I'm more curious about the larger fucked up culture at ABC news than this single person's horribleness.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:41 PM on May 25, 2010


availablelight I guess I'm most alarmed at this fact that this woman is on track to become a Harvard-certified high school guidance counselor.

I would be surprised if she completed a single school year as a guidance counselor. The article notes, perhaps someday [she will be] running her own school and I am sure that is her goal. Working with the kids at PS 69 in Soundview, not so much.
posted by mlis at 6:33 PM on May 25, 2010


Why are people so surprised about this? I saw a documentary from the 90s where she caked on five pounds of makeup and yelled at Drew Carey all day.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:31 PM on May 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


That whole comment thread was so fascinating to read when I first saw it. I sincerely hope someone's invested some time to archive it, page by page, for posterity.
posted by limeonaire at 7:49 PM on May 25, 2010



Can we please, for the benefit of future researchers, have the Gizbert tag amended to its conventional spelling?
posted by Flashman


As it turns out, Richard dropped the first part of the name long ago, and has been going by Gizbert since I can remember (>30 years).
posted by bumpkin at 9:54 PM on May 25, 2010


tldr; this is MAHVELOUS, DAHLINK! 2nding (or nthing?) limeonaire's hope that this is archived.
posted by msconduct at 6:10 AM on May 26, 2010


I was one of the people at ABC that was offered the "Voluntary Severance Package" and took it this past April. And the comments on that article were delicious to read.
posted by spec80 at 9:00 AM on May 26, 2010


As an outsider, this has been a fascinating read.
posted by ericb at 12:53 PM on May 26, 2010


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