Another Monday, another condemning profile of a lady editor in Adweek. Today, the magazine's Lucia Moses reports what everybody already knew: Tina Brown is hard to work for. The kicker quote from an unnamed, recently departed web staffer in the article sounds like something whispered between friends at a cocktail party: "She literally will order up double what she needs, so the cutting-roomfloor is getting very cluttered," said the source. Adweek couldn't reach Tina for comment--she's on vacation--but they got something second-hand: "Oh, I’m causing all sorts of trouble. I’m changing all the features in the last hour!" a current staffer overheard Tina saying as she stormed into the office.
If you follow media news, the "classic Tina" or "Tina being Tina" narrative is nothing new. Adweek identifies how Tina's newsroom is "in a constant state of turmoil, uncertainty, and confusion" and how her "extravagances," "her constantly changing demands" wear the staff thin. This isn't off base at all from other recent reports about life in Tina's newsroom. In their more comprehensive profile on the Newsweek Daily Beast editor, The New York Times Magazine quotes more of Tina's former staffers calling her names like "vulgarian" and "a force of nature."
But as New York magazine noticed, Adweek seems hellbent lately on publishing salacious articles about oppressive editors, mostly women. A February piece lapped up comments on background from Elizabeth Spiers' former co-workers calling the newly hired editor-in-chief of The New York Observer all kinds of bad names: “extremely odd,” “toxic,“ “one of the strangest people I’ve ever interacted with.”An April article compared Arianna Huffington to a "modern-day courtesan," proclaiming how she's successful because she's "a sex symbol." And do not forget this month's prurient profile on Virginia Heffernan which started with a rather in-depth recounting of a one-night stand with Euan Rellie in which she reportedly refused to sleep with the socialite because of his poor knowledge of Shakespeare.
This is the new Adweek you've been hearing all about. Since Michael Wolff's takeover earlier this year, the traditional industry-focused magazine has taken on a flashier approach that Business Insider's Noah Davis calls the "Condé Nastification" of the brand. Wolff told Davis, "We are going to be the source of information that is most comprehensibly covering this business… I think that we will do it in a way, and as it were, with a voice that commands the most attention and will be, at least to me, the most interesting." Identifying articles by Dylan Byers--who penned both the Spiers profile and the Heffernan exposée--Davis points out that Adweek's new look and feel does indeed catch readers' attention.
The trend in writing takedowns to satiate the gnarling New York media types who follow their industry beat stands to distill itself into old-fashioned gossip. Whether the gossip becomes gendered, branded or just plain sensationalized only manages to distract the conversation from more important things, like those journalists getting big scoops and little credit.