Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and a Toxic Work Culture

My first, very cynical thought when reading this thoroughly reported New York Times story about Fox News settling harassment claims–to the tune of $13 million–against mega-star and cash cow Bill O’Reilly was, “how can anyone be surprised.”

After all, it’s been, what–nearly nine months?–since the cable channel’s founder, Roger Ailes, was ousted after creating and fostering a toxic work culture that thrived on misogyny, paranoia and corruption. To reward all his years of service and for his pesky habit of demanding sexual favors from his female employees in exchange for career advice, Ailes departed Fox News with a $40 million severance package.

Many predicted the channel would implode, but then Donald Trump won the election and despite having the highest security clearance in the nation, he chooses to get his news from–and live-tweet–Fox News programs. (To say nothing of the numerous sexual harassment claims filed against HIM.)

Bill O’Reilly’s response was that he’s a target because he’s famous and successful, and that none of the women–whom his network determined had serious enough causes to settle their claims–had followed proper procedure and documented their concerns with human resources or called a hotline specifically created to address sexual harassment complaints. Indeed, the network has doubled down on its star and extended his contract.

Lots of men in the network news business are famous and successful: Jake Tapper. Anderson Cooper. Scott Pelley. None of them have had to field sexual harassment complaints. And if you work for a company whose founder and CEO has encouraged a culture of sexual harassment, how comfortable are you going to be going through official channels at said company?

(And to be inclusive in all the nasty, here’s a woman at Fox News, an employee for two decades, who was fired for saying completely inappropriate things.)

How far do we have to go to believe women at face value when they claim they were harassed? A lot of the media world right now is bending over backward to accommodate O’Reilly’s response so the reporting is perceived fairly. How long do you think those employees had put up with the innuendo, the unwanted advances, the leers, before they had enough and filed suit? In those situations, women are subtly encouraged to just suck it up and deal for the sake of their careers.

Someone, somewhere had to do the math and risk analysis to come to the conclusion that O’Reilly is worth so much to Fox News that paying out $13 million worth of settlements was a necessary expense. That’s what makes this whole episode so sad and strange to me. Brian Stelter, CNN media critic, in his email newsletter compared O’Reilly to a troublesome sports star whose off-field antics begin to distract fans from his success in the game. But that analogy doesn’t work for me. I can’t think of many sports stars who were accused of harassing their colleagues in their work environment, like O’Reilly. (The only example that comes to mind is Richie Incognito.)

Finally, Fox News is one of the most successful networks, despite its toxic work environment. At this point, owner Rupert Murdoch is willing to look the other way as long as the channel makes money. How depressing.

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Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and a Toxic Work Culture

Spring Training Update: Let’s Check in on the Phillies

When we last left our intrepid heroes, a quick start to the 2016 season had slowly but surely sunk into a listless and dispirited limp come October.

Interestingly enough, pre-season baseball in Philadelphia right now is competing with the NHL trading deadline (even though, as I understand it, the Flyers are out of playoff contention), a devastating injury to a 76ers player and the NFL … offseason, I guess? There are lots of “trade discussions” and “cuts” headlines floating around.

But in Clearwooder, spring training is a breath of fresh air. John Kruk, he of the 1993 National League Champions (Team Mullet) fame, joins the booth! Roy Halladay, a player on the enormously popular Golden Age of Phillies baseball teams, might be an instructor! Matt Stairs (also on those teams) is teaching Odubel Herrera how to hit, but whether this ability can manifest when the games actually count is up for debate! Brock Stassi is coming out of nowhere to hit massive dingers in an appeal for a bench job!

But friends and neighbors, Aaron Nola, whose promising 2016 season was cut short when nearly every part of his pitching elbow became messed up, stepped on the mound today. His elbow did not disintegrate while in use. His control wasn’t there but the speed was. Everyone is cautiously optimistic.

Nothing else is really happening, except this seems to be the last season for the bar to be so low, and the hope is the prospects will start to deliver next year.

Spring Training Update: Let’s Check in on the Phillies

A Few Words About Trump and the Media

Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I worked in the communications world. I dabbled in everything from B2B (advanced technology to machining) to healthcare, from writing to editing to public relations.

From my experience as an in-house PR gal, I can tell you that Trump’s frustration with the media is entirely typical of a person who’s used to total control. I lobbied my bosses for media training for certain employees so they could understand how reporters and editors functioned, but it never took. 

Here are some hard and fast rules to consider when the President throws around words like “fake news”:

1. You can’t control what the media publishes or airs. In the B2B world, it’s a little different. Those editors sometimes solicit more technical pieces written by engineers (usually ghostwritten by a communications person), but the engineers have the byline. In nearly all other instances, a press release that’s been endlessly crafted and has gone through tens of revisions will not be run verbatim. I don’t care how perfect the quotes are; a reporter will want to conduct an independent interview. If you want something published exactly the way you want it written, you need to buy an ad. Advertising, or paid media, is not the same as public relations, or earned media.

2. Nearly everything happens at the last minute. A story you’re expecting in a certain issue or above the fold or right after the weather at 6 p.m. easily could get bumped if something else more newsworthy comes along. And you’re entirely beholden to their schedule and deadlines; you have to play by their rules.

3. Reporters, copy editors and editors have different roles. A reporter, more than likely, won’t know when a story will be published or aired. Instead, reporters are responsible for the meat of the story; they usually don’t even write the headlines. Copy editors do, which is why sometimes there’s a huge disconnect between a headline and the story. Editors determine reporting assignments and placement of stories. So when you’re going to complain, direct your ire to the right person. Incidentally, editors get story pitches from their own reporters in addition to PR folks.

4. Anonymous sources have their own agendas. An outlet worth its weight won’t publish a story based on one source who refuses to go on the record. The information the source provides is usually confirmed by either one person is willing to be quoted publicly or multiple, reliable people who aren’t. But editors always take into account why a person is leaking (or corroborating) particular information.

5. Are stories made up? Sometimes. But so do Trump and his surrogates. Jayson Blair, for instance, completely fabricated stories, in addition to plagiarizing colleagues. Brian Williams at best embellished anecdotes and at worst outright lied. Those guys are the most infamous transgressors but there are lots more. However, for the most part, outlets have robust fact-checking in place. Ignoring fact-checking calls and emails before deadlines and then claiming a story was incorrect is pretty disingenuous. Also, Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer, in addition to Trump himself, have told some pretty big whoppers. Printing (and refuting) those lies doesn’t make publications “fake news.”

A Few Words About Trump and the Media

This is the best thing I’ve seen on the Internet today

I grew up in Philadelphia and although I live only 75 miles west of there now, still in the same state, people here do not use the same words I do.

I’ll give you that my pronunciation of water (“wooder”)  and crayons (“crowns”) are atrocious, but I stubbornly go to the Shore every year while my husband insists we go to the beach. (The beach is AT the shore, OMG. There are other things to do.)

Also, I call certain kinds of sandwiches hoagies. I’ve almost lost friends over my stubborn refusal to call these kinds of sandwiches subs. A sub, I argue, is someone not good enough to start a game or a person filling in for the regular teacher or a person who may like sex a little rough. If you are eating the sandwich while ON a submarine and ideally it was made on the vessel, I will grudgingly accept that you can call it a sub sandwich.

I can’t think of any other exceptions. Don’t talk to me about Subway.

Here is the most Philadelphian song and video I have ever seen, except maybe G. Love’s I-76. To my knowledge, there are no hymns dedicated to sub sandwiches or the stores that sell them.

I present to you, Wawa’s Hoagies.

This is the best thing I’ve seen on the Internet today

Cyberbullying: No Easy Solution

Over the past year or so, I’ve rarely posted on Facebook, and when I have, it’s mainly (approved) pictures of my children and/or family, with a few anecdotes thrown in. To me, Facebook has become a toxic place. I’ve muted some friends after the election because I can’t take all the hate that’s casually thrown around. Also, I don’t know of anyone who changes his or her mind after a Facebook conversation, so I’ll just take all the pet and/or dinner photos, thank you.

Last week, a friend of mine added me to a private Facebook group concerning a student who attends the same school as my daughter. The girl received alarming messages via Snapchat from a fellow student, who threatened to rape her and kill her family if she didn’t send him nude pictures. The girl’s family immediately alerted the school and local law enforcement, who responded promptly and are handling the case.

Many parents in the private Facebook group are alarmed that the student who sent the messages seems to still be attending school, although he allegedly was transferred to another team of kids. Because of privacy laws in our state, school officials and staff cannot let parents know if he is still in school (parents learned about that from their kids); if he’s being punished and what the punishment is, if anything.

Even though the girl’s family knows who the student is, they haven’t released his name within the Facebook group. In the span of a few days, some parents have posted comments that have taken on a distinctive tone of vigilantism. The group, originally created to support and uplift a vulnerable girl in a shitty situation, has unraveled as infighting and name-calling–among adults–has taken over. The moderator has decided to delete comments deemed hateful.

Others have organized a walkout tomorrow to peacefully protest the school district’s response, or lack thereof. My children won’t be participating, although many kids will be. I told my kids what had happened and showed them the messages the student sent to the girl, which the girl’s grandfather shared in the private Facebook group. My son has been clamoring for his own personal YouTube channel for weeks now, and my daughter has wanted social media privileges like her friends have. (Texting and Instagram, mostly.) My daughter immediately groaned and said because of that situation, she probably would have to wait longer to be on social media. I won’t let my kids take the day off because I believe that won’t do anything to help the situation, and if you really think about it, the bully wins. He wins because everyone is changing their behavior because of his actions.

My daughter has had issues with a student, on and off, since kindergarten. Teachers and staff had advised her to stay away from the other student, so my daughter left her normal table at lunch and ate by herself. Things came to a head last year and for the first time ever I requested that my daughter be placed in a different class than my daughter. But nothing really changed for the other girl. Even though the teachers were aware of a “mean girls” clique that the other student was in charge of, and separate her from her friends, there wasn’t a lot they could do.

Earlier this school year, a fellow student yelled out “F*ck you!” to my daughter as she was riding her bike home from school. She told us, and I immediately emailed her vice principal. We didn’t know who the kid was, but we knew with whom he was walking. The vice principal called my daughter into her office the next day and they pored through yearbooks, looking for the other kid. She must have found him, because my daughter said the kid apologized to her later that week for what he said. She forgave him, and we haven’t had a problem since.

Obviously, my daughter’s experiences are nothing compared with a girl who was threatened with violence to herself and her family. I feel for the girl and for the family, who must be living a frustrating nightmare as they navigate this situation. But I don’t think skipping school is a good solution to a complex and troubling problem. I hope our district policies are changed to reflect the inadequacy of letting a kid still be in the same school as the person he’s threatened, but that takes time.

Cyberbullying: No Easy Solution

Just Tweet It

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(Image source: Twitter)

(To the tune of Michael Jackson’s Beat It)

They told you, you don’t belong around here
They made you sign a pledge, thought you’d disappear
You won the election despite everyone’s fears
So tweet it, just tweet it

You can’t govern so you do what you can
Perpetuate some lies, you’re a macho man
You gotta be be tough, and you have a good plan
So tweet it, you never once fought fair

Just tweet it, tweet it, tweet it, tweet it
Take your message and repeat it
Show them you’re important, show them you’ll fight
But only if they’re Christian, male and white
Just tweet it, tweet it
Just tweet it, tweet it
Just tweet it, tweet it
Just tweet it, tweet it

Reporters try to quote you, better do what you can
Avoid all the papers, take it to your fans
Make it up on the fly, it could be a scam
So tweet it, just tweet it

You have to show them that you’re actually prepared
All bad news is fake, and no outlet’s spared
They’ll meet you, try to beat you,
To get them out of your hair
Just tweet it, you really don’t care

Just tweet it, tweet it, tweet it, tweet it
They never could defeat it
Screw the fact-checkers, all day and all night
It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right

Just tweet it, tweet it, tweet it, tweet it
Don’t even have to delete it
Call out the judges, on the left and the right
You’re in charge, you’ve got the might

Just tweet it, tweet it, tweet it, tweet it
The truth’s not even needed
Make up some numbers to back up your plight
You’re just a soapbox for the alt-right
Just tweet it, tweet it
Tweet it, tweet it, tweet it

 

 

 

Just Tweet It

The Fall of The Fall

Late last year I watched the final season of The Fall.

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(Image source: BBC)

Tangent: Fifty Shades Darker, the second of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, opened this weekend, starring Jamie Dornan, who catapulted to stardom with his role as Paul Spector in The Fall. Dornan shows us in the first series of The Fall that not only can he deftly handle disturbing material, but that he’s capable of genuine charisma and chemistry even when portraying a serial killer. TL;DR: Jamie Dornan is sex on two legs in The Fall. He… is … not in Fifty Shades. (I haven’t seen Darker, and the only reason I saw Fifty Shades was out of love for a friend. She knows who she is.)

I didn’t know what to make of the third series of The Fall. The first series was excellent and the second was very good, in spite of some missteps. I thought, like Broadchurch, that the third series would be about Spector’s trial. And there are some moments in a few of the episodes that I saw a glimpse of what that would have looked like: a high-powered defense attorney setting his sights on the extremely inappropriate relationship Spector had with his nemesis, Stella Gibson. The Belfast PD uncovering evidence of Spector’s devastating time as a student at a school rampant with abuse, as well as discovering evidence of some of his earliest victims. (Gibson also had inappropriate relationships with her superior, a subordinate, a fellow officer on the force and very nearly the medical examiner because apparently Gibon’s Tinder only worked in her very own office building.) We had Spector’s almost-protege violating her parole to try and see him and also start a cycle of her own violence, a first step to an eventual copycat of his crimes.

But instead, for the first two episodes, we got amnesia. Spector in the hospital, recovering from a gunshot wound, with amnesia. I mean, I was thankful for Delicious Topless Dornan, but I was momentarily transported to a cross between General Hospital and ER. There were whole chunks of dialogue that were merely regurgitation of medical jargon. There was the transport of one of his victims to the very same hospital, and they very briefly crossed paths, which is gobsmacking to me, but maybe the Belfast PD had a groupon for emergency care, I don’t know.

There were several intriguing storylines that could have been picked up but were merely teased and then dropped. Spector’s protective, compassionate nurse fit the physical profile of his victims, but … nothing happened. Spector’s wife Sally pulled a Susan Smith and tried to drown herself and their children in the car. She was dramatically rescued and ended up in the same hospital (does Belfast not have more than one hospital? I hear it’s a pretty big city) and then is never mentioned again.

In a frightening confrontation, Spector, provoked by Gibson, brutally attacks her, underscoring his hatred for women, specifically powerful women. He ends up in a mental institution (#amnesia), where he proceeds to manipulate another resident and eventually kills himself. It’s a wholly unsatisfying ending to a show that was originally billed (and for the first two seasons, lived up to) a cat and mouse game. Instead, I just felt, as a viewer, that I was batted around by the cat.

The Fall of The Fall