Monday, January 21, 2008

In Support Of Megan Carpentier

[image courtesy Wonkette / Huffington Post]

About six weeks ago, I began working on a post that I never finished, and thus never published. It was about a raft of personnel changes that had occurred in the previous several weeks/months over at Gawker Media, and speculated a bit about what was driving the changes.

In the days after I began working on that post, other news outlets / blogs ran with analyses that covered the story with more depth -- and insidery info -- than I could ever hope to match. So, there was really no point for my post, and it has languished since in "draft" form, serving mainly as a repository of links and such.

But the changes continue to roll in, and Friday 18 January saw a bloody massacre that left much of the bloggosphere in shock and outrage at a new high-profile change over at Wonkette.

And it's now time for me to write.

The HuffPo's Rachel Sklar has a very good, linkified piece detailing the staff changes among the Gawker Media blogs over the last six months here, so there's no need for me to delve into all of that in this space. Suffice it to say, Gawker Media overlord Nick Denton has made sweeping changes at most of his most-well-known blogs, in some cases editorially steering his writers to be more like traditional reporters (cultivate sources, generate original news reporting, etc.), and in all cases demanding that his writers be more interesting and entertaining. This strategy is all in pursuit of higher page view counts, and thus higher advertising revenues.

A recent change at GM's politically-focused blog, Wonkette, had until-then-professional-lobbyist Megan Carpentier [pictured above -- Ed.] join the staff as an Assistant Editor. Carpentier had previously contributed a "how the sausage gets made" column about lobbying and politics to the site under the pseudonym "Anonymous Lobbyist". When Carpentier joined the Wonkette team full-time, she thought it appropriate to "out" her identity and take editorial responsibility for her posts. I applauded this decision, even though it meant -- as she acknowledged -- that she would also be owning up to her past "anonymous" posts, and thus burning lots of professional bridges, should she ever be in a position where returning to lobbying professionally was back on the table.

Megan is an educated, opinionated, professional, modern, and smart-with-a-smart-sense-of-humor woman. And her posts typically reflected all of these qualities. Longtime Wonkette readers welcomed her insidery-and-XX-infused perspectives on politics and politicians. And it was also neither lost on nor trivial to said readers that, 18 months after founding editor Ana Marie Cox left, Carpentier finally brought the "-ette" back to "Wonkette".

On Friday 18 January, recently-returned Wonkette Managing Editor Ken Layne fired Carpentier, along with recently-sorta-promoted-from-Intern Greg Wasserstrom and longtime "picture-taking-person" Liz Glover Gorman [updated; apologies for the inaccuracy to all affected; H/T HOMOFASCIST -- Ed.].

When I first heard the news that Ken Layne would be returning to Wonkette after a brief sabbatical, I was ecstatic. Layne is one of the funniest bloggosphere-type writers I have ever read. His posts were always reliably not only funny, but spit-out-your-coffee-and-snort-it-out-your-nose funny. Probably 10 of the 20 funniest blog posts I have ever read were written by Ken Layne.

Layne was brought back to Wonkette by Denton as part of Denton's over-arching transformation of many of his blogs. I'll agree that there are many areas in which Wonkette could be "better" -- and thus "more page-viewable" -- and I'm sure that Denton has given Layne wide latitude to implement changes he thinks are necessary.

Carpentier finally opened up over the weekend about what went down, and why, on her personal blog. Please go read that post here. I'm not a fan of cutting-and-pasting wholesale from other blogs, but I want to highlight this part of what Megan had to say:

We [Megan and her Wonkette colleague Jim Newell -- Ed.] found out Ken Layne was starting about the same time everyone else did on January 2nd and were both really super excited. That wore off a little quickly for me, as it was obvious from the get-go that he was not a fan of my writing. He didn't think I was funny and he didn't like when I was serious or rant-y and it was pretty clear to me by last weekend that what happened was going to happen. I was still in the probationary phase of my contract (3 months and I'd get 2 weeks notice), but I figured that he might let that run down before letting me go. I was wrong.

He very politely called me at 5:30 on Friday (which: standard HR practice, truly) to tell me that it had been my last day writing for Wonkette. He told me that the intention of bringing him back was to move the site towards being what it was under him and Alex [Alex Pareene, Layne's former cohort at Wonkette, now at Gawker -- Ed.] and that my voice and writing didn't fit with that vision -- and he's right, it doesn't. In that editorial environment, I would stick out like a sore thumb, and he said he wanted a more uniform tone. He said that I should finish what I was doing, write a goodbye and call it a day. Getting fired sucks, but he wasn't a dick about it.

* * *

So, to some of the stuff that's been said on the comment boards and others. It didn't feel, nor was it presented, like sexism and I doubt seriously that Ken was jealous of me, given that he comes with like 20 some years of experience and his own following. Ken's assessment of my fit with where he wants to take Wonkette is completely accurate, even if the results of that are personally devastating to me. I have no idea whether Nick Denton was informed of or gave any input to Ken about the decision to fire me, though my (admittedly limited) experience with him suggests to me that he was probably like "Do what you think best" if he was told.

Megan is tres cool to be so professional and "I really didn't fit in any more" and "Ken Layne was not a dick about this" about the whole matter, but, still.

Ken Layne, you made the wrong call here.

Ken, Megan was a much-appreciated and much-respected opinionated voice about politics here. Her sense of humor doesn't exactly jibe with your style. But that was okay for me, and, I know, others. Personally, I like what you and Megan both brought to the table, and I'm sorry to see her let go from Wonkette.

My posting will not bring Megan back. I know that.

And I will not be "boycotting" GM sites. Long-time readers and long-time-suffering-listeners know that I think Idolator is the best music-related blog out there [AHEM, the SECOND-BEST music-related blog...the first bestest music-related blog is here -- Ed.], and my first go-to website. And Wonkette is my second go-to blog.

But I do wish you had not made this call. I believe Wonkette's quality will suffer as a result.

I also wish Megan Carpentier all-the-best. Please, Dear Readers, keep up with her and her future exploits. She will continue to contribute to her collaborative "Oy vey! It's early and the coffee hasn't kicked in yet!" alterna-universe-version-of-The-View "Crappy Hour" posts on GM's Jezebel. And it's a sure bet that the brilliant-and-funny-and-talented Megan will end up with a full-time gig writing for Politico or Express or whatever soon.

Good luck, Megan!

-- Rob


Megan's "Goodbye, Y'all!" post for Wonkette is here.

Megan's personal public blog, which discusses these events is here.

DC Blogger "Big Head Rob" [not affiliated with DHMBIB -- Ed.] has coverage of this story here.

DCist's coverage of the story is here.

Wonkette commenter "HOMOFASCIST" has started up a blog in support of Megan and in support of a reader boycott of Wonkette here.

1 comment:

berightback said...

Rob: Awesome post.

One thing: It was Liz Gorman, not Glover, who was let go along with Megan and Greg (see here)