Welcome to this week’s edition of Confider, the media newsletter that pulls back the curtain to reveal what’s really going on inside the world’s most powerful navel-gazing industry. Subscribe here and send your questions, tips, and complaints here.
EXCLUSIVE — MEDIA #METOO MEN: Summer 2023 has been a busy time for alleged serial sexual harassers hoping to get back into the media spotlight. Confider checked in on some of the most powerful media men felled during #MeToo and learned that some of them have been trying to mount a comeback—with varying degrees of success. Read the full Confider story here.
EXCLUSIVE — THE ‘HERB’ STRIKES BACK: The animosity between G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller and the union representing his workers continues to heat up like a fiery summer BBQ. Last week G/O filed a grievance against WGA East for using their social platforms to tell readers not to click on articles that were generated with the use of artificial intelligence and featured on G/O sites, Confider has learned. It’s just the latest flashpoint in rising tensions at the media empire. Last week, Confider exclusively reported how Jezebel editor-in-chief Laura Bassett had quit in protest after not being able to backfill roles or give her writers raises or promotions. Bassett is the seventh EIC in a portfolio of 10 sites to quit G/O over the last eight months. G/O insiders suggested Spanfeller’s grievance may have been in retaliation for internal revelations featured in last week’s Confider—namely that Spanfeller, whom staffers have derisively referred to as a “herb,” had hired his daughter to a G/O sales position and then promoted her within a year. “Such actions constituted an unlawful boycott in violation of their labor agreement,” a G/O spokesperson emailed Confider about the union’s actions. “After G/O Media filed its grievance, the union immediately took down these unlawful social media posts.” A spokesperson for the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), meanwhile, wrote to Confider: “With the spread of fake and manipulated news, it is essential that people can trust media outlets as reliable sources of information. The Union will always stand with writers committed to protecting and preserving ethical journalism standards.”
EXCLUSIVE — OAN’S CRINGEY RAP: That cringe-inducing pro-Trump rap video starring multiple One America News hosts has left staffers at the little-watched cable outlet deeply embarrassed, multiple sources told Confider. Read that Confider story here.
EXCLUSIVE — ZOMBIE BUZZFEED: BuzzFeed News officially shut down in early May, but one wouldn’t necessarily know that from its homepage, which has featured a steady stream of newly published celebrity content since late June. The move seemingly contradicts a note—obtained by Confider—that was sent to BuzzFeed News staffers following the outlet’s shutdown announcement. Read the full Confider story here.
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IN PLAIN SIGHT: Comedian and actor Aziz Ansari made a surprise appearance at the Comedy Cellar in NYC on Saturday night and told the packed house he has permanently moved to London… Bon Appetit has finally found its new editor-in-chief: The Philadelphia Inquirer’s assistant managing editor Jamila Robinson.
WE HEAR WHISPERS: Barstool Sports bro-in-chief Dave Portnoy, credibly accused by three women of engaging in violent sexual encounters, has hired a high-powered PR firm to rebuild his image. If you know who is flacking for Portnoy, email us here or call us at (551) 655-2343.
MORE FROM THE BEAST MEDIA DESK
—“A lawyer for the Marion County Record alleges that Kansas authorities involved in the raid of the newspaper secretly copied data from at least one of its computers—and failed to hand it over with other seized evidence,” our colleague Pilar Melendez reported, the latest in this ongoing Kansas local media saga. More here.
—Project Veritas’ woes have continued long after “power-drunk tyrant” James O’Keefe exited. After laying off most of its workforce earlier this month, the right-wing outlet now plans to cut further costs by going fully remote and hiring an outside firm to produce content. More here.
—Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum thought they could pretend we lived in a Trump-less world at last week’s GOP presidential debate, but the two-hour circus’ eventual derailment over Trump-related questions showed how much power he still holds over the GOP and their audience. We broke down their attempts to moderate here.
—Fox News quietly amended and then removed a story falsely claiming a fallen Marine’s family was forced to cover the costs of transporting her body after the U.S. Marines complained, WaPo reported based on emails the paper obtained. Fox has yet to publicly correct the report or explain its removal, but it did issue an apology on Sunday. More here.
—Gay Talese’s 1966 profile of a forlorn, cold-stricken Frank Sinatra is widely considered one of the greatest magazine profiles ever written. In a brilliant excerpt from his new memoir, the legendary journalist tells his side of the fateful assignment. More here.
—The sorry state of Vice and its trajectory from a cutting-edge media empire to a tool for Saudi propaganda is a tale best told by a former employee. Read that piece here.
***WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?***
After taking heat from liberals for invoking Reagan-era“welfare queen” rhetoric in his viral country ballad “Rich Men North of Richmond,” singer Oliver Anthony then experienced the opposite last week when the extreme right rejected him for touting diversity. Speaking to Fox News about his overnight success, Anthony said the U.S. is “the melting pot of the world” and that diversity is “what makes us strong,” prompting alt-right provocateurs and openly racist trolls to blast the artist. “Promoted algorithm boosted ‘based’ red beard hillbilly song guy was faking his accent and says diversity is our strength,” one “black-pilled” account fumed last week, while others called Anthony a “conservafraud” who was “repeating zionist ‘melting pot’ ethnocide narratives.” The country singer, whose tune vaulted to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 after conservatives breathlessly promoted it as a right-wing anthem, seemed to further anger the right by dismissing Fox News’ use of his song during the GOP primary debate. “It’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news trying to identify with me like I’m one of them,” Anthony said on Friday. “Are you kidding me? This is a group of people that made your song wildly famous and... he’s almost slapping in the face the people that made him famous,” Newsmax contributor Chrissy Clark grumbled on Monday. “It’s off-putting! I didn’t like this!”