From the Beast’s media desk
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 — THE EMAIL ROCKING D.C. MEDIA: It’s the email that has one of D.C’s biggest newsrooms buzzing—and now police are apparently involved. Just over a week ago, several key figures at Axios received a bombshell email from a non-staffer making bold accusations about one of their star reporters’ private life, Confider has learned. The reporter, who Confider has decided not to name owing to the personal nature of the situation, went on a pre-planned vacation after the email blast was received, returning today. And the Axios newsroom has been rallying around their popular colleague, we’ve been told, as word of the email spreads around the chattering masses in D.C. media. Axios journalists who spoke with Confider said they were left shocked by the extraordinarily fiery missive, which was seemingly sent in the hopes of destroying the reporter’s reputation among his colleagues. Furthermore, people familiar with the matter revealed, the sender, who is believed to have a direct personal connection to the reporter, has since been contacted by the San Francisco Police Department after the incident was reported to officials. SFPD, Axios, and the reporter all declined to comment.
EXCLUSIVE — LA MAG LATEST: Los Angeles magazine’s new owners, celebrity attorneys Mark Geragos and Ben Meiselas, continue to find ways to piss off their writers. Weeks after Confider first reported that they owed tens of thousands of dollars to dozens of writers, rolled back freelance rates, stripped away author IP rights, and changed the tenor of the mag, the new owners have made further changes to cut costs, angering staffers. Engine Co. No. 28, the Geragos-owned restaurant housed in the firehouse that also acts as his law offices and Los Angeles HQ, used to offer mag staff a 15 percent discount, but that benefit has been nixed, Confider has learned. Geragos, whose other DTLA eatery 10e recently shuttered, had planned to turn Engine Co. No. 28 into a “Los Angeles magazine experience cafe” where past issues of the mag would hang on the walls—a cross between the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood. “The food is awful,” a recent visitor to the restaurant, an LA mag insider, told Confider. “I don’t know why anyone other than an employee would eat there.” Meanwhile, the majority of stories featured in last week’s top 15 trending stories on LA mag’s website were features and profiles commissioned and run by former boss Maer Roshan, according to internal data obtained and reviewed by Confider—a reminder of a bygone era that feels increasingly in the rearview mirror for staffers. “All freelancers have been fully paid in compliance with the law,” publisher Chris Gialanella emailed Confider. “Engine Vision Media has added 15 new staff positions, given salary increases to 19 existing employees, and invested millions of dollars in the business.”
GUTFELD GROUSES: Fox News host Greg Gutfeld is very mad that The New York Times didn’t place his latest book at the top of its hardcover nonfiction Best Seller list, claiming there’s an anti-Fox “conspiracy” afoot. Earlier this month, he raged on his (no longer late-night) show that The King of Late Night merely debuted at #6 on the NYT list despite selling more copies than the books above it. (It has since dropped to #11.) His cohorts Kat Timpf and Tyrus groused that the Times didn’t put them at the top when their recent books were released via conservative imprints, suggesting they were punished for their politics and Fox affiliation. “It happens all the time, it is almost a corrupt system, without transparency what does that sound like to you? Our election system?!” Gutfeld ranted. Unsaid by Gutfeld and his colleagues, however, is that each of their books was given the dreaded “dagger” (†) symbol by the Times, indicating “some retailers report receiving bulk orders.” Of course, right-wing media stars and GOP politicians have long been the beneficiary of conservative groups (and even the Republican National Committee) bulk-buying their books to boost sales and rocket up the charts. (Chadwick Moore’s friendly biography of Tucker Carlson, meanwhile, only sold 3,000 copies in its first week, perhaps a sign of what happens when the conservative book-buying apparatus is absent.) The Times has accounted for these sales-juicing efforts by downgrading books on their lists that show signs of bulk orders. Fox News, of course, has argued in the past that bulk sales aren’t that big of a deal, and when Donald Trump Jr. was dinged with the label back in 2019, the outlet claimed bulk buys didn’t play a “key role” in his sales.
CNN MOVES ON FROM LICHT: CNN on Monday announced a major overhaul across its weekday and weekend lineups, a final pivot away from the Chris Licht era. Most of the changes represent the rather predictable flow of rising stars being promoted into major vacancies—e.g., Abby Phillip moving from weekends to the 10 p.m. primetime slot; Phil Mattingly taking over the morning co-host vacancy; and congressional stalwart Manu Raju moving into a Sunday anchor chair—but buried in the news is an apparent demotion for TV vet and long-time Jeff Zucker pal Alisyn Camerota. Once the co-host of a past CNN morning show with Chris Cuomo, she since fell to a weekday mid-afternoon slot, later filling in for the 10 and 11 p.m. hours as a doomed Licht attempted to retool the network. And now, CNN announced Monday, she will “focus on reporting for CNN’s long-form unit,” working on episodes of Anderson Cooper’s The Whole Story, a Sunday night newsmagazine show. CNN insiders who spoke with Confider emphasized that this downgrade has nothing to do with Camerota’s “old guard” status as a close friend of Zucker’s, but merely the ebb and flow of the TV business. Read more about the big CNN shake-up here.
IN PLAIN SIGHT: Elon Musk’s hard-charging lawyer, Alex Spiro, joined Telegram on Monday morning… Jeffrey Toobin walking his dog Wednesday on the Upper West Side, stopping to inquire about boarded-up Japanese restaurant Sushi Yasaka.
WE HEAR WHISPERS: Ben Smith will hold an intimate BBQ for Semafor staff at his bougie Brooklyn digs this month with his larger annual media shindig on hold while he awaits word from Bon Appetit’s Amiel Stanek on a possible October date when he can man the grill… xoJane founder Jane Pratt’s much-hyped new media venture, DeedDa, which was meant to launch in June, will now debut in spring 2024.
MORE FROM THE BEAST MEDIA DESK
—A Kansas newspaper’s offices were raided by an entire local police department on Friday, and then its 98-year-old co-owner Joan Meyer died after she was left “stressed beyond her limits.” The cops also hit her son/co-owner Eric Meyer’s home, seizing vital reporting materials in the process. Read more about this distressing story here.
—Months after calling off what would’ve been his fifth marriage, Rupert Murdoch has a new woman in his life. The horned-up nonagenarian is reportedly hanging out on a yacht with Elena Zhukova, 66, a retired scientist and mother to famed Russian socialite Dasha Zhukova. More here.
—Twitter/X/whatever CEO Linda Yaccarino claims that “99.9 percent” of the site’s content is “healthy.” Try not to laugh. She actually said this with a straight face: “X is a much healthier and safer platform than it was a year ago.” More here.
—The CBS News experiment with having two presidents seems to have failed. Neeraj Khemlani abruptly left his post as co-chief on Sunday, and The Ankler reported that it came after an outside law firm investigated complaints from women. Wendy McMahon was named president and CEO of CBS News on Monday. More here.
—The Hollywood Reporter’s top awards columnist Scott Feinberg sent an email to film studios and strategists with not-so-veiled threats, demanding they “not show films to any of my fellow awards pundits before you show them to me,” and implying repercussions should they fail to comply. Read the truly wacky story here.
—FT has an extraordinarily riveting interview with Bellingcat co-founder Christo Grozev, in which he talks about exposing Russian plots, living life on the run, and using a cat to locate a secret agent. He even gets in a jab at Elon Musk, who is “not smart enough” to recognize Russian propaganda when he sees it. More here.
***WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?***
If there's one thing the right-wing outrage-industrial complex can’t get enough of, it’s trying to “Bud Light” every single brand that expresses any sympathy for the LGBTQ community. The latest example: Conservative media whipped up hysteria this weekend after discovering that Skittles collaborated with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to create special candy wrappers celebrating Pride Month, including one that includes the phrase “Black Trans Lives Matter.” This is the fourth year the candy brand, known for its “Taste the Rainbow” slogan, has partnered with GLAAD to raise funds for LGBTQ acceptance. After Libs of TikTok, a hate-mongering social-media troll, got the ball rolling by claiming the “completely woke” candy was “trying to turn your kids into BLM & LGBTQ+ activists,” it was only a matter of time before the rest of the conservative infotainment world demanded a boycott of the colorful treat. “Amazing. Just when you thought Bud Light would’ve been the peak, Skittles checks in and tells everyone to hold their beer,” Fox’s conservative sports site Outkick breathlessly wrote. On Fox News, meanwhile, the network’s “hard news” anchors said that “some say Skittles could meet the same fate as Bud Light” before credulously expressing awe that the beer manufacturer was met with so much anger for giving a “single can” to transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. “That’s the interesting thing about the Bud Light story—it wasn’t even an ad campaign,” John Roberts said on Monday while Gillian Turner added: “It wasn’t EVEN an ad campaign! … it was basically a personalized swag bag for her and even that sparked resistance the likes of which is now national news.” Yes, very interesting how that all went down.
Confider will be back next week with more saucy scooplets. In the meantime,
subscribe here and send us questions, complaints, or tips
here or call/text us
551 655 2343.