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.
INSIDE NEW YORKER’S DRAMA: The decision to fire Erin Overbey, the New Yorker staffer who last week very publicly flamed the magazine and its top editor David Remnick, was made at the highest echelons of Condé Nast, two people with knowledge of the situation told Confider. Condé’s chief people officer, Stan Duncan, was involved in the decision to oust her and CEO Roger Lynch was made aware early on. The New Yorker’s archive editor was fired Friday afternoon on a Zoom call “due to a pattern of conduct that is disruptive to the operation of the company and undermines the journalistic ethics of our magazine,” according to a copy of her termination letter reviewed by Confider. Overbey’s most recent “disruption” occurred last week when she posted a massive Twitter thread suggesting Remnick deliberately inserted errors into her work while she was under performance review—a charge the publication labeled “absurd.” Her pink slip continued: “These egregious and baseless remarks maligned your colleague and called the journalistic ethics and integrity of The New Yorker into question, a magazine that prides itself on accuracy. This follows previous incidents in which you have made baseless accusations against colleagues, for which you have been counseled.” Those allegations, which were also posted to Twitter, included everything from pay disparity to diversity issues in the workplace—and were posted after management had spoken with Overbey about alleged problems with her work, the sources told Confider. Her termination letter further cited “your history of performance issues… your history of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior toward colleagues… your recent violation of the Company’s Global Business Communications Policy, and… your Final Warning for self-plagiarism issued on September 10, 2021.” Overbey was “unnecessarily hostile” and “an opportunist” who popped off on social media whenever she had run-ins with management, four current and former New Yorker staffers alleged to Confider. The staffers further claimed that Overbey’s grievances with The New Yorker began years ago when she grew frustrated with changes to the management structure of the archive and was concerned about losing power over her “fiefdom.” A Condé spokesperson emailed Confider about the firing: “The New Yorker prides itself on professionalism, accuracy, and adherence to the highest journalistic standards. False allegations that malign our journalistic integrity and that attack colleagues are inappropriate and unacceptable in our workplace.”
OVERBEY HITS BACK: Overbey called Confider late Monday and put Condé Nast brass on blast, accusing them of deliberately “targeting” her and labeling accusations against her “absurd.” “I do feel like this is a concentrated effort to target someone who wouldn’t shut up about certain issues that the magazine wanted them to shut up about,” Overbey told Confider. The former archive editor, who says she was “shocked” when she was fired on Friday, claimed she’d been in multiple discussions with colleagues about the lack of Black editors on The New Yorker’s masthead. “This is specifically about the lack of diversity and the lack of pay equality at the magazine,” Overbey, who is white, told us. Overbey further accused Condé Nast of waging a campaign to smear her in the media: “Condé has a policy that explicitly states that no member of staff can speak to any member of the press without first obtaining approval from management and that includes even off the record or on background,” she noted, suggesting the media company directly ordered or approved some of her ex-colleagues to talk about her work to the press. “We’ve worked hard for years to increase the number of underrepresented voices at The New Yorker, and we’ve made significant progress—among our writers, in senior editorial positions, and across the entire enterprise,” a New Yorker spokesperson emailed Confider. “Nearly 40% of new hires at Condé Nast are from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. While we don’t believe these tweets present a full or fair view of The New Yorker and its ongoing efforts, there is always more work to do, and we look forward to doing it.”
CNN CONTRIB CONCERNS: Former Trump spokesperson Alyssa Farah Griffin’s media career is being met with some skepticism from colleagues. Last week we reported that comedian Wanda Sykes backed out of an appearance on The View after learning that Farah Griffin was co-hosting. And now a CNN star confirmed to Confider that they’ve asked producers not to book them for segments with Farah Griffin to avoid lending credibility to the ex-Trump flack’s career rehab. According to this source—a paid CNN pundit—top production staff have honored the request. This CNN commentator also relayed that other on-air talent have made similar requests and that one host has said they avoid featuring the ex-Trump-aide-turned-Trump-critic whenever possible. However, in response, a source with direct knowledge claimed to Confider that “no such request has ever been honored let alone made.” Farah Griffin, a CNN contributor, has seen her media star rise in recent months as she's refashioned herself into a fierce critic of the ex-president and his many sycophants. She’s widely considered the favorite to permanently fill Meghan McCain’s old seat as co-host of The View, and has become a fixture on CNN programming especially during the Jan. 6 committee hearings.
MURDOCH BOOK FRENZY: Two upcoming blockbuster books about the Murdochs have executives from London to Los Angeles concerned about what revelations they may contain. Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie is busy writing his memoir, tentatively titled Murdoch, Me and Other Mad Men, Confider has learned. The book will detail MacKenzie’s decades-long relationship working for Rupert Murdoch until he had a falling out with the media mogul. The second book in the works is the first-ever biography of Lachlan Murdoch, titled The Successor, by award-winning Aussie journalist Paddy Manning, which will be released in the U.S. on Nov. 1. Sources told Confider it will feature new details about the deterioration of Lachlan’s relationship with his younger brother James Murdoch, who quit the family business in 2020 over his disgust with their editorial decisions.
KEITH’S COMEBACK: A decade after its final cancellation, Countdown with Keith Olbermann is back—this time, as a podcast. iHeartMedia announced Monday that Keith Olbermann will debut the podcast revival of his pioneering MSNBC show on August 1, which he promises will be more independent than any previous iteration. “I don’t have to toe any line whatsoever. Let's see how I can light myself on fire with gasoline and nitroglycerine every day,” Olbermann told Confider about the show, which will feature branded segments including the infamous “Worst Person in the World” fixture from his TV days. In one titled “Things I Promised Not to Tell,” Olbermann plans to dish on media execs and colleagues, including MSNBC’s newly minted 9 p.m. host, Alex Wagner, whose career Olbermann helped launch but now describes as “a lot of crash and burns.” He recalled: “She didn’t get the teleprompter and didn’t get intuitively when to look at the camera, but neither did Rachel [Maddow]. Rachel came in and worked on it for an hour a night... Alex said, ‘Ah, how difficult could it be? I’ll pick it up somewhere. I’ve got to be in the Hamptons at 8 p.m.’ We went through a couple more auditions but she just didn’t want to put the work in,” Olbermann questioned network bosses Cesar Conde and Rashida Jones' decision to place Wagner into a highly coveted primetime slot: “I look at it and wonder are they deliberately trying to tank MSNBC as an influential news outlet as some of the decisions are incomprehensible.” A flack for MSNBC declined to comment.
IN PLAIN SIGHT: Out-of-work former CNN honcho Jeff Zucker chowing down with CNBC and MSNBC founder Tom Rogers at Michael’s on Wednesday… Lisa Vanderpump as well as cast members from Bling Empire and Shahs of Sunset at a Daily Mail-hosted party for the Schwartz & Sandy’s Lounge grand opening in Hollywood on Tuesday… Daily Show host Trevor Noah posing for pics with a group of fans on the corner of Elizabeth and Spring Streets in Nolita.
More from the Beast’s Media Desk
—Donald Trump’s rift with Fox News grew even larger on Monday when the ex-prez attacked Fox & Friends, once his fave show, for failing to meet their usual level of weapons-grade sycophancy while covering him. “That show has been terrible—gone to the ‘dark side,’” Trump whined. Read more about that here.
—Chris Cuomo has been threatening us all with a comeback and last week he delivered with a new podcast in which he attempted to make peace with CNN while still suing them for $125 million, claiming the network assassinated his character. “It’s time for me to move on,” the disgraced anchor declared, vengeful lawsuit notwithstanding. More on that here.
—Goofy MAGA channel One America News is now guaranteed to fully slink back into the irrelevance from whence it came, thanks to Verizon Fios, its largest remaining cable carrier, deciding to cut ties last week. Read more about that here.
—Alan Dershowitz simply cannot stop whining about supposedly being “blackballed” on Martha’s Vineyard. And he’s willing to embarrass himself in the pages of The New Yorker to do so. More on that here.
—Elon Musk shared a pic of himself and Google founder Sergey Brin partying this weekend, casting doubt on parts of the Wall Street Journal’s explosive claim that Musk had a bromance-killing affair with Brin’s estranged wife Nicole Shanahan. More on that here.
—WaPo media columnist Erik Wemple took Bloomberg News to task for giving Fox News a mere 18 minutes to comment on a now-retracted “exclusive” about the ongoing Dominion defamation lawsuit. Had the outlet waited longer for a reply, “it would have avoided some trouble,” Wemple wrote. Read that here.
**WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?**
It didn’t take long for right-wing talking heads to make fools out of themselves after President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19. Perhaps the most ridiculous, fake-outrage take came from Fox News contributor Johnny “Joey” Jones, who suggested Biden’s diagnosis was karmic justice for “pretending” to have cancer earlier in the week. “Saying he had cancer the way he did, and backtracking it the way they did, that’s karma, man!” Jones exclaimed on Thursday afternoon. “You don’t want to fool with that. You don’t want to put into the universe something like that.” Over on Fox News wannabe network Newsmax, disgraced political pundit Mark Halperin awkwardly attempted to outrage over Biden’s current mask-wearing habits—while also nodding at his extremely anti-mask and anti-vax audience. “Even though a lot of people who watch this network are not pro-mask, why didn’t the president wear a mask on this trip?” Halperin wondered in hilariously straight-faced fashion.
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