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 — NOT SO SHITTY: A writer named on The Shitty Men in Media list has settled his lawsuit for a six-figure sum with the woman who created the infamous spreadsheet, Confider has learned. The Adderall Diaries author Stephen Elliott sued columnist Moira Donegan for defamation after being accused of rape, sexual harassment, and coercion on the Google spreadsheet that was widely shared at the height of the #MeToo movement and accused upwards of 70 men of sexual misconduct. “The lawsuit had gone 4 and a half years and would have gone 4 more years I think before going to trial,” Elliott told Confider via email. “They were doing everything possible to avoid defending their views in court so when they offered enough money I agreed to settle.” Elliott said Donegan insisted on a confidentiality clause which he did not agree to, describing it as a “Harvey Weinstein thing to ask for.” And while he wasn’t successful in determining who had added him to the list, he suspects it was a woman he fired at the online literary magazine The Rumpus, which he founded. “Whoever put me on that list is deeply disturbed and Moira was taking advantage of people like that. I’m certain there is no one out there in this world who thinks that I raped them, and I’m certain that I never raped anyone. I don’t even like penetrative sex with women,” he told Confider. When reached by Confider on Monday, Donegan said she couldn’t comment and referred questions to her attorney, Gabrielle Tenzer, who did not respond to a request for comment. Elliott said his life has been “permanently changed” as a result of being on the list. He says he was fired by his agent while his publisher and editor publicly supported the list. “Imagine, a non-profit publisher publicly supporting a media blacklist, even while telling me privately they knew I was innocent, and they believed other people on the list were innocent as well,” he told Confider. “But there's some closure here. It’s enough money that it’s basically an admission of guilt, and it feels like a victory. And most importantly it’s helped push back on false accusations and presumptions of guilt. Because believe it or not, ultimately I filed the lawsuit for moral reasons. I felt there was a moral obligation, and I don’t regret that at all.”
EXCLUSIVE — RESHUFFLE RUCKUS: ABC News boss Kim Godwin was “apoplectic” when her Disney overlords told her they wanted her to report to Disney president of networks and TV business operations Debra O’Connell as part of a restructure announced last week, two people familiar with the matter tell Confider. Godwin, who currently reports to co-chairman of Disney Entertainment Dana Walden, would have been buried under another layer of management had the move gone ahead. But sources say Godwin, who has been under fire over a series of missteps and scandals, flat out refused to report to O’Connell and dug in so much that the move was nixed. Meanwhile, Confider has learned Disney CEO Bob Iger gave Godwin a vote of confidence at a mid-February New York City dinner attended by her and Walden along with top ABC talent including George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts and Michael Strahan. “Kim’s success is our success, and we are invested in her,” he told the gathering as a means of dampening constant rumblings that Godwin is on the way out at ABC. Reps for Disney and ABC News declined to comment.
EXCLUSIVE — WHAT GOES AROUND: The New York Times’ recent staff mutiny over its trans coverage was not the first time employees raised the alarm internally—or the first time management shut them down. Former Times staffers within the paper’s LGBTQ-focused employee resource group, TimesOut, tell Confider they repeatedly tried to highlight the implications of the paper’s coverage of trans issues, coming to a head in September 2021 after the Times published a review of Helen Joyce’s book Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality written by Jesse Singal, whose own coverage has been criticized as transphobic. TimesOut tried to schedule a meeting with Carolyn Ryan, a managing editor at the Times and its highest-ranking LGBTQ employee in the newsroom, said Christopher Reynolds, a former Times employee and TimesOut leader, but Ryan refused, citing a scheduling conflict. Members began drafting an internal letter to the masthead that chastised the paper for publishing the review, but it was never sent out after Ryan asked the group not to. The two sides instead scheduled a meeting for Oct. 27 that included other members of the masthead—including then-Executive Editor Dean Baquet. TimesOut and management engaged in prep conversations for the meeting with S. Leigh Thompson, a trans consultant hired by the Times, who worked to mediate the ongoing tensions, according to multiple sources. Reynolds described the meeting as cordial—but ultimately fruitless. And while Thompson would not comment on internal conversations, they were frank in their assessment of the Times’ current coverage: “I believe they’re using trans people as a political pawn to maintain a centrist reputation to keep from being seen as too liberal of a paper.” A Times spokesperson said Ryan “regularly and collegially met with its members, heard feedback and facilitated constructive listening sessions” during her time as TimesOut’s executive sponsor. “She trusted – and earned trust from – members of TimesOut and worked hard as both a newsroom leader and executive sponsor to foster an open dialogue with group members. Any claim to the contrary is not true.” The spokesperson cited specific accomplishments during Ryan’s tenure, including updating the Times’ stylebook with entries on LGBTQ and gender topics.
EXCLUSIVE — PARTY POOPER: The new editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, Emma Tucker, is making waves in and out of the newsroom just weeks after landing in New York from her previous gig running The Sunday Times in the U.K. Tucker, a well-liked Murdoch lieutenant, was due to be feted at the British Consulate in Manhattan on Monday evening in an event co-hosted by the British ambassador, Dame Karen Pierce, and former Beast EIC Tina Brown but the shindig was canceled at the last minute after Tucker pulled out, Confider has learned. The guest list included the CEO of the Blackstone Group, Steve Schwarzman; former CNN honcho Jeff Zucker; and former British Labour politician David Miliband; as well as a who’s who of New York media power players. “When you cancel 80 people and the ambassador of the U.K. is the co-host it’s not particularly a happy moment,” Brown told Confider. The reason for the no show? We hear Tucker jumped on a plane Monday following an invitation from her boss, News Corp CEO Robert Thomson, to join him at the Morgan Stanley conference in San Francisco, where Thomson is slated to speak after agreeing to join the event last week. Tucker will also tour the Journal’s S.F. bureau and attend several high level meetings. “I was really disappointed to pull out of the party and have apologized to the ambassador and to Tina,” Tucker told Confider. That apology seems to have done nothing to appease Brown. “I’m astonished that frankly something so long in the works could be jettisoned this way, but I guess that was her choice. I would have thought there might have been some hesitation,” Brown said, adding there are no plans to reschedule the event. “I don’t know how much appetite there would be.”
EXCLUSIVE — DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: Media mogul Jimmy Finkelstein’s long-hyped WaPo-Daily Mail hybrid may have settled on a name and raised tens of millions of dollars, but it is still struggling to attract top talent, three people familiar with the situation told Confider. Last month, Confider first reported that the former Hill owner had tapped former People magazine Editor-in-Chief Dan Wakeford as one of The Messenger’s top editors. This was only after a number of other prominent journalists, including ex-Daily Beast EIC John Avlon and former Daily Mail boss Geordie Greig, passed on the gig. Finkelstein, meanwhile, has said he’s hired dozens of people already, many from his old stomping grounds at The Hill, and plans on bringing in several hundred more. Yet, even as Finkelstein has recently hired former Entertainment Weekly EIC Mary Margaret and Politico Pro editor Marty Kady to fill out the editorial ranks, top reporting talent continues to pass on his offers despite the offer of huge salaries, sources say. One insider went so far as to claim star journalists are avoiding The Messenger because they see it as “John Solomon 2.0,” referencing the infamous pro-Trump journalist previously employed by The Hill. A spokesperson for The Messenger declined to comment, saying they aren’t yet ready to announce any new information about staffing.
WE HEAR WHISPERS: Vanity Fair is working on a Succession-themed edition where different prominent families, including the Murdochs, will be profiled.
MORE FROM THE BEAST MEDIA DESK
—Fox News largely ignored this year’s Conservative Political Action Committee, and the confab’s organizer Matt Schlapp seemed to know just who to blame: “fake journalists.” With the conservative icon suddenly persona non grata on Fox airwaves amid an alleged groping scandal, The Daily Beast—which broke the story about the allegations—did not receive press credentials to cover the right-wing gathering. Read about it here.
—The Daily Beast’s senior opinion editor Anthony Fisher breaks down Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ crusade to overturn the Supreme Court’s landmark New York Times v. Sullivan decision that protects journalists against spurious libel claims, and how it would end up canceling his favorite cable news network. Read more here.
—A cracking yarn has been playing out across the pond where a journalist broke a non-disclosure agreement to leak the WhatsApp messages of a politician whose book she was co-writing about the pandemic. The twist in the tale is that Isabel Oakeshott leaked the bombshell texts not to Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, where she is a highly paid correspondent at TalkTV, but to rival outlet The Daily Telegraph. Oakeshott then went on Murdoch’s Times Radio to promote her exclusive and, well, you can probably guess what happens next. Watch the highly entertaining clip here.
—You’ve probably never heard of The Digger, Scotland’s most notorious crime magazine, but The FT has a delicious profile of its muckraker-in-chief James Cruickshank, who dishes on how he gets his scoops from the cops and the criminals. Read it here.
***WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?***
The moment Disney announced a new Peter Pan movie that features a diverse cast and girls as members of “The Lost Boys,” it was only a matter of time before the right-wing industrial complex would predictably belch out rage content about the Mouse House going “woke.” Fox News, as it usually does, led the charge by airing several faux outrage segments in which the hosts tried to shoehorn the word “woke” as many times as possible. “Governors need to stand up to woke corporations,” Outnumbered co-host Lisa Marie Boothe fumed on Thursday, while Fox & Friends First host Todd Piro complained that Disney is “not reading the room when it comes to the woke backlash.” Resident Fox News “comedian” Jimmy Failla, meanwhile, snarked that the “original title was ‘Peter Pansexual’” before grumbling that Disney was “injecting some type of gender identity” into the movie. “This is exhausting,” he added. It certainly is, Jimmy. It certainly is.
Confider will be back next week with more saucy scooplets. In the meantime,
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