Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mean Girls Media :: The Mimi Gurbst Social Media Backlash



Update:: 18 May 2010, 2:38a EDT
Gawker finally chimed in on the matter, but sheds no real light on it—and the comments are nowhere nearly as entertaining as those on the Observer.

This is what happens when puff-pieces go awry {Hat-tip:: LinnyQat}. The Observer's Felix Gillette slathered treacle on the announcement that ABC News producer Mimi Gurst was heading back to grad school to become a guidance counsellor and perhaps some day running her own school.  
"In recent years, when she wasn't putting together stories as a senior producer for ABC's World News or helping to oversee global news-gathering operations as a network vice president, Mimi Gurbst liked to advise her colleagues on various ways to improve their personal and professional lives.
Somewhere along the say, sources tell The Observer,  Ms. Gurbst became a kind of cherished, if unofficial, career counselor at ABC News, helping countless young producers and correspondents find their way at a particularly tumultuous time in an already confusing business."

Well, Gillette's take of focusing on her advising of others to link to her future plans, rather than her work as a news journalist, has brought on a flurry of negative comments and jabs at Gillette himself. Commenters took issue with the characterization of her as a "mentor", painting her more like a tormentor and characterizing the culture she fostered with allusions to "Mean Girls" and "Heathers". This comment amused me::
"Given the comment from Disgusted I will start my comment by saying I am neither bitter nor affected in any way by the recent events at ABC News. I sat at a desk outside Mimi's office for three years. The joke in year 1 was that I had a huge bottle of listerine on my desk for folks to gargle with after they were forced to lick mimi's ass for career safety. Year 2 I added a fake vile that said "Tetnus". Year 3 I wanted to add gasoline and matches for people to burn their clothes upon exit, but I didn't want anyone to get scared. I had more laughs than I can count. Mimi didn't ruin my life or career. I wouldn't give her that power. Unfortunately, she damaged hundreds of kids' view of journalism and hurt ABC News in major ways. This should be a lesson to everyone that you reap what you sow."
While she has her defenders, there are some damning allegations by "former bureau chief" that detail the behind-the-scenes issues at ABC news with a fair amount of specificity.

While some voices are irate at the anonymous hatefest, anonymity is allowing this dialogue to take place. Some may argue that this isn't real dialogue, but just so much hearsay and allegations, but it does provide for an interesting glimpse on the sociology of organizations::
"Mimi Gurbst directly and repeatedly thwarted Bob Iger and Anne Sweeney's mandate to implement more efficient business practices and grow the division in alternate ways. She refused to do anything that would further the news division's goals at the expense of her power. Mr Westin will claim that she had been demoted over the last few years and taken out of the picture. Not true. We all watched her playing a daily role in the anchors wars between charlie and diane. Her crew of middling producers thrives and remains under her guidance. The outdated structure of news gathering that is years behind NBC-- this is all the result of Mr. Westin's failure to control this woman and the culture she represents. The Mimi people who run the ABC programs have failed up... second tier shows etc. Maybe the chinese new year party will look different this year."
There are enough details in the comments to give credence to the fact that many commenting are insiders and know something of the inner sanctum of ABC News.

All of this is in the wake of ABC News layoffs and lacklustre ratings. The fact of the matter is that broadcast news is expensive, the market is increasingly fragmented, and I see the future of broadcast network news as struggling for relevance. While the networks are still doing well, compared to cable news, the handwriting is on the wall. ABC News' ratings, along with CBS' are lagging behind NBC's. There's also a huge disconnect between news and its integration with the web and social media—hint:: highlighting "tweets" on a broadcast isn't being all over the social media. It's a Web 1.0 use of Web 2.0. While I don't agree with everything Mike Elgan is saying here about news and social media, there's a lot of good points that speak to relevance and better use of social media by news organizations. I bring all of this up, as it's rather ironic that in 2005, Gurbst spoke to Brandeis students about technology, news, and the broadcast networks::


We'll see if the Twittersphere runs with this story. I saw this tweet to Ana Marie Cox, which also is pretty funny::



Song:: Chamillionaire-'Evening News'

Twitterversion::[blog] When puff pieces attack.Observer serves up syrupy send-off 4 Mimi Gurbst of ABCNews & social media backlash ensues. @Prof_K

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