Times, Le Monde Defend Against Accusations of Sexism

 Times, Le Monde Defend Against Accusations of Sexism

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for The Times and Le Monde (pictured: Natalie Nougayrede and Jill Abramson).

Last week was not a good one for women in media. Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, was fired, and Natalie Nougayrède, editor of Le Monde, France’s leading newspaper, resigned. Both were the first women to hold their respective posts.

While both departures were shocking, neither was particularly surprising, given weeks of leaked news of discontent on both editorial floors. Most of the stories focused on managerial styles: Abramson was characterized as polarizing and mercurial, while Nougayrède’s management was described as authoritarian and “Putin-like.”

Accusations of sexism were inevitable, as women in media wondered if the same adjectives, applied to men, would have been pejoratives (“Putin-like” aside). The specifics in Nougayrède’s case, among them that she butted heads with editors over her attempts to put more emphasis on the digital version of the paper, could be used on either side of the argument. However, Abramson’s pay being lower than that of her male predecessor supported the accusations. On Saturday, Times owner Arthur Sulzberger Jr. released a statement saying that Abramson’s management style was the sole reason for her termination, and that her total pay package was similar to that of her predecessor – which turned out not to entirely add up. As of press time, Abramson was expected to tell her side of the story Monday morning.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for The Times and Le Monde.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Be prepared to present facts. All business entities want bad PR to fade away quickly, but in the event that questions make it linger, facts dampen speculation. The difficulty in transitioning from print to digital is being emphasized as the conflict between Nougayrède and her staff; Abramson’s reaction to the salary discrepancy was hiring a lawyer, a move that ruffled her superiors’ feathers irreparably. The reason for her needing to do so, however, is something that keeps this story alive, and Times owners on the defensive.

Start-Up CEO Tweets Stiletto in Mouth

cortellheels Start Up CEO Tweets Stiletto in Mouth

The PR Verdict: F (“Full Fiasco”) for tech entrepreneur Jorge Cortell.

Another week, another case of a tech start-up CEO going full Neanderthal on Twitter with witless, sexist comments – and tweeting from a business conference with hungry VCs, no less. This week’s Caveman award goes to Jorge Cortell,  CEO of healthcare startup Kanteron Systems and a self-described “privacy hacktivist” who doesn’t seem to see the value in keeping his private opinions to himself.

At an event in Manhattan last week, where high-powered venture capital firms were pitching their quals and services to entrepreneurs, Cortell tweeted a pic of a female attendee in stiletto heels with the comment: “Event supposed to be for entrepreneurs, VCs, but these heels (I’ve seen several like this)… WTF?” and the hashtag “#brainsnotrequired.” Amid the ensuing uproar, Cortell said he was simply commenting on the unhealthy height of the heels and the wearer’s ignorance, not gender. “Perhaps a man was wearing those.”

Rrrright. And lack of “culture fit” is why there aren’t more women in tech. Cortell defended and repeat-tweeted his nonsense argument until Twitter temporarily suspended his account. Valleywag and The Wall Street Journal picked up the exchange, assuring Cortell his place on the Tech-Sexist wall of shame.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Cortell, who has done his industry no favors in breaking from its frat boy image.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Keep personal opinions out of your business dialogue. You are what you tweet. Never tweet anything you wouldn’t be prepared to say publicly before an intimate audience of, say, several thousand people – one that includes potential investors and customers, the media, your competitors and detractors, people who don’t look like you. Silicon Valley and its enablers are still a long ways off from penalizing “tech-bros” stuck in a frat-boy mindset of their college years, but that day will come. Better to stay ahead of this curve. If your product promises to change the world, aspire to do the same.

BBC’s Inverdale Loses Game, Set, and Match

 BBCs Inverdale Loses Game, Set, and Match

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for John Inverdale for the comment, and to the BBC for its anemic response.

Not much could tarnish the pride in the United Kingdom after Scottish national Andy Murray took home the coveted trophy of the All England Club at Wimbledon. BBC commentator John Inverdale sure gave it his best shot, though.

As Marion Bartoli of France accepted her first-ever Grand Slam tennis trophy, Inverdale shocked listeners of his BBC Radio 5 program by saying “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘You’re never going to be a looker, you’ll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight’?”  The comment was met with fury in the Twittersphere, while the older school logged more than 700 telephone complaints to the BBC’s headquarters in London.

This isn’t the first gaffe for Inverdale, who has served as a BBC sports presenter on Wimbledon for several years. For many in the UK, this boorish remark was the last straw. Each year, listeners “are gifted his open distaste for the women’s game, which apparently lacks anything to hold his well-remunerated attention,” fumed a columnist in The Guardian.

After first trying to brush off the criticism, Inverdale finally apologized at the start of the men’s finals on Sunday. Even then, he downplayed his comment as “clumsy” and “ham-fisted.” The BBC was little better, saying, limply, “We accept that this remark was insensitive and for that we apologize.” The only winner here was Bartoli, who said she never aspired to be a model and invited Inverdale to check her out at the champion’s gala a few nights later where, she mused, “He could change his mind.”

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for John Inverdale for the comment, and to the BBC for its anemic response.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: If you find yourself about to remark on someone’s appearance to the media: STOP. Unless you’re referring to a beauty pageant, no good can come of the words you’re about to utter, whether complimentary or critical. Regardless of how attractive someone is, commentary should focus solely on that person’s skill or accomplishments. In today’s world, any reference to physical attributes is too easily construed as sexist – and rightfully so.

PETA’s Naked Agenda

cf05e peta xxx2 300x280 PETAs Naked Agenda

The PR Verdict: “C” for PETA and its promo porn.

Do you care about animals? Do you care about porn? Well then, today is your lucky day!  Animal rights activist group, People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)  has launched a site for you.  The eye-popping website features naked porn stars and vegetarian sex tips, including advice on how to boost your sex drive with vegetables.

The adult-only site, called PETA.XXX.com, was introduced by famously unattractive porn star (and animal lover) Ron Jeremy. “This is the perfect example of sex just being used to draw interest,” he explained, “and then once you’re there on the site, we’re going to hit you with facts that you need to know about the world of animals.”

Justifying the approach, PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajit said, “We live in a 24-hour news cycle world, and we learn the racy things we do are sometimes the most effective way that we can reach particular individuals.” The porn site will raise awareness of veganism, said Rajt. “We really want to grab people’s attention, get them talking… we can help the greatest number of animals by not eating them.”

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for PETA and its promo porn. While it may grab the headlines on day one, it raises potential problems that go beyond splash coverage.

PR Takeaway: Resist the quick hit and the quick headline. Yes, PETA’s website and launch has garnered media attention, but for an organization already known for outrageous PR stunts, this seems desperate. With Ron Jeremy as a key spokesperson, PETA risks being excluded permanently from any serious debate about animal welfare and food sustainability. More importantly, PETA’s supporters may be as opposed to porn on the grounds that it exploits women, as they are opposed to the exploitation of animals. What will Ron Jeremy say then?

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