Monday, November 13, 2006

Fire All the Journalists You Want--Wendy Will Hire More!

As you know if you're a Santa Barbarian, the News-Press had its gala Lifetime Achievement Awards Dinner this past Saturday, one of those tony events at which the rich gather to congratulate some of the other rich for giving some of their money away. This particular year the event was a bit more fraught with tension, as there was a protest outside, Wendy McCaw was inside actually at a public event, and one of the awardees, Sara Miller McCune, actually ballsily announced she hoped to own the paper by next year.

But, despite all the hoo-haw, what most sticks in INOTBB's craw is this news from Craig Smith about the evening:

And since when is it necessary to have "entertainment" at this event? I'm referring to the surprise appearance of Jay Leno who did a monologue. My guess is that it must have cost between $75,000 and $100,000 to get him to show up. I love Jay, but it would have been nice for McCaw to take that money and contribute it to the charities which are supposed to be the beneficiaries of this dinner. $75,000 just happens to approximate the total that was raised for the News-Press Holiday Fund last year. I've asked around and this kind of entertainment is unprecedented at the Lifetime Achievement Awards. My theory is that its Wendy's way of "rewarding" those who showed up in spite of the controversy and "punishing" those who stayed away because of it.

Now, I'm not upset because I agree with the old Brian Eno line that Jay Leno must be the least funny person in all of America (that's Bruce Tinsley). And it's not even the money issue, as I'm sure that Wendy, in her effort to do good, is forking in the $100G for Leno herself (she'll have her acountants, who no doubt have Ph.D.s and don't live in Santa Barbara, write it off as a business expense).

It's that Leno's the perfect emblem for all that's Wendy. First, money can buy anything. Second, when in doubt, bring in the hired guns--after all, Leno does 100 of these corporate gigs a year, and only discriminates against those who can't pay. Third, it's always fun to suck up to celebrity. Fourth, according to a CNN/Fortune article, "Warren Littlefield, former president of NBC Entertainment, recalls, 'When we first renewed Jay's deal, one of his negotiating points was less vacation. That was a first for me.'" Now that's just the guy a union-busting bad boss has to love. Maybe Leno even offered Wendy some labor negotiation tips.

Finally, there's this humdinger of a passage in that CNN/Fortune article that sums up Leno's work ethic:

"This sounds silly," he says, "but my attitude is, sooner or later, the other guy is going to have to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, get laid, or take a vacation, and that's when I catch him. That's always worked for me." Once, when he was home working on the next day's monologue, he flipped on the TV and saw a rival talk show host at a Lakers game. "Gotcha," he thought. "I'm working. You're playing. What are you doing? This is a school night."

So that's what life's about, huh? Disgusting, but a perfect match for someone like McCaw, who seems non-plussed she's not only done a huge disservice to 32 (or is it more now?) ex-employees, but also to the whole of Santa Barbara, which lost its daily newspaper. Meanwhile she gets to snuggle up to Leno-lite Nipper, who after Sara Miller McCune made her comment about wanting to buy the paper quipped, "Sold! No just kidding, we're having too much fun." That's either the bitter truth or the truth that bites.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just moved here from the east coast, and although I do not know every detail, it seems anyone who owns a business should be able to fire who they wish.There is nothing guaranteed in life except death and taxes.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous control freak said...

Anonymous, that's the kind of "free enterprise" laissez-faire devil may care attitude that brought us discrimination, sexual harassment and union-busting in the workplace, all of which, thank goodness, are illegal today. The problem with faux libertarians like Wendy McCaw is that while they're very happy about the individual freedom part, they forget about the part that says "Do no harm to others." Firing, coercing, intimidating and threatening union supporters for their union support -- which McCaw has done -- are illegal. Eventually her lawlessness will catch up with her.

3:34 PM  

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