The Mix

Stand by your swag?

Two recently-fired journalists highlight the editorial and ethical ambiguities of the PR-woos-writer media game.
Sometimes, the life of an editor or journalist can look pretty darned fabulous to the outside world. The sexier, smarter or more scandalous a publication's content, the sexier, smarter and more alluring its staff members are purported to be.

That's the common -- albeit faulty -- logic. It's also commonly believed that the life (and social calendar) of a journalist is perpetually full-to-bursting with glamorous soirees, heaps of fan mail, and foxy intellectuals lined up at your door, begging for dates.

None of these notions are true. But there is one media myth that's been proven correct time and time again (um, unless you work at a nonprofit outlet, like the fine folk at AlterNet). It's a privilege writers and editors often count on (depending on what they cover): lots and lots of swag. Free goodies in your mailbox every day; invitations, products, cds and books -- all of them mailed by press-hungry publicists attempting to buy their way into your pages.

It all seems like excessive, irrelevant fun -- until someone loses a job.

On Friday, beauty editor Nadine Haobsh was fired from her position at middle-aged women's mag Ladies' Home Journal in NYC -- all because of her blog.

Apparently, Haobsh dished a bit too much celebrity dirt -- not to mention TOP-SECRET MAKEUP TRICKS.

I feel for her. She got loads of free beauty products at work, she blogged about the ones she liked -- as well as the oddball celebrity BS she witnessed in her daily life as an editor -- and, as usual, the Corporate Powers That Be couldn't take the heat.

The funniest part of the deal is that, since her lay-off, Haobsh has become something of a insta-media star herself. In the last few days, I've seen (and read) her all over TV and the Internet, discussing the how and why of her firing.

On her blog yesterday, the ex-editrix sounded anything but downtrodden about her newfound joblessness:
Far from shunning me as a pariah, I've received countless emails from editors and publicists, letting me know that they're behind me, that they love the blog, that they know I'll land on my feet and--most importantly--that they're there with tons of products should my beauty closet run dry! ... Going forward, I'll be working like a busy little bee on my book--I had some great meetings with agents today and I'm very excited about it all.
Haobsh also helpfully directs readers to her press agent (take that, Ladies' Home Journal!) with urgent media concerns: "Please direct all media inquiries to my publicist, Jessie Fuller." Egads -- she's fully famous!

In a similar vein, today the Boston Herald reported on the firing of editor Jim Sullivan from nemesis rag Boston Globe (a.k.a. "Boring Broadsheet," per the Herald).

The Globe's former "Living" editor, Sullivan didn't lose his job over something silly, like a revealing weblog. But he was let go because of an affinity for freebies -- namely, of the "rare art" variety. Apparently, after interviewing pop artist Peter Max in May 2004, the writer "somehow scored an original Peter Max portrait of his dearly departed pet cat!"

Eek, stop the presses!!!

OK, sarcasm aside -- I understand why somewhat stringent anti-swag policies need to exist for journalists. I comprehend the editorial and ethical ambiguities behind the ass-kissy PR-woos-writer game. But I also empathize, at least a tidbit, with my poor fired compatriots.

Thankfully, though, Haobsh intends to keep imparting wisdom -- about A-list minglings and "the cult of Jergens Natural Glow" -- for years to come.
Laura Barcella is an Associate Editor at AlterNet.
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