The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories
If only racism, like tooth enamel, would just dissolve under the sweet balm of Pepsi-Cola! Then we’d solve all our problems. Alas, it is not to be — as everyone in the world pointed out to Pepsi after it unveiled, and then withdrew, a new ad in which a Kardashian-clan scion hitches a ride on the Black Lives Matter movement (Tracy Jan in The Washington Post).
Surely someone at Pepsi understood that drafting a white celebrity model like Kendall Jenner to play the part of peacemaker in a hostile confrontation between a diverse crowd of young protesters and police might not be a great idea — and would cause the world to cringe. The whole thing is a sugar-coated, white-washed, ludicrously tone-deaf trivialization of everything that is actually at stake in a divided America today. The firm and its ad agency either (1) failed to include anyone of color in its decision-making process; (2) did have such people in the room, but ignored them; or (3) didn’t really care as long as the world ended up talking about their spot.
Anyone pushing sugar water today starts with a difficult hill to climb, given the products’ role in our obesity crisis. But it remains possible for big brands, even big soda brands, to connect marketing with social issues in an effective way. (The Post’s Jan points to Coke’s pro-diversity “America the Beautiful” Super Bowl ad, which riled some on the right.)
Pepsi probably needs to walk back and start all over again. The company tagged the end of its ad with the slogan “Live Bolder. Live Louder. Live For Now.” Next time it should just try “Live Less Stupid.”
Will O’Reilly Put Fox in the Dog House?
When Roger Ailes left Fox News under a cloud of sexual harassment charges, some women who worked at the conservative network hoped the change might usher in a sort of gender version of the Prague Spring there: Maybe the old regime’s demise would mean Fox women could stop worrying about being propositioned or groped and get back to doing their work.
No such luck. Last week The New York Times reported that Fox has paid out $13 million to settle a series of harassment charges over the years against its popular host Bill O’Reilly, with at least two of those settlements happening post-Ailes. Yet O’Reilly just had his lucrative contract renewed. Meanwhile, as Dylan Byers at CNN reports, women at Fox continue to fear retribution if they speak up. Yes, the company has an anonymous hotline — but what good is that if your boss is also monitoring your phone?
When it comes to treatment of women, respect for fact, and commitment to ethics, it’s clear that Fox is a shipwreck full of loose cannons (Jim Rutenberg in The New York Times). It’s still a popular network, to be sure, and has the ear of one particularly powerful viewer in the Oval Office. But with more lawsuits and even a federal investigation underway, it could be headed for a long, slow implosion.
Conde Nast to Writers: We’ll Pay Fast, But It Will Cost You
Freelance writers often get paid really slowly. That is not news. But now Conde Nast has put a novel twist on this old fact of life: It’s offering writers an “expedited payment” scheme — and charging them to use it (Fashionista). The move is being compared to the payday loan business, but it also feels a little like the airlines’ starting to ask for a fee to check luggage: It turns yet another basic element of a business relationship into a fringe benefit with a price tag.
Most of us are not freelance writers, so who cares? The thing is, freelancers lived in the gig economy for decades before the phrase was even invented. Since the business of journalism is one of the first to have been thoroughly disrupted by the digital era, the fate of these workers can be canary-in-the-coalmine-ish. By paying them less if they want to be paid fast, the publisher is just sucking a little more oxygen out of the mineshaft.
‘Spinal Tap’ Suit Takes It to Eleven
For anyone who loves This is Spinal Tap, the satirical “rockumentary,” it’s sad but almost too perfect to find out that the brilliant comic actors behind it have ended up in a gigantic lawsuit with its producers. They’re after what they say is their fair share of the profits over the years.
As Harry Shearer writes in Rolling Stone, “Hollywood accounting” generally allows a film’s owners to juggle the books to show little or no profit so that they can keep revenues instead of sharing the wealth with creators. (It certainly does seem odd to the non-accountant reader to learn that Vivendi, Spinal Tap’s rights holder, claims the film has earned only $81 in merchandizing income and $98 in music revenue.)
Similar problems often bedevil musicians, authors, and other creative artists. The Spinal Tap suit is, among other things, a demand for greater accounting transparency from those who hold the rights to intellectual property. Whatever the creators of Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins are truly owed, we can all benefit from their quest to pry information from their corporate overlords.