When a Newspaper Dies, Who Gets the Blame? And Miss USA Tara Conner Admits Cocaine Use - Surprises No One
Now that's I've finally gotten something in print about the train wreck that was the death of Media General's youth-oriented, entertainment-focused tabloid Orange, I can tackle the one question asked most often of me by my Times colleagues after they read the print version this morning.
Should we feel sorry for fired editor Mitzi Gordon?
The situation: Gordon was let go a week after the company had to dump 15,000 papers because she approved publication of a story featuring the word c**t.
Argument for sorry: Media General took someone with just a few years' experience as an editor and had them develop, launch and produce a weekly entertainment tabloid with few resources. Up against established players like tbt* and Creative Loafing, Orange struggled to find an audience and a point of view. If you believe Gordon's words to me, she got inconsistent guidance on the boundaries of language and content and knocked herself out each week amassing a 20-page book with an array of freelancers.
Argument against sorry: Every editor knows the importance of keeping their superiors in the loop, especially when pushing the envelope in content. And Gordon admits in a comment to Sticks of Fire blog what she didn't tell me: that criticizing the decision to yank the story to Creative Loafing's Wayne Garcia may have been what really got her fired.
There's little doubt that Orange, originally conceived as a printed version of WFLA-Ch. 8's lame-o local entertainment show The Spot, got few resources. There was little advertising for it, distribution seemed spotty, even the paper it was printed on was awfully thin.
Indeed, I remember the day Orange debuted, I just happened to be in Tampa. So I drove down Kennedy Ave., one of the city's busiest streets, looking for a copy. I wound up driving all the way to Media General's NewsCenter headquarters; walked in the front door and asked the receptionist. It took her -- I exaggerate not -- 15 minutes to find someone who knew what Orange was and get a copy of it to me. On their launch day.
So I guess I do feel a little sorry for Gordon. Because even if she didn't know she was taking on an impossible task, her superiors surely did.
(Here's the story that got pulled; freelancer Greg Caracci posted it on his MySpace page; Here's a link to the fashion designer he profiled, who says she's trying to take back the c-word by putting it in the name of her business. Ahh, the idealism of youth...)
Miss USA Tara Conner Gives Dateline NBC a Scoop We Already Knew
Here's the quotes forwarded by NBC. (And no, this isn't an excuse to post pix of Tara Conner or get people ding Tara Conner searches on Google to come to this Tara Conner item. Never...)
RE: Admitting to her cocaine use for the first time:
LAUER: So, how does it feel to say it?
CONNER: It gets it off my chest. And to be honest with you, at first, I kind of held back on it a little bit, but there's no sense in it, because luckily, the great thing about getting everything out and being completely open and honest about things, it frees me from it. So the more that I get it off my chest, the better I feel about myself. It's not healthy for my recovery to...sit here and hold things back.
RE: The development of her addiction to alcohol:
CONNER: Things started unraveling for me very early, at a very young age. Probably about around 14. I have the disease of alcoholism and addiction. And when you put chemicals in your body and you have this disease, you're literally feeding this disease, which can distort your thinking, can make you very manipulative...you literally wear a mask. So my entire life, I learned how to protect myself and how to wear a mask because I had all these insecurities within me...and today you have an honest girl. You know, six months ago, before I went to rehab, it was a completely different...
RE: Her relationship with the Miss Universe Organization:
CONNER: The friction was between me and the organization that I worked for. Especially my boss, Miss Paula, she is an amazing woman, by the way. But it wasn't their fault that there was friction. It was completely on me. The thing about an addict or an alcoholic, again, is we are manipulative. We feel like we always have to have control. And we feel like we're in control, which is what confuses us...but she always called me out. And I could not stand it because no one-- no one, for some reason, had enough gumption to sit me down and say, "Look, take a look at yourself. Look at the things that are around you"...I would never listen to anything that she said. And then one day she got to me so much that I broke. And the real Tara started to come out just a little bit, because I was vulnerable for a second. But I never felt anything. I never felt anything at all.