Not Licht Yet
Profiles in discourage.
I had a lovely week off, but the perfidious scoundrels of the media took advantage of my absence to launch a barrage of Tabs-worthy profiles of characters both main and mid. In Semafor Ben Smith wrote about human chumbox Neetzan Zimmerman, quoting a friend (!) of Zimmerman calling him “the most cynical person I know in the business.” With friends like these, you won’t believe what two raccoons did in this family’s backyard [NSFW]. The big Vanity Fair Caroline Calloway profile dropped, live from Calloway’s dead grandmother’s Florida retirement condo where the (literal) snake oil saleswoman is currently squatting and not writing an indeterminate number of new books.
On November 8, 2020, [Calloway] vowed that Scammer would be “AT LEAST 400 pages, more likely 450.” (Flash forward: One month after my Sarasota visit, I receive a text. “Scammer update: It’s taking shape before my eyes into more a book of 65 prose poems than a ‘memoir.’ ” Second flash forward: As of the printing of this issue, Scammer has not yet shipped. Neither has I Am Caroline Calloway, nor Cambridge Captions.)
The thing about Caroline Calloway circa 2023 is that yes, she got a big book advance way back in 2017 for a book she never wrote, but since then she keeps on not doing things, and the arc of her professional life is so relentlessly downward that every new scrap of attention feels more like exploitation. But here’s Lili Anolik writing about Calloway’s calculated tit-flashing, and me writing about her writing about it, and the circle of content goes on.
Jia Tolentino profiled Matty Healy, and I am so grateful to each and every paying Tabs subscriber but none of you separately or all together pay me enough to read it. Fortunately Tabs’ Senior Fandom War Correspondent Allegra Rosenberg filed her own report on… *gestures vaguely at the moon*
But all of that was prelude to the week’s biggest profile event, Tim Alberta’s fifteen thousand word Atlantic doorstop on CNN boss Chris Licht’s flailing incompetence. And I say “doorstop” but to be honest, it keeps the door moving along pretty briskly. This is a legitimately great piece of journalism, and coöperating with it, on Licht’s part, will probably go down as one of the most disastrous lapses of executive judgement in hashtag-newsbiz history. If you don’t have fifteen thousand words worth of time to read about cable news machinations, less competent writer Brian Stelter summarized it in a lot fewer words that feel like… a little bit fewer words.
The day before the article dropped, David Zaslav sent a telegram from Graydon Carter’s second-largest orchid sauna installing Warner Bros. Discovery corporate affairs goon David Leavy as CNN’s new Chief Executive of definitely not pushing Chris Licht out as soon as possible, winking-face emoji. If you want to predict Licht’s future at CNN, I think the most consequential section of the whole profile was this one:
For months, Zaslav’s head of communications, Nathaniel Brown, had been shielding his boss from participating in this story. He first told me that Zaslav would speak to me only without attribution, and any quotes I wanted to use would be subject to their approval. When I refused—telling Brown that quote approval was out of the question, and that I would meet Zaslav only if he allowed on-the-record questioning—he reluctantly agreed to my terms, but then tried running out the clock, repeatedly making Zaslav unavailable for an interview. Finally, after false starts and a painstaking back-and-forth, the interview was set. I would meet Zaslav on Wednesday, May 17—one week after the Trump town hall—at his office in New York.
On Tuesday evening, less than 24 hours before that meeting, Brown called me. “We’re going to keep this on background only, nothing for attribution,” he said. This was a brazen renege on our agreement, and Brown knew it. He claimed that it was out of his hands. But, Brown tried reassuring me, “with everything going on,” Zaslav thought “he could be most helpful to you by explaining some things on background.”
…I declined Brown’s offer. I told him this was Zaslav’s last chance to make the case for Licht’s leadership—and his own. If he wanted to explain things, he could do so on the record, as we had agreed. Zaslav refused.
This is upper-level media business executive for “this guy’s already dead to me but his career doesn’t know it yet.” I give Licht weeks at the most, probably only days.
If you missed Tabs last week, perhaps that’s a sign you should be a subscriber? Much to consider.
It’s a new month and we have a new Intern. I’m so excited to introduce your June Intern Mariam:
Hello all! I’m Mariam, aka Masha, longtime reader, first-time contributor, thanks for having me.
I have unfortunately been Very Online for close to half my life, meaning I’ve written, digested, and edited Content until my eyes bled and my brain grew mold. You’re in good hands.
I kicked off my digital media career as a writer and editor during the golden age of Facebook publishing. Then came the Pivot To Video, and I bounced around freelancing for a few years, picking up new skills like SEO editing and managing teams of writers. In my spare time I read a lot, walk a lot, take photos, and tinker away at short fiction stories.
Over the next month or so you can expect stochastic coverage of viral trends, memes, and Discourse, Twitter main characters, Takes (bad, good, and excruciatingly mid), a light sprinkling of politics, tech, and celeb buzz, and an exploration of how this all culminates in us living in both the best and worst (mostly worst) timeline yet. Which is to say: Tabs.
Adding meaningful layers to meaningless things is something I’m quite skilled at. It’s how I make sense of a suffering world. You can find me on Twitter where I do far more lurking than tweeting, @minnies.
—Mariam Sharia will never again be as new as she is at this exact moment. But then again, who will?
The phrase “Very Online for close to half my life” just made me calculate exactly how long I’ve been Very Online for, and let’s put it this way: if we did a Back to the Future right now I’d be Very Online at both ends of it (as well as wearing more or less the same clothing). Anyway welcome Intern Mariam from your new boss, a desiccated corpse wrapped in flannel.
What Else Happened: Luke Winkie got a staff job at Slate and immediately started posting the most deranged stuff imaginable. Good for him. The New York Times is trying to find the guy who started all this transphobia. Jemele Hill left Spotify (voluntarily). Everyone else in the podcasting division also left Spotify (involuntarily). RIP Gimlet. Choire recapped the first episode of The Idol: “Maybe Abel Tesfaye is doing a really sophisticated, non-showy, anti-charismatic piece of acting to prove some kind of point about Jocelyn’s self-destruction.” Lol. Everyone else also hated it. Ted Koppel got a vigorous Chotining about his behavior on the hundredth anniversary of his good friend Henry Kissinger’s failure to die. Hannah Gadsby and the Brooklyn Museum put on a bad Picasso show, part one, part two, and part three. “Hopecore” is no match for Florida’s five thousand mile flesh-eating seaweed blob. But enough about Ron DeSantis, hey-oooo. “Teens Arrested for Eating Town’s Swan.”
Finally: A great blog post from Erin Kissane, “Tomorrow & tomorrow & tomorrow:”
Maybe for you, it didn’t start on Twitter. Maybe was forums or the blogosphere or Reddit. Maybe it was Facebook with terrible people from high school or TikTok with people who hate you for liking a thing, or not liking it enough. But we built the machines around our weird amygdalas and then we went inside them and now the machine is no longer confined to a stack of software + policy + vibes; we carry it in ourselves. We haunt each new place we enter. We can feel this happening in our bodies, which is why touch grass is so accidentally real.
Today’s Song: DAMAG3, “DOUBL3 TAK3 (R3MIX)” (feat. $leazy EZ & Lex Bratcher)
Thanks Music Intern Sam. Welcome new Words Intern Mariam. We miss you former Intern Camille. It’s hard to catch up from a week off! I’m glad to be back. Tune in tomorrow for: this kind of thing, but hopefully less of it.