On Fox Print Tights and Anonymous Sources
Between good journalism and amplified gossip, where do we draw the line?
This morning, WWD posted a report that detailed how one of Vanity Fair‘s fashion editors seemed less than impressed with the magazine’s newly appointed editor-in-chief, Radhika Jones. No, not the Time magazine veteran’s credentials — her outfit.
“WWD observed one of the company’s fashion editors in candid conversation with industry peers remarking not on the context of Jones’ first visit, but rather the outfit she wore,” the article reads. “According to the fashion editor — who omitted Jones’ admirable literary accomplishments from conversation — the incoming editor wore a navy shiftdress strewn with zippers, a garment deemed as ‘iffy’ at best.”
The article goes on to detail the anonymous editor’s distaste for Jones’s cartoon-fox-print tights, and adds that WWD did not overhear the editor in question remark on outgoing editor-in-chief Graydon Carter’s dress.
Reaction to the article this morning was swift and angry, with neither Condé Nast nor WWD spared widespread condemnation.
— Raillan Brooks (@raillan_ebrooks) November 17, 2017
WWD then briefly removed editor Misty White Sidell’s byline from the story, replacing it with simply “WWD Staff,” before restoring Sidell’s credit sometime in the early afternoon.
I was among those who criticized WWD for making the decision to publish a few nasty, overheard comments by one individual, seemingly in the interest of stirring the pot and drawing clicks. But I think this warrants some further inspection on a medium that affords more than 280 characters.
Late Friday morning, Sidell took to Instagram to discuss the story. “Proud to work for a publication allows me to not only dote on fashion’s strengths, but also expose its weaknesses,” she wrote. “I was deeply upset to witness this conversation, where a woman who holds a doctorate degree and is amply accomplished in literature, was reduced to her choice of clothing. The fashion industry – so taxed to ignite interest (and convert sales) amongst everyday Americans could only benefit from opening its borders to include those exceeding in alternate expressions of creativity.”
WWD is an important publication, which (like Folio: and any other trade journal) has a responsibility to report on both the best and worst of the various industries it covers. This often involves a balancing act, and at times leads to missteps.
Although I believe Sidell’s heart was in the right place, this, in my opinion, was an example of the latter.
Sidell was right to be nonplussed by the exchange she overheard, but the decision to run with the piece citing one, unnamed, overheard source — not to mention the headline that seems to deliberately obscure the fact that only one staffer’s comments made it into the report — makes it read less like the courageous exposure of a major publisher’s pervasive culture of toxicity and more like the gleeful account of a reporter who was all too happy to eavesdrop on one Condé Naster throwing shade at her new boss, an outsider. Had Jones gone to CUNY and not Columbia, would it have been more appropriate then to reduce her to her choice of clothing?
Sometimes the best stories go unpublished.