Ben Smith in the NYTimes: “Who could afford to get out of town, who might be OK if they lost their job, who had money or family to fall back on.”

From a Ben Smith Media Equation column in the New York Times headlined “Newsrooms Are in Revolt. The Bosses Are in Their Country Houses”:

The deck: “Those who can afford it left the city, shining a spotlight on class divisions in the media.”

The parties and attendant deals are off, and executives face a summer without tiki-torch-lit pathways leading to raw bar spreads on the beach, catered for tens of thousands of dollars for a few dozen friends. Parents are growing desperate: “With no camps being open, they’re looking for things to do,” said Boomer Jousma, a yacht broker, who has met that need by selling twice as many yachts as usual, including four of the $1 million-plus Vanquish brand in the last two weeks.

There’s also not so much Instagram. Everyone saw what happened when their neighbor, David Geffen, who paid $70 million for his spread on Lily Pond Lane in 2016, posted a picture of a sunset over his $590 million superyacht in late March and shared that he was “isolated in the Grenadines avoiding the virus,” provoking a wave of public shaming. Out here, they’re being careful to avoid both the disease and the anger seething out of New York City, where much of the working media is both exhausted from covering the story of their lives and in open revolt….

New York’s media business appears to be in endless decline, but it is still one of America’s most visible stages for cultural conflict, drama and change. Top figures at Bon Appétit, Refinery 29, Variety, ABC News and The New York Times have been forced to resign or take leave this month….

The ousters were driven, in many cases, by employees who believe the companies’ internal cultures don’t mirror the progressive and anti-racist values they sell. And while the immediate spur is the wave of protests against anti-black racism and police violence set off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the New York-based media had already been activated by something else: The clarity with which the onset of Covid-19 revealed who could afford to get out of town, who might be OK if they lost their job, who had money or family to fall back on….

The coronavirus crisis forced America to look directly at its deep inequalities, and the media industry’s are no different. And even as media power has shifted somewhat from New York to Los Angeles, East Hampton remains a hub for executives, dealmakers and stars. When the lockdown arrived, most who could get out of New York did so — to the Hamptons for the old elite, to the Hudson Valley for the second tier….

At the embattled magazine company Condé Nast, Roger Lynch, the chief executive, has been in mountainous Lake Arrowhead, outside Los Angeles; the artistic director Anna Wintour is weathering the crisis in Mastic, just west of the Hamptons….

It’s reasonable to wonder whether this has affected the tone of coverage of the crises in New York. Were media leaders in the right place to cover the horror of the early days of the outbreak, when they weren’t being kept awake by sirens?…

The big stories are being driven by frontline journalists who have been taking personal risks — and, sometimes, contracting the coronavirus, to cover the dual crises in American cities. So the clearest effect of the exodus has been to highlight internal class divisions, which are boiling over in private Slacks and Zoom chats largely invisible to executives. There, employees are sometimes organizing to change their internal cultures, and sometimes challenging rules that had previously seemed sacred….

Underlying much of this tension is a sense — in media as in the rest of American society — of just how deep the gaps can be. I felt that sting last week when I saw a tweet from Amber Jamieson raging about rich New Yorkers who fled the coronavirus, leaving behind spacious houses and apartments that would have made for a relatively easy quarantine. “Genuinely hope they feel deep shame their whole lives,” she wrote….

“The biggest story in the world came to your front door and you left — that to me is insane,” she said, adding that her experience — the woman who works the front desk of her gym died, and she wrote about a funeral procession for another neighbor — has been essential to her reporting. “You left for your own personal safety and because it made you stressed and anxious.”…

But Ms. Jamieson said it had been an eye-opening experience.

“It revealed the money in journalism — who has cash and who doesn’t and how much this industry is from people with trust funds or well-connected parents and they could stay in the Hamptons or the Catskills,” she said….

Here in the Hamptons, caddies aside, it’s really not so bad. Those who don’t have space to house a chef are relying on deliveries from the gourmet wholesaler Baldor, whose familiar white-and-black-logo trucks are circulating the island. The private school Avenues is opening a Hamptons branch for those parents who do not wish to return to the city in the fall.

Some executives are beginning to commute again, so the helicopter company Blade has started its seven-day service earlier than usual. Without day-trippers or middle-class vacationers and their crowded sublets, it has been, for the lucky few, “the summer we had long wanted, busy, but not too much so, and quiet enough to hear the birdsong,” according to The East Hampton Star.

The golfers will be OK too. The East Hampton Golf Club, a member told me, has changed its rules to permit autonomous robot caddies, which follow you silently through the greens.

Ben Smith is the media columnist. He joined The Times in 2020 after eight years as founding editor in chief of BuzzFeed News. Before that, he covered politics for Politico, The New York Daily News, The New York Observer and The New York Sun. Email: [email protected] @benyt



  1. Barnard Law Collier says

    Excellent story!

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