Responding to a defense of Graydon Carter

Responding to a defense of Graydon Carter: Slate’s Jack Shafer asks, “how grievous are his ethical trangressions?” Shafer argues Graydon’s retroactive request for a $100,000 payment for suggesting a movie idea is in the same ballpark with Jann Wenner and Tina Brown launching failed attempts at developing a business model in which magazine articles are actively developed and packaged for potential movie projects. Like a lot of movies I’ve seen, Shafer’s logic requires a tremendous suspension of disbelief to be followed. The alleged after-the-fact request for a kick-back by an employee of a media company is not equivalent to Tina Brown or Jann Wenner, in their roles of media company owners (for Tina, at least temporarily), publicly announcing business strategies that proved to be unusuccessful. One would assume that in Brown’s and Wenner’s business model, the development fees (but, probably not the acting or appearance fees) would have gone to their company’s coffers and not directly into their pockets. Did Carter’s $100,000 payment go to Conde Nast? Did his employer know that he was cutting such a deal on the side? I would think that this aspect of the transaction would be as controversial as whether or not the payment affected Carter’s editorial judgement. Surely, the Newhouse empire has some guidelines on what types of fees an employee can accept from a third-party for services provided that are directly related to their role as creator or manager of corporate property.

Later: This weblog is over any indignation regarding Graydon Carter: According to an AP story this morning, Conde Nast spokeswoman Maurie Perl says Senior management at Conde Nast, which publishes Vanity Fair, was aware of all Carter’s activities and has full confidence in him. “We feel Graydon is a great editor-in-chief,” Perl told The Associated Press. “Charles Townsend, president and CEO of Conde Nast, and Graydon are completely on the same page regarding his editorship of Vanity Fair.”

If his employer knew what he was doing, then I also will defend Graydon Carter. No big deal. The LA Times and NY Times should leave him alone. Who cares if the editor of Vanity Fair is too cozy with the people he covers? If his employer doesn’t care that he gets side payments for work related to his editorial duties, then there’s no there there. Thinking that readers purchase Vanity Fair for its objective entertainment journalism is like thinking readers purchase Playboy for its articles.