Posted on | December 21, 2012 | 40 Comments
Rumbles of discontent at Breitbart.com, which I’d been hearing from various sources since spring, have finally erupted into actual news, as Dana Loesch has filed a federal lawsuit seeking (a) $75,000 and (b) to be released from her contactual obligations:
St. Louis talk radio host Dana Loesch, also a frequent guest on CNN, alleges in the suit filed in federal district court in St. Louis that the site is refusing to publish her work while “sabotag[ing] her attempts to labor in a similar fashion elsewhere through public misstatements and private threats to sue those who would otherwise employ Loesch.” . . .
Breitbart.com is “binding Loesch to what amounts to an indentured servitude in limbo,” she charges in the suit, which was first reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
More at the BuzzFeed. It’s unfortunate that matters came to such a pass, and I don’t want to get into the blame game in a situation where I don’t know both sides of the story.
As I said, I’ve heard “rumbles” about the Breitbart.com operation for several months, but having spent so long in the newspaper business — where every newsroom is a seething cauldron of frustrated ambition — it’s something I didn’t want to read too much into.
Dana Loesch is one of my favorite people in New Media, and I know she was one of Andrew’s favorite people. It’s just very sad to see things break down so badly so soon after Andrew’s death.
UPDATE: Now a Memeorandum thread. I’ve printed out the lawsuit and may have further comment after I read it.
UPDATE II: OK, now having skimmed over the lawsuit, the claim is that in October 2011, Breitbart.com failed to exercise its option to renew Dana’s contract for another year, so that her employment thereafter was on a month-to-month basis. In September of this year — perhaps having been offered better terms by another site — Dana gave a month’s notice of her intent to leave Breitbart.com, at which point management claimed that she was still contractually bound to the company, and threatened legal action against any company that hired Dana.
Four word come to minds: Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.
Without regard for contracts, it is just plain nuts for Breitbart.com to try to keep Dana if Dana wants to leave. What is this, the Mafia or something, where once you’re in, you’re in for life?
Frankly, I’ve never heard of anything like this before. It simply doesn’t make sense: If, as Dana alleges, Breitbart.com no longer wants to publish her writing, why would they prevent her from taking her work elsewhere? If her services are not valuable to them, why deny her the right to find another publisher who might value her services more?
Maybe management at Breitbart.com can explain this, or maybe I’m somehow misunderstanding the dispute, but what it looks like is, they’re trying to drive Dana Loesch off the Web altogether: She can neither write for Breitbart.com, nor write for anyone else.
How the hell can they do that in America?
UPDATE III: Linked by Doug Hagin at Daley Gator and by The Lonely Conservative. Continuing rumbles indicate that the situation with Dana Loesch may be part of a larger issue with the business model and the management philosophy at Breitbart.com: More like an old-style Hollywood studio system, oriented toward celebrity “star power,” so that if they can’t have Dana Loesch, nobody can have Dana Loesch. Or something like that, anyway.
David Martosko at the Daily Caller points out that, since Andrew died in March, “a coterie of friends of the company’s late namesake has continued to run the company, most recently hiring a raft of conservative bloggers and reporters that included former Washington Times staffer Kerry Picket and former Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle.”
Knew they had hired Boyle, a young investigative reporter, but didn’t realize they’d also hired Picket, an ultra-aggressive Capitol Hill reporter. And, to show you how little attention I pay to these things anymore, I hadn’t seen this Dec. 10 story by Betsy Rothstein at Fishbowl DC, talking about Breitbart.com’s Stephen K. Bannon hiring up reporters by the bushel basket load, signing them up to four-year contracts:
Reporters around town being wooed for Breitbart.com include: Katie Pavlich of Townhall, Lachlan Markay of Heritage, Charlie Spiering of the Washington Examiner, Caroline May of The Daily Caller and Daniel Halper at The Weekly Standard.
Some have described a cultish feel to the process, with phrases such as “This is the way Andrew would have wanted it” being bandied about in conversation.
So, if they’ve got all this cash to throw around for hot talent in D.C., why should they insist on keeping Dana Loesch sidelined?
To repeat: Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.