Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Takes one to know one.

Margaret Wente puts the blame where it belongs, albeit in a 'Harper's ego has left us at the mercy of socialists and separatists' fashion:
Mr. Harper was supposed to be the steady hand at the helm. But now, even his long-time loyalists whisper that he's lost it. They are right. You can put up with a bully. You can even put up with a paranoid, controlling bully. But a paranoid, controlling bully with catastrophic judgment is another matter.
But there's an unambiguous irony with a capital 'I' in Ms Wente criticising someone else for being a 'paranoid controlling bully'.
Just after 9 a.m. on a cool autumn morning, Margaret Wente is greeted by the familiar sounds of The Globe and Mail newsroom. Reporters are checking phone messages, placing early calls and scanning the news wire to see what's happened overnight. Some are chatting and leaning against a wall that displays seven clocks telling the time in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Jerusalem, Moscow, Beijing and Berlin. Wente surveys the sea of desks as she makes her way to her office in the Report on Business section. Nothing could have prepared her for this.
Some reporters are wearing white buttons with "Weak and Hopeless" printed in big black letters. They're reacting to one of Wente's memos—now known as the Weak and Hopeless memo—which was mysteriously leaked to the newsroom. A month earlier, William Thorsell, the Globe's editor-in-chief, had asked Wente to jot down what she thought was wrong with the paper's A-section, to which she'd responded: "The Toronto-based national news team is in exactly the same situation that ROB was in 1994. It is starved for good reporters. Key beats are uncovered. Other key beats are staffed with hopeless people.... No amount of clever editing or packaging will fix that. The only fix is to hire some top young reporters.... No amount of remedial training, rework, or memo-writing will compensate for a basically weak staff."
A year and a half later, her reputation is still suffering. Even before the memo made the rounds, many Globe reporters felt that Wente was difficult to work with. She's often described as blunt and distant. As managing editor of the Globe, she's renowned for her impenetrable vision of the paper. As an editor of other people's work, she is highly skilled if not gentle. She expects the same level of professionalism from her colleagues that she demands of herself. She has no time for hand-holding or stroking reporters' egos. This is a woman who believes in hard work, not flattery. Colleagues who've known her for years say they still can't read her thoughts or predict her next move. She will admit to being painfully shy but says little else about herselfespecially to her staff. Which, of course, builds suspicion and paranoia. In an industry that attracts more than its share of suspicious and paranoid types, Wente's reticence can cause problems. As shocked as she might have been that morning, faced with a newsroom of "Weak and Hopeless" reporters, Wente remained silent as her eyes fixed on the white buttons.
She can, I suppose be considered an expert in workplace bullying.

No comments:

Popular Posts