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BAD WORDS: After two years of dishing out criticisms of media personalities, celebrities and other fame seekers for Gawker.com, Jessica Coen is a kinder and gentler blogger now. In the October issue of Glamour, Coen admits the backlash from her words made her rethink what was acceptable online behavior. “It’s all too easy to be cruel from the safety of your laptop,” she writes. “I certainly was at times, hurling my opinions with little regard for the effect they might have had. Now I choose my words more carefully — but it was a difficult and emotional lesson for me to learn.”
The site Coen inherited is not exactly Reader’s Digest — one of Coen’s own greatest hits included calling former Star editor in chief Joe Dolce a “douche bag” in her final post. But shouldn’t someone who spews such venom expect the same in return? “Yes, I knew what I was signing up for, but I couldn’t have predicted the wear it would have on me,” she told WWD.
More than just harsh words, Coen said readers went so far as to create a Yahoo account in her name and assume her identity, send her pornographic e-mails and make nasty comments on her appearance — all anonymously. “I readily admit and cough up to all the things I wrote,” she said. “But the people that react to you online, when they think they’re anonymous, they’re 100 times more ridiculous.” Coen also said that while her Gawker.com co-editor Jesse Oxfeld also endured swipes, the attacks on her were more personal. “Men aren’t called bitches, and I was called one all the time.”
Choire Sicha, Gawker’s managing editor and Coen’s predecessor, said: “She’s absolutely right that women get treated differently on the Internet. That’s 100 percent true and she and others get treated 5,000 times worse than men.” Coen writes that Perez Hilton, not known for his politeness, posted both Coen and Oxfeld’s phone numbers and home addresses on his blog, though she does not name him in the story. Hilton, now blogging for Glamour himself, is unrepentant. “I would at least have liked to have had a name check,” he said. “Any press is good press.” As for those who critique the ruthless tone of blogs like his, “If you don’t like what I’m writing, then don’t read it.”
This story first appeared in the September 6, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Coen’s message to Glamour readers is not to “advocate a pinky in the air level of politeness,” but critics should at least stand behind what they say. “I’m not apologizing for it, I don’t regret it, but I learned from it,” she said. — Stephanie D. Smith
REMEMBER US?:The point of sponsoring a major event like New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to generate brand ubiquity — and apparently the folks at Mercedes-Benz aren’t at all pleased the sponsorship hasn’t made them a household name. “There’s some sponsor fatigue and, believe it or not, some editors are prone to leave out the fact that it’s called Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week” in their coverage, said Joe Richardson, manager of brand and lifestyle public relations for Mercedes-Benz USA.
What to do — apart from giving free cars to said editors? Well, to, in Richardson’s words, “clear that hurdle,” the company has decided to start an online “newsgroup” that will allow registered journalists to download and run photos from fashion week (sorry, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week) for free, on the condition they credit the sponsor. “We want to support journalists beyond being the people who slap their name on the tent walls and call it a day,” Richardson said. He said between 400 and 600 journalists have already registered.
And what of the photo agencies that already do a brisk business selling fashion week photos for outlets that don’t bring their own photographers? Well, photographer Dan Lecca and his team are thus far cleared to shoot the runway and front row inside the tents, but associate IMG members showing outside the tents have to opt in to participate. (Richardson said it was too soon to name off-site designers who had agreed to have their shows shot.) So far, the photo agencies contacted by WWD aren’t particularly perturbed, and one representative equated Mercedes-Benz’s move to any publicist providing event photography to reporters. Richardson said Getty Images, which partners with IMG for fashion week, had not objected. “There are plenty of editorial opportunities to go around,” he said. Certainly — like Oscar, Donna, Ralph, Calvin, Marc and all those other designers who don’t show at Bryant Park. — Irin Carmon
POLO’S NEWEST PLAYER: Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. has named Jenna Barnet as vice president of communications and public relations for Europe. Barnet will report to Fabio Mancone, senior vice president of marketing and communications and general manager, luxury men’s wear for Europe, and Wendy Smith, senior vice president for communications worldwide. Barnet is based in London, and will direct the company’s press offices there, in Paris and in Milan. She will also manage communications for the rest of Europe and in new territories including Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Barnet, who began her career at Calvin Klein, worked for Giorgio Armani for seven years in global and corporate communications, and most recently served as associate director of worldwide public relations for the Gucci brand. — Samantha Conti
MARTHA’S MOMENT: Martha Stewart has certainly made a statement for the launch of her home goods collection at Macy’s Herald Square — 36 of 39 windows are devoted to the brand and all 26 green awnings have been replaced with shades of blue inspired by eggs laid by her Araucana hens. The exclusive line includes textiles, housewares, casual dinnerware, flatware, glassware, cookware, holiday decorating and trim-a-tree. Home furnishings, holiday celebration concepts, bridal registry items and “how-to” books and cookbooks could be next. The windows showcase the products in vignettes such as flowers inspired by Andy Warhol sculpted from Egyptian cotton bath towels. Stewart, who opens her homes, closets and even sock drawers to the world, upholstered a settee featured in another window in textiles inspired by her own antique linen collection. The windows and awnings, which were designed by a team at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., will be in place through Sept. 18. This is the first time in recent memory that Macy’s switched its awnings for a vendor. They are usually changed for the Christmas holiday. — Sharon Edelson