Thursday, April 01, 2010

Ken Whyte of Maclean's springs to the defence of Chatelaine publisher Kerry Mitchell

Ken Whyte, the publisher of Maclean's, Canadian Business, Profit and MoneySense  has sprung to the defence of his colleague Kerry Mitchell (right), recently the subject of a critical profile called "There's Something about Kerry" in the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

The article, which relied on both unnamed and named sources, paints a picture of the Chatelaine publisher having an  intrusive management style paired with a "hungry ambition". Whyte wrote a letter to the RRJ that said, in part:
I am disappointed that the official publication of a leading Canadian journalism school would publish an article about a senior publishing figure based on "rumours," "whispers," unsourced allegations and the testimony of disgruntled former employees.
The supposed criticisms of my Rogers Publishing colleague Kerry Mitchell are ridiculous. It is not a "transgression" for a publisher to be involved in the cover and contents of her magazine; it is a duty. A "hands-on" management style is not a flaw or a problem but something Kerry has in common with the founder of our company, Ted Rogers (whose name, incidentally, is on the wall at the Ryerson School of Management).
I can say from first-hand knowledge over the last several months that Kerry's relations with the staff at Chatelaine were exemplary. She was of enormous help to me as I became involved in the magazine.
 The article was by Maiya Keidan and Robyn Urback and was posted on the RRJ website on March 31. Whyte clearly wasted no time responding, since his letter to the editor was dated April 1. We could see no evidence that it was fooling.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

WTF is wrong with a woman having "hungry ambition"? I'm not a Chats-er although I have freelanced for them in the past. And I don't know Mitchell, but it annoys me that her reputed "hungry ambition" is seen as a problem.

Maclean's sucked -- remember the series of blowhards who used to occupy the back page before the awesome obituary arrived?!--and Whyte made it better. Chats has sucked for some time, and maybe, just maybe JF et al will make it better.

So much whining going on in the industry these days, it's just plain old embarrassing. Regime changes happen--I've been on the wrong end of the stick myself a few times--but that's life.

5:15 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please correct the Freudian-slip typo in the first paragraph.

8:34 pm  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

A typo, certainly, now corrected (thanks). But Freudian?

8:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm, D.B., if you couldn't see the Freudian aspect, I'm not sure I can help you.

8:47 pm  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

I think you think too much. A typo is just a typo.

8:56 pm  
Anonymous David Hayes said...

Umm, gosh, I guess Ken Whyte's National Post never ran a story that used anonymous sources. Maclean's? I'm sure never. (An aside: the fact-checking is more rigorous at the Ryerson Review of Journalism than it is at Maclean's.) Nature of the business that people who stand to lose their job or be blacklisted from not just Chatelaine but possibly other Rogers' publications might be disinclined to go on-the-record. All part of the game, though. A sharp-edged, point-of-view feature is published about a publisher. The publisher's boss rushes to her defense. That's part of his role. Harper backs his MPs the same way. (Unless he wants to hang them out to dry.) And speaking of anonymity, who are so many people afraid to sign their names to blog comments? Guess the same reason the RRJ writer's sources wanted not-for-attribution.

11:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a great experience working for Kerry, and I completely disagree with the RRJ's perspective. I have used unnamed sources in the past, but I believe this article was unbalanced. I was around the Rogers office of Chatelaine many times in the past year and I never once saw anyone from any publication interview Kerry one on one.

12:57 am  
Anonymous David Hayes said...

Disagreeing with the point-of-view of a strong feature that has a point-of-view (as good magazine journalism should) is fine, to be expected. As most publishers would say, including Ken Whyte who delights in the buzz & controversy created by the point-of-view journalism he runs in Maclean's, it's when no one cares much one way or the other about an article (or a magazine) that you should worry. What is most noticeable about Ken's letter is the lack of specifics. Exactly what is factually inaccurate? (As opposed to: my experience with Kerry was much nicer so I disagree with the point-of-view.) I'm not saying there might not be inaccuracies, just that I'm not hearing them yet. For the record, I don't work in Ryerson's j-school & am not involved in producing the RRJ (although once was, in the '90s) other than working as a handling editor on one feature each year (not this one, of course).

9:58 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DH get your facts straight. KW is not KM's boss. They both report to Brian Segal. Could it be that KW jumped to her defence because he is genuinely outraged on behalf of his friend and colleague? The same way many of her colleagues are?

There is a difference between having a "sharp-edged pov," and being just plain unfair and one-sided. The RRJ has a done a disservice to its students by allowing this piece to run. Shame.

10:59 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again DH, get your facts straight. KW is quite clear in his letter (you can read the full version on the RRJ site) that he is mystified by the RRJ's assertion that KM somehow crossed him. That's an inaccuracy: stated clearly. Furthermore, it's an inaccuracy that unravels one of the central points of tension that the "story" is built around.

What the students (and more importantly the professors) at the RRJ need to understand, is that Maclean's pushes pov journalism by maintaining its credibility. It has room to do so because of its history and place in Canadian culture. The RRJ has undone what little credibility it had with this story (and other stories that use the same silly reporting techniques). And unfortunately, many journalists and industry professionals view it as undermining the credibility of Ryerson's journalism program itself.

1:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second Anon #1 - what's so terrible about "hungry ambition" in a woman? I doubt the article would have criticized a man for having hungry ambition. Or a "cool demeanour".

The article raises interesting points about the nature of the publisher-editor relationship and how it's changing (although I'd point out that a lot of smaller pubs cross those lines frequently, and it seems to be less of a problem), and also highlights the problems going on at Rogers. But it's too bad that the gender stereotyping underpinning it takes away from the legitimacy of the story.

The line about her not just relying on her pumps is weird too. Again, would comments like that be made about a man? Probably not.

Some good points, but some of the criticism of Mitchell just seems childish, like who she socializes with (or doesn't) at staff parties. That's what the work world is about, and clearly, Mitchell did what she had to to get what she wanted. Nothing wrong with that.

3:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So much fuss.

I guess I better rush and read it.

Sounds to me that a nerve has been struck.

I guess there are lovers and haters.

Can't wait to get my copy!

4:03 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing is for sure, Kerry drove the magazine into the train-wreck it has been for the last few years.
That's the type of performance that Rogers management encourages.

6:50 pm  
Anonymous Lisa Tant said...

As the editor-in-chief of Flare, I work closely with my publisher, Kerry Mitchell. During my interview for the article, it quickly became clear to me that the inexperienced writer had already decided how she was going to portray Kerry. I wasn't surprised to read that none of my comments were included in the piece.

A good publisher and editor make a strong collaborative team. In my six years at Flare, I have had similar working relationships with each of my publishers - David Hamilton, Orietta Minatel and now Kerry Mitchell. Each of them was / is involved in some aspects of editorial - including decisions about all-important covers. I have always encouraged and welcomed the feedback.

Kerry is demanding - and professional, dedicated, intelligent, compassionate and inspiring. She welcomes debate, protects editorial integrity, and challenges me to think beyond traditional publishing dictates. Sounds like a pretty great publisher - and partner - to me.

8:50 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people are very good at managing up.

From the looks of things, the ground troops are not rallying...just the brass.

Once you've lost the soldiers, it's just a matter of time until the general is replaced.

5:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I wasn't going to be a hand puppet."

Kim Pittaway has a way with words.

Since Rona Maynard, there have been four editors in five years?
Is that a new Canadian magazine publishing record?

Is it true there were only 6 editors prior to Rona in the magazine's entire history?

6:31 am  
Anonymous Amanda Virtanen said...

During my time with Rogers, I worked with Kerry Mitchell very closely (and reported directly to her for a time as well). I cannot say enough about my experience Kerry. She is an incredible leader and has had to navigate through some extremely difficult challenges over the past few years, which frankly, few others would have been able to manage as effectively as Kerry has. I concur with Lisa Tant’s comment, “Kerry is demanding - and professional, dedicated, intelligent, compassionate and inspiring.” Without intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Rogers Publishing, it is completely unfair for anyone to point fingers or make unfair ‘assumptions’. I would work for Kerry Mitchell again in a heartbeat, full stop.

11:02 am  

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