That's Why They Call It Conde Nasty — New Hotline Helps Colleagues Drop A Dime On Each Other

US Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour (2ndL) a...
Vogue editor Anna Wintour, in green.Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

That’s my kind of corporation! Rat out your colleagues, courtesy of an in-house hotline. Reports the New York Post:

Insiders got a memo yesterday from Chief Financial Officer John Bellando, revealing that the company set up the hotline to stop the “release of proprietary information, accounting/audit irregularities, falsification of company records, theft of goods/services/cash,” and even “unauthorized discounts/payoffs.”

This could put a damper on some of the perks inside S.I. Newhouse Jr.‘s empire.

Last fall a hacker broke into Condé’s system and stole early copies of GQ, Vogue and other magazines, which were posted online.

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Yesterday’s move seemed to put the brakes on CEO Charles Townsend‘s happiness campaign. Trying to boost morale after 2009’s turmoil and layoffs, he recently did a coast-to-coast tour to give a corporate pep talk and encourage staffers to “get their mojo back.”

Conde Nast, named for the man who founded the publishing empire in 1909 by acquiring Vogue, is legendary in Manhattan publishing circles for its elite worldview. The 2006 film “The Devil Wears Prada”, starring Meryl Streep, is said to be based on Anna Wintour, long-time Vogue editor.

I interviewed at Conde Nast a few times, but never got hired there. It’s a great place to have on your resume, but maybe — now — not such a cosy place to crank out copy.

Re-Thinking Business: Multicultural And Moral

Thinking about business in a new way? Radical.

Yesterday’s New York Times looked at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, whose dean Roger Martin thinks MBAs need to think differently about the world.

A DECADE ago, Roger Martin, the new dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, had an epiphany. The leadership at his son’s elementary school had asked him to meet with its retiring principal to figure out how it could replicate her success.

He discovered that the principal thrived by thinking through clashing priorities and potential options, rather than hewing to any pre-planned strategy — the same approach taken by the managing partner of a successful international law firm in town.

“The ‘Eureka’ moment was when I could draw a data point between a hotshot, investment bank-oriented star lawyer and an elementary school principal,” Mr. Martin recalls. “I thought: ‘Holy smokes. In completely different situations, these people are thinking in very similar ways, and there may be something special about this pattern of thinking.’ ”

That insight led Mr. Martin to begin advocating what was then a radical idea in business education: that students needed to learn how to think critically and creatively every bit as much as they needed to learn finance or accounting. More specifically, they needed to learn how to approach problems from many perspectives and to combine various approaches to find innovative solutions.

Seems obvious to me that, in a global economy, anyone hoping to manage or sell or influence others needs to appreciate how differently we view the world, and behave accordingly. In the most simplistic of terms, a negotiation between natives of two different countries, however highly educated, can quickly derail when underlying assumptions or cultural norms and values clash.

What struck me about this story — talk about cultural differences — was the piece’s final quote:

Mr. Martin agrees that the problems that led to the crisis are bigger than business schools alone can address. But he’s still optimistic. “The vast majority of our students want to be a positive influence on the world,” he says. “And if you give them ways of thinking that help them with these complicated dilemmas, they’ll make choices that are in some sense more worthy and have a higher moral quality.”

The very idea of a business person stopping to consider any moral quality is appealing to me, if a little quixotic. It’s all about profit, growth, earnings. The idea now that CEOs earn more than 200 times the wages of their lowest-paid employees is banal. As Yale School of Management professor Bruce Judson, author of a new book, said recently on the Leonard Lopate show, 20 years ago any CEO would be ashamed by that discrepancy; today s/he would be ashamed if this were not the case.

Contrast this with the Times’ piece about the — ho-um, here we go again — obscene banking bonuses being handed out right now. The average wage, before a six, seven or eight-figure bonus for Goldman Sachs employees is $595,000.

Though Wall Street bankers and traders earn six-figure base salaries, they generally receive most of their pay as a bonus based on the previous year’s performance. While average bonuses are expected to hover around half a million dollars, they will not be evenly distributed. Senior banking executives and top Wall Street producers expect to reap millions. Last year, the big winners were bond and currency traders, as well as investment bankers specializing in health care.

Even some industry veterans warn that such paydays could further tarnish the financial industry’s sullied reputation. John S. Reed, a founder of Citigroup, said Wall Street would not fully regain the public’s trust until banks scaled back bonuses for good — something that, to many, seems a distant prospect.

“There is nothing I’ve seen that gives me the slightest feeling that these people have learned anything from the crisis,” Mr. Reed said. “They just don’t get it. They are off in a different world.”

Where does morality fit here?

Will The New York Times Wrist-Slap Another Freelancer, A Harvard Professor?

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 14:  The New York Times he...
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Here’s the latest New York Times freelancer who might get sent to the woodshed for ethical lapses — Mary Tripsas, a Harvard professor — reports Gawker.

In today’s column, Tripsas waxes ecstatic about about the 3M Company’s “innovation center,” which helps their customers provide input in the design process. Cool! Except NYTPicker has learned that Tripsas and other “innovation researchers” were flown to the center last month—airfare and accommodations gratis. Imagine the infamous Thrillist junket with less booze and more whiteboards.

This is not kosher with Times freelancer rules, which state:

In connection with their work for us, freelancers will not accept free transportation, free lodging, gifts, junkets, commissions or assignments from current or potential news sources.

Clearly, 3M was a “potential news source” at the time they flew Tripsas out to their Innovation Chocolate Factory, since they became a current news source in today’s column. But Tripsas, who is a professor at the Harvard Business School, is trying to work the “In connection with their work for us” clause into a loophole, according to NYTPicker:

“I am a professor who does research on innovation and, in fact 3M was not aware of my recent NYT affiliation when they invited me,” Prof. Tripsas told The NYTPicker via email. “As a professor, I am sometimes invited to speak to companies about innovation, and it is not unusual for the company to reimburse travel expenses, so 3M did pay for my hotel and airfare. I did not inform the New York Times of that since I viewed the visit as a speaking engagement that was part of my broader academic research.”

As schadenfreudian New York City writers all know, freelance Mike Albo, who wrote a long-running twice-monthly shopping column in the Styles section, lost his gig after accepting a free trip to Jamaica on assignment for someone else.

It’s an interesting game the Times plays, this ethical squeeze play with the talented freelancers whose copy fills almost every single section — national and metro generally excepted. I agree entirely with the spirit of it, and as a Times freelancer, have abided by it for years. But the definition of “freelance” usually means “I sell my skills to the highest bidder”, not “You own me and get to dictate my behavior.”

The very spirit of this code violates the way freelancers run their businesses, using their own standards and definitions of what is fair and ethical, the trade-off we make for the financial insecurity of a life free of corporate shackles, and rules. But we’ve all known or heard of writers who stuff anything they can get into their suitcase or handbag or apartment, which makes the rest of us who don’t do so, whether Times’-constrained or not — look stupid — and, depending on your ethics, these people brain-dead, greedy and up for grabs.

Does it matter to you, dear readers, if a freelancer has their airfare or meals or lodging paid for (as is completely standard in most travel writing) by a source? What do you think of the Times‘ ethics code?