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Television Mon Oct 12 2009

What Happened with Letterman Happens Here Too

Let me honestly say that I've wanted to write about the Letterman situation since the story broke, but I've refrained because it seems that everyone is writing about it. But here's something you haven't seen in the Chicago media: any mention that it happens here as well.

I can't name anyone, but I can definitely say that the same things happen here. We're not the entertainment capital of the nation, but we obviously have an active media, and there are various successful personalities who have slept with their subordinates--either in the context of a dating relationship or a full-blown affair. There are also many people working in the business who know this happens but have stayed silent, even though some of those people have even witnessed improprieties. Which is why I'm surprised no one has written about it. But maybe that's because they're afraid or have simply chosen to ignore it because they want to stay in the business.

letterman_big.jpgI can't believe that so many people think what David Letterman has done is not a big deal. But maybe that's because they've done the same thing. It's hard to criticize a situation when you've either been involved in a similar situation or know about one, and are afraid of saying anything because you want to keep your job. And that's probably why people involved with Letterman's show didn't say anything until now.

Yes, adults were involved and no one filed harassment charges, but think about it: he's a very rich, successful, famous person who's treated his girlfriends well, and they probably got swept up in it because they're much younger than he is and the atmosphere was pleasant and fun. But what would've happened if he approached women his own age? Would they have allowed that?

And what about the people who weren't involved with him, and who thought it was wrong? They probably felt like the atmosphere was dysfunctional and unfair because it wasn't professional and favored certain people. Believe me, it happens in Chicago too. Someone will treat their people well, and there will be others who don't experience any perks or are treated like outsiders because they don't approve of such behavior, or aren't desirable enough to "deserve" any attention.

I'm being vague on purpose, but anyone who's worked in the Chicago media knows what I'm talking about. There's no need to name names, but let's just go over a few things to jog people's memory:

1) Folks known for flirting, or if it's not obvious to everyone, it's obvious to the object of the flirtation because it feels uncomfortable to work with them. But there's nothing you can do because there are few jobs, and you're lucky to have yours, so you keep quiet.

2) Bosses who exact revenge on subordinates who resist either overt advances or simple flirtations, or who make the work environment difficult because someone speaks up about the violation of boundaries.

3) Brazen discussion, viewing, and posting of porn and racy photos throughout the workplace and mocking anyone who doesn't share their appreciation of such materials.

4) Affairs that the inner circle knows about and will not do anything to publicize or criticize it because they've become enablers and are so star-struck that they don't want to screw anything up. And others outside the tight circle know about it too, but they won't say anything because it's none of their business and they don't need the cheater's approval for employment because they work for other people.

5) Subordinates who are too young or inexperienced to know that Letterman-type of activities are wrong, because they figure that's how the Chicago media operates and since those are the operating rules, they figure they have to accept and follow them or else they can't work in the business.

6) Resistance of outright advances or sexual harassment that leads to termination or resignation because they dared to go to HR to complain about it.

And even though Letterman wasn't married until recently, he was still in a serious, committed relationship for several years, so let's have pity for his wife. She was betrayed. Just like spouses and romantic partners in Chicago have been betrayed.

It happens here. Too bad no one is talking about it.

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anon / October 12, 2009 5:13 PM

I'm wondering if the media outlets you've worked for have skewed your perspective. Assuming your experience is normative is never advisable.

Margaret / October 12, 2009 9:49 PM

The Chicago media has a long history and many things have taken place over several years. So it's based on various people's experience.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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