Sure, we'd heard there was a civil war at AOL following the Huffington Post merger. But we never imagined we'd be hearing tales quite so evocative of schoolyard bullying. Team HuffPo is apparently the meanest clique at AOL Junior High.
"She steals people's lunches," read one of the first emails to Gawker's inbox after we asked for stories from inside the merger earlier this week. And that was an AOL journalist's summary of new boss Arianna Huffington.
Another Huffington underling, a community moderator on a daylong tryout, quoted from a 9 p.m. phone call from a HuffPo editor: "Don't you know how to fucking read?? Don't you know what a fucking ad hominem attack is? CAN YOU READ?"
Apparently the candidate had failed, over the course of two hours work, to delete an offensive comment or two. He declined a subsequent job offer, which was probably wise; Huffington has a reputation for verbal abuse followed by consolation.
Huffington herself set the tone for her crew by treating the AOL workspace a bit like her personal mansion; AOLers were baffled to see that Arianna invited sister Agapi Stassinopoulos to address the first all-hands meeting after the merger was announced. The self-help author and motivational speaker lives at Arianna's Brentwood, California home and, when the HuffPo offices were based there, was in frequent contact with the staff. In New York, before hundreds of seasoned journalists, she made a joke about still having an AOL address. Cue the nervous, forced laughter of AOL's new incumbent underclass.
Then there was the business with the bathrooms.
When the Huffington Post staff moved from Soho to AOL's offices on 8th and Broadway a couple of months ago, a former AOL editor said, the writing was on the wall almost immediately:
The HuffPo staffers were considerably younger, and within a week the very first piece of graffiti appeared in the immaculate white men's room. It was a single word written in small all-caps in the grout between two tiles above a urinal: JIZZ. That seemed to sum up the cultural mismatch between the two companies pretty succinctly.
Consider your territory marked, AOLers. And keep a close eye on your juice boxes.
Further tales of noogies and locker stuffings to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Photo, top, via Getty Images.
Photo of Huffington and Tina Brown
via Billy Farrell Agency/BFANYC.com]
Previously: The Implosion of the Huffington Post-AOL Merger