Last Friday, TL;DR, the internet-centric spinoff of WNYC's On The Media, devoted an episode to an interview with the writer Amelia Greenhall about Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneur and writer on Silicon Valley known for loudly advocating for women in the technology industry. This past Tuesday, it unceremoniously disappeared from WNYC's website. What happened?
Greenhall's criticisms of Wadhwa, as articulated in the interview and in a blog post called "Quiet, ladies. @Wadhwa is speaking now," are manifold, but they boil down to this: He's built a successful career and public image by sticking up for women, often drowning out their own voices in the process. See, for example, last month's much-criticized Newsweek cover story, "What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women," where Wadhwa was quoted extensively. In it, he seems to blame women for industry discrimination:
"Women won't make the ridiculous projections about their companies that the guys will. They won't say the really stupid thing the nerds do. They are a lot more realistic and practical and humble."
And see this recent tweet, responding to his critics:
The TL;DR piece is built around direct quotes like this—but also around Greenhall's strong opinions, both about how Wadhwa could be a better advocate for women, and about his personal behavior.
On Tuesday, Wadhwa publicly took issue with the piece, accusing TL;DR of "libel" and "knowingly publishing lies"—although he didn't specify any facts Haggerty and Greenhall had gotten wrong.
— Vivek Wadhwa (@wadhwa) February 10, 2015
And then, suddenly, the episode was pulled. In a post on her blog, Greenhall wrote that she believed it was due to pressure from Wadhwa. On the Media's website promised a different piece would replace it. Here's Greenhall:
Hilariously, On The Media put up a placeholder text for the now un-named "Episode 45" that stated "TLDR Episode 45, published Friday, February 6, has been removed and will be replaced with a future story in which Vivek Wadhwa will be given an opportunity to comment"
But someone must have thought that it was little too ironic, because then they changed the text to: "TLDR episode 45, published Friday, February 6, has been removed. We are working on a piece for On the Media that will include a range of views on advocacy for women in technology."
Why take it down, though? Wadhwa told Gawker via email that he actually requested that WYNC leave the episode up, and "post my response alongside it so that viewers could judge for themselves who is right and who is wrong."
It may have to do with the most controversial section of the podcast, where Greenhall alleges that Wadhwa has privately contacted a number of women on Twitter, asking them to take their public criticisms of him up in private instead, either online or at his office.
"It's kind of like 'come over here and, like, sit on my lap,' you bad little young women," she says.
That discussion could be read as accusing Wadwha of sexual harassment, which may have spooked On the Media. But no one is actually making that accusation. It comes after host Meredith Haggerty and Greenhall explain why men sliding into women's DMs makes them uncomfortable—Haggerty calls it "the hand on the knee of social media"—and it's Greenhall's interpretation of the situation, not a literal allegation that Wadhwa is some kind of predator.
In the comments section of the deleted piece, a woman named Kelly Ellis wrote,
And by the way, for people saying that it was unfair to paint Wadhwa as a "predator" - I don't think that's what happened, she spoke the truth and accurately described my feelings on the matter (I was the recipient of the DMs). It IS inappropriate to send a woman you don't know a private message saying you're disappointed with her, then repeatedly ask her to come visit you after she's declined. Which is EXACTLY what Wadhwa did to me (see screenshots). Something doesn't have to be overt or physical to be inappropriate, intimidating, and creepy.
A couple of days after deleting the episode, On the Media added this explanation to its website:
WNYC decided to remove this episode, because it centered on an internet debate about author Vivek Wadhwa and we failed a basic test of fairness: we did not invite him to comment. We are planning a follow-up that will address both the original issue and the ensuing conversation around the removal of the episode. We are keenly aware of the discussion out there and will release the new piece as soon as it is ready.
Was the segment unfair, though? It was certainly a one-sided presentation of Greenhall's opinions about Wadhwa, but is that a problem? It depends on what On the Media wants TL;DR to be. If it's straight reportage, then, as clichéd as it is, you gotta hear both sides. If it's commentary, then there's no obligation to share the platform so Wadhwa can respond to Greenhall's opinions right then and there—he's a popular man who has his own powerful platform to respond.
There is still an obligation to get the facts right, though, and Wadhwa has claimed both on Twitter and in an email to Gawker that TL;DR lied about him. If that's the case, it should come out in their follow-up.
But if there were no wrong facts, only harsh opinions, then nixing the episode only bolsters Amelia Greenhall's point: That the media gives too much weight to Wadhwa's voice at the expense of the perspectives of women in tech.
[Photo: Getty Images]