NEW YORK — Martha Stewart reported to work Monday for the first time since her incarceration five months ago and said her media outlets would shift in tone from an obsession with the “how-to” of homemaking to a deeper emphasis on the “why.”
But Stewart shares fell 9% to $27.97 Monday as Wall Street exuberance for her release waned. The company has lost 70% of its ad sales since Stewart began her term behind bars.
At a staff meeting opened to the media, Stewart was welcomed back to the helm of her company with standing ovations, hugs and some tears.
Wearing a brown suit and no visible electronic monitoring device, Stewart told her 600 or so employees “You are my heroes,” and promised that they would get more credit for the success of the company in the coming years.
In prison, she said, “I had the opportunity to do a tremendous amount of thinking. I read, I reflected upon the past, I wrote on what is truly important to me.”
The result of that reflection is that she’s making what she called an important “change in editorial direction” at the media properties that bear her name.
Shift in focus
Her magazines and television shows focus “too much” on preachy prescriptions for the good life, and instead they’ll explain why superior homemaking is an important human right.
“Every person deserves dignity, every person deserves opportunity, and every person deserves the comforts of a good home,” she said.
Stewart also said her supporting staff would assume an elevated level of prominence, acknowledging that as much as she adores ironing, vacuuming and entertaining, it is the staff that projects the idealized view of her lifestyle around the world.
“The more the world knows about you, the more it will value our products,” she said.
The open staff meeting, staged in a talkshow-like setting, marked the second time in recent months that journalists have been summoned for news from Stewart. The first was the announcement of a primetime show with reality king Mark Burnett, which turned out to be another iteration of “The Apprentice.”
While the opportunity to be present was too good for most journalists to resist, some felt duped by the exercise because Stewart offered no details on how the editorial message would change or how she would manage her empire and tape a daily show during her five months of home confinement, during which she is permitted to work no more than 48 hours a week.
Tabloid photographers were deprived of the shot of Stewart’s ankle bracelet, for which she has apparently not yet been fitted. Stewart met her staff during a court-approved 72-hour period upon her release to meet with her parole officer and begin home confinement.