A wicked sendup in the New Republic of New Yorker scribe Ken Auletta’s “Annals of Communications” column had fax machines working overtime. The piece, published in the Sept. 11 issue in New Yorker typeface and with the byline “Ken Fellata,” is a name-dropping romp, where the author gets his inside story by sleeping on a small cot at the foot of Disney supremo Michael Eisner’s bed, when he doesn’t have Viacom topper Sumner Redstone on hold on his ubiquitous cell phone.
A typical passage: “My cellular phone rang. Which legendary infobaron was it, I asked myself. Swashbuckling Turner Broadcasting chairman Ted Turner? Ex-CBS titan Larry Tisch? Ron Perelman, the gentle visionary who turned Revlon from a minor player into a cosmetics juggernaut? Steve Ross, the legendary dealmaker behind Time Warner? No, he was dead.”
The journos behind the Auletta lampoon are New York magazine contributing editor Jacob Weisberg and Washington Post reporter Malcolm Gladwell, according to New Republic sources.
Auletta, who was faxed the piece by New Yorker editor Tina Brown, declined comment. But this isn’t his first run-in with Weisberg. A couple of years back in the New Republic Weisberg wrote a blistering critique of the publishing industry, in which he took a shot at Random House editor Jason Epstein and the editing job he did on Auletta’s book on the TV industry, “Three Blind Mice.” Auletta then fired back at Weisberg in a letter defending Epstein that the New Republic published.
Weisberg won’t comment on whether he is one half of Ken Fellata, but he does admit Auletta is a ripe target. “I don’t have any animus toward (Auletta),” says Weisberg. “But you do have to admit that the way he glorifies these moguls, he puts himself up for satire.”