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A tale of two Christmases

New York Christmas parties reveal the shifting economics of different work sectors

A tale of two Christmases

Angels and a Christmas tree in front of the Rockefeller Center (Vivvi Smak/istock)

A New York moment: 

This past weekend I went to a small Christmas party in someone’s apartment, where several former New York Daily News employees gathered and briefly commiserated about the newspaper’s travails before reaching for more ham and cheese and changing the subject. I freelanced for the Daily News back in 2006, in the sunset of its heyday. At one point, the Daily News had the largest circulation in the country and a place in pop culture as the model for Superman’s Daily Planet. Since then, layoffs have been a recurring theme, culminating last year when the ownership cut the newsroom in half.

The apartment party made me think of the contrast with another Christmas party I’d gone to. It’s no secret that news organizations have lost a large slice of advertising dollars to Silicon Valley. A few years ago I saw where those dollars went when I went with a date to Google’s Christmas party for its New York employees. It was the kind of party that felt designed to showcase American wealth—the Roaring ’20s, a century later. 

At the Google party, acrobats twirled, people lined up at open bars, live bands (yes, plural) played, a train drove through the crowd and shot confetti, and tables hosted platters of shrimp and steak. It was a fun, memorable night, but as I sat in that apartment living room this year with laid-off reporters and designers, I thought of the contrast. Meanwhile, the WORLD New York bureau, which consists of me, is not hosting a party this year. 

Worth your time:

There is such a thing as the Cloud Appreciation Society, and it sounds like the perfect antidote to looking at a computer screen all day. 

This week I learned: 

Netflix has reopened a shuttered single-screen theater in Manhattan to showcase its films. The 71-year-old Paris Theater was the last single-screen theater in New York City when it closed. The reopened theater is nice for the city, but it also means that Netflix can show its films on its own terms. Major theater chains like AMC refused to screen Netflix’s The Irishman unless the streaming service committed to a two- or three-month exclusive theatrical release before adding the film to its streaming catalog. Netflix wanted a shorter theatrical release, and so The Irishman never showed in the big theater chains. 

A court case you might not know about: 

New York’s attorney general lost a landmark case where the state had tried to hold Exxon Mobil liable for climate change through a state fraud law. Some other states are bringing similar cases involving the liability of energy producers for climate change, but this case focused on the information Exxon Mobil shared with its investors about the effects of climate change. While this won’t be the end of such cases, New York has one of the most prosecutor-friendly fraud laws, the Martin Act, so the attorney general’s loss in New York is significant. 

In his ruling, the Manhattan judge said the decision doesn’t absolve Exxon Mobil of responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions: “ExxonMobil does not dispute either that its operations produce greenhouse gases or that greenhouse gases contribute to climate change. ... But ExxonMobil is in the business of producing energy, and this is a securities fraud case, not a climate change case.”

Culture I am consuming: 

Marriage Story, a Noah Baumbach film that goes through every little pain of divorce. I thought Baumbach did a good job of showing the gritty details of a marriage ripping apart, but a lot of it felt overacted to me. It’s hard to take a performance seriously when you’re thinking of the Saturday Night LiveMaster Thespian” skit with John Lithgow, where the comedians spend the whole time complimenting each other on their acting. 

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at ebelz@wng.org