How did our workplace become a “Game of Thrones”?

Reading time: About 1.5  minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a metaphor and piece of personification in a story about the firing of New York Times editor Jill Abramson…

As someone who worked as a senior editor, and, later, an executive at a major metropolitan newspaper, I’m familiar with the often ugly politics of such operations. Thus, I read with particular interest about the firing of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson (pictured above).

I was alerted to the news via my iPhone and then subsequently read a background story — in the New York Times itself — by David Carr.

Here’s what struck me: David Carr showed considerable guts in agreeing to write a story about the guy who signs his cheques. (Think about that: would you be willing to do the same?) He also showed significant flair by using some evocative — and amusing — figurative language. Here are my two favourite examples from his May 18/14 article:

When The Times’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., stood up at a hastily called meeting in the soaring open newsroom where we usually gather to celebrate the Pulitzers and said that Jill was out, we all just looked at one another. How did our workplace suddenly become a particularly bloody episode of “Game of Thrones”?

I’ve never seen the TV show Game of Thrones, nor do I have any desire to. But I know from my children that it’s filled with violence. An apt metaphor for nasty office politics. Later, Carr continued with a comic piece of personification:

The news set off a gleeful frenzy in Manhattan media, which usually have to subsist on fake New York Times controversies. For pundits and reporters, the episode is akin to a piñata that hangs itself and then hands you a stick.

I think I snorted tea through my nose when I read that last comment. Having hosted many children’s parties featuring piñatas, I think I would have appreciated one that “hung itself,” rather than forcing me to climb a nearby tree. But, of course, the not-so-subtle message that Abramson’s actions had resulted in her hanging herself continued to resonate.

I don’t know the players so I have no idea whether this was fair comment. Perhaps not. But I do know David Carr can write a compelling story.

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