Sara Hammel toiled for 14 years as a celebrity staff writer on the queen of tabloids, People magazine. She finally quit this week with a biting letter to her boss, scoring the celebrity-friendly tabloid and “bat-shit crazy” publicists who feed it stories.
“I quit. It’s not me, it’s you,” Hammel wrote in an email to boss Jess Cagle, People editor-in-chief for the past two years.
Hammel details some of her run-ins with celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney, and publicists who forced her to “jump through ridiculous hoops.”
But none of that measured up to the grief she suffered at the hands of the magazine, she wrote.
“You people, as it turns out, are worse,” she charged. “Stupidly, we expect loyalty and support from you after years of service.”
She noted that she survived eight rounds of layoffs and the abrupt dismissals of countless colleagues, who were “bitch slapped into oblivion.”
“We are naïve. Despite your nicey nice, glossy and chirpy veneer, some of us think of you more as the Leo DiCaprio of magazines, using up every beautiful model that crosses your path (‘beautiful model’ = ‘award-winning journalist’ in this scenario), discarding them, and pretending you leave no wake behind you.”
“It’s been a wildly dysfunctional 14 years, and you’re an entirely different magazine than when we first got together,” she added.
Hammel also slapped the magazine for endlessly recycling stories about celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and the royal family, from Princess Diana to Duchess Kate Middleton.
Princess Diana made 55 cover appearances, followed by Jolie and Pitt, 26 and 29 respectively. Aniston has appeared 25 times in stories that repeatedly focused on rumored pregnancies.
She writes of her fired colleagues:
I hope, [they] will never give their nights, weekends, relationships and sanity again to keep up with an email chain about whether Jennifer Aniston is pregnant at 47 because of those tummy photos and what kind of mom will she be, when really she just had an extra burrito at lunch; but oh, wait, the rep says it’s just a rumor so there’s no story this week after all.”
Hammel said she worked for the magazine in London, Los Angeles and New York, “covered breaking news in nine countries and dealt with too many celebrities to remember.” Her last interview was with Robert De Niro in April.
The catalyst for her resignation was the magazine’s refusal to promote Hammel’s upcoming teen mystery book, titled “The Underdogs.”
“I’m oddly surprised my tenure here is ending not with explosive hatred stoked by a cold dismissal from an insensate behemoth (i.e. you)—a fate I watched ashen-faced friends and colleagues endure before my eyes during the Los Angeles bureau’s 2008 culling—but with a slow fade-out and a final venting of my gossip-weary spleen.”
Instead, she says, she’s opting for the life of a “freelance writer.” Good luck with that.
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