Summary: Nicola Thorp was told to wear 2 inch to 4 inch heels when she arrived for her first day as a receptionist at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a finance firm. This sparked a media sensation which provides valuable lessons about the death of journalism, the nature of news, and our love of big government.
BBC: “London receptionist ‘sent home for not wearing heels’.” Similar headlines appear in The Guardian, the Australian Financial Review, and a hundred other “news” services.
Inevitably following these are “High heel row firm changes dress code policy for women” and a petition to “Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work.” This petition on the UK government website has already received the 100,000 signatures for Parliament to automatically schedule a date to review it.
Nicola Thorp was a sergeant in the UK Army and now works as a model and actress — appearing in Doctor Who, BBC, The Guilty, and Blue Borsalino. See her profile. Thorp has masterfully played journalists, turning her employer’s rebuke into global publicity.
Now for the conclusions we can draw from this kerfuffle…
These little media sensations are rich with lessons about western society.
First, there is a massive surplus of media “space” over news content (see “Too many journalists” by French journalist Frédéric Filloux). Desperate to fill the space between the ads, premo news services imitate Buzzfeed. While that generates clicks, they remind readers that this is not worth paying for. Buzzfeed can survive on advertising; the serious news services cannot. The clicks aren’t worth the damage to their brand.
By news “content”, I meant stories that the Outer Party (aka the middle class of small business owners, managers and professionals) wants to read. That day in London lower class women suffered outrages a thousand-fold worse than a beautiful actress-receptionist being sent home to change her shoes. Some so horrific as to chill the souls of placid middle class readers. Those are not news because we don’t want to know.
Second, note the automatic response: the government must regulate this behavior. The bureaucratic state, with its massive machinery to observe and punish everyday behavior — enmeshing us in millions of regulations, subjectively enforced — is the obvious, inevitable, but seldom-mentioned result. Even by the highly trained professional journalists writing these stories.
For More Information
- A new news media emerges for our new world, unseen and unexpected.
- Are we blind, or just incurious about important news?
- We know nothing because we read newspapers — About mythical numbers.
- Must the old media die for the new media to flourish?
- Clay Shirky is brilliant and American – hence often delusionally flattering.
- The long slow crash of journalism. How will it affect us?