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The Top 5 Media Turkeys of the Year Are …

A look at the media figures and organizations that proved most embarrassing, unliked, and down on their luck in 2014

On Thanksgiving, we thank our lucky stars for our families, friends, health, careers, and in some cases, the things that didn’t happen this calendar year.

Media reporters and columnists around the web don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving like the rest of you — after all, we’re blessed with great material to report and opine about 365 days a year; the sound bites, gaffes, and occasional poignant moments the media provides, that allow us to earn a living, and if we’re lucky, all the retweets good content can garner.

But some of the media figures and groups that provide myself and others fodder on a daily basis had a particularly tough year, carved and eaten alive by other media and pundits similar to the turkeys most of us will be eating Thursday.

So without further ado, here’s the top five media turkeys of 2014.

Bill Cosby

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1. Bill Cosby
This one was a little too easy, but no turkey list could be deliciously digested without Cosby. Without getting into guilt or innocence, the line of women coming out of the shadows to allege Cosby drugged and raped them in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s has been mounting. For Cosby’s part, he has conducted interviews with NPR, where he literally said nothing, and an interview with the Associated Press, where he technically said something, but in reality, said nothing. Until Cosby comes out for a candid interview with a Barbara Walters or Oprah Winfrey (both reportedly trying to secure an interview) to admit guilt or somehow explain the delusions of close to 20 women, he is going to continue being eaten alive by the media. TheWrap has been leading the coverage of the allegations and defense coming from Cosby’s lawyers and will continue to do so as the story continues to develop.

Today Horowitz

2. Jamie Horowitz
In this changing media landscape, it’s not uncommon for executives and journalists to hop around from company to company. Six months at an outlet or network is certainly a short time period, but in today’s media age, no longer a deal breaker for employers looking at potential candidates. But 78 days? Oy. That’s how long Horowitz — a former ESPN executive whom insiders told TheWrap that NBCUniversal Group Chairman Pat Fili-Krushel and NBC News President Deborah Turness moved “heaven and earth” to snag away from Disney/ABC to insert as the “Today” show General Manager lasted at the Peacock Network.

As TheWrap extensively reported, Horowitz developed an enemy list longer than most Thanksgiving dinner shopping lists, alienating producers and talent by creating a “Survivor” like behind-the-scenes dynamic, asking producers and talent which of their colleagues they thought was the weakest link. He also reportedly produced a manifesto that called for the axing of co-hosts Savannah Guthrie, Natalie Morales, and Willie Geist, while proposing his former Disney/ABC cubicle-mate Josh Elliott receive a larger role with the morning show.

Horowitz was fired by Turness after an anchor and staff revolt. But no tears here for Horowitz, the reported $3 million dollars owed to him by NBC News will buy him years worth of tasty turkeys.

WASHINGTON - JULY 20: NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd (L) and NBC Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory discuss during a taping of "Meet the Press" at the NBC studio July 20, 2008 in Washington, DC. Todd and Gregory discussed topics related to the presidential election in November, 2008. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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3. David Gregory
This one was tough. Frankly, Gregory handled months of rumors about his imminent ousting as “Meet the Press” moderator with class, putting his head down, not saying much to the media, and continuing to try and host a good show every Sunday. He even had to deal with the embarrassment of a leak that NBC News had hired a psychologist — or “branding” consultant — to dig into why he wasn’t connecting with audiences. Unfortunately for him, the ratings continued to plunge while the columns and commentary blaming him for all of “Meet’s” ills surged.

He even brought class to Twitter on his final day with the network.

Gregory making this list falls under the “down on their luck” category. The only thing he did wrong to get carved up like a human anchorman turkey was work in a business where if your ratings fall to third place — while hosting the Holy Grail of Sunday morning talk programs — you become the bullseye of every media critic.

Gregory seems to be keeping busy since his ousting from “Meet.” He is working on a book about his Jewish faith, and he also served as a guest contributor for Yahoo! News during its midterm election coverage. He’s also been linked to a TV news comeback, with suggestions of him landing at CNN, Yahoo, and other outlets circulating over the last few weeks. I have a feeling Mr. Gregory’s 2015 will be a lot more tasty than 2014.

Liz Wahl

4. Russian Television
Vladimir Putin has a lot of enemies, but his often described state-sponsored TV network RT is not one of them … until its anchors rage against the machine. That’s exactly what happened in March when network anchor Liz Wahl channeled her inner “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” and quit live on-air.

“Personally I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin,” Wahl said live on the air of the network she was blasting. “I’m proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why, after this newscast, I am resigning.”

But the embarrassment for RT didn’t stop at Wahl — four months later, reporter Sara Firth resigned after her network blamed the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on Ukraine. Her resignation came not on air, but on Twitter.


Getty Images

Getty Images

5. Pierre Omidyar
At this point, it seems like the CEO of eBay and once thought of pioneering digital mediastart-up First Look Media Pierre Omidyar might need to give his top journalists signing bonuses just to stay with the company longer than a few months.

After deciding against acquiring The Washington Post (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos swooped in on that one) Omidyar dropped a cool $250 million dollars in funding for First Look Media, which he dubbed as a new digital journalistic empire that will fuse quality, independent, in-depth reporting with technology. Initial promotional videos for the company vowed providing journalists the resources, time, and freedom to craft the stories that our generation sorely needs. The first website under the First Look Media empire was “The Intercept” with acclaimed NSA whistleblowing journalist Glenn Greenwald as its signature hire.

Apparently, the First Look mailman failed to deliver those resources to two of the company’s top hires — Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and Gawker’s John Cook. They both recently quit the company after joining eight months prior. Taibbi — who was set to be the editor-in-chief of the still-unlaunched digital magazine “Racket” — had an ugly divorce with Omidyar. Taibbi took a lenghty leave of absence after months of friction between he and Omidyar. As New York Magazine reported, the two collided on everything from seating arrangements in the Racket’s fifth avenue office to who and when Taibbi can hire.  Taibbi bounced back quickly, rejoining Rolling Stone a few weeks after bolting First Look.

Omidyar’s turkey turned colder two weeks later, when other top hire — former Gawker editor-in-chief John Cook — who was hired as editor-in-chief of  “The Intercept,” also quit First Look Media. His departure was more buttoned up, without much fodder about a rift between he and Omidyar.

And the final turkey in Omidyar’s coffin came Tuesday, when he shuttered what would have been Taibbi’s “Racket,” shutting down the operation and laying off nine staffers. Omidyar might have been busy preparing for his Thanksgiving feast the day of the layoffs: insiders told TheWrap he was not present for them.

Omidyar and First Look Media has not responded to multiple requests from TheWrap for interview or comment.