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Jan. 26 2010 - 8:26 pm | 714 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Meg Whitman Lashes Out at Craigslist, Google in Her New Book

Meg Whitman The Power of ManyMeg Whitman’s image took a beating last month when, during the course of an ongoing lawsuit, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster testified how he’d been told that the governor hopeful could be “evil” and act like a “monster” when crossed. (That little matter where Whitman’s two sons were revealed to be hugely racist probably didn’t help much, either.)

Now, Whitman is firing back in her new book, just out this week, “The Power of Many.”

For much of the book, Whitman straddles between Sarah Palin-type folksiness (she uses phrases like “pleased as punch” and talks about how thrilling it was to actually slum it by going to grocery stores with the locals on trips to St. John), and boardroom mantras. But she can’t help to take a few digs at companies like Craigslist and Google – and hold them up as examples of bad decision-making that, as chief of eBay, she wisely avoided.

She introduced Craigslist by taking the tone of a disappointed mother scolding a puppy who’s just peed on the floor. While eBay operated completely ethically and within the law, “a most unfortunate example of one that didn’t is Craigslist.” Craigslist became a real “wake-up call,” she writes, when it “was starting to getting [sic] more listings for used cars then eBay Motors was getting.” (Apparently she also shares Palin’s distaste for proper grammar.) Like any concerned parent, Whitman tried to intervene. But, with smug paternalism, she laments how the founders of Craigslist “resisted attempts by us, or even law enforcement, to try to make sure the listings were legal and conformed to some kind of safe and ethical standard.” She closes out this discussion by bringing up Philip Markoff, a student accused of killing two women he met via Craigslist, and noting: “He now is routinely called the ‘Craigslist Killer.’”

In the next chapter, on frugality in the business world, Whitman also stops to scold Google for daring to offer employees perks beyond staples and toner. “There are dangers to creating a perk-filled culture, and I suspect it is now running into them.” Predicting that Google will regret treating their employees so kindly, she writes, “It can be difficult to adjust people’s expectations once they have gotten used to certain indulgences.”

These are just a few of many little nuggets of wisdom in “The Power of Many” – and I look forward to discovering the rest.


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    Some of Meg’s nuggets, not to mention her ubiquitous ads on public radio that are ruining my limited driving time, would bring chuckles if they didn’t bring frights. I like the letter in today’s SF Chronicle pointing out (“I’m going to run California the way I ran my great business..”) that California is not a business.

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    About Me

    I'm a Los Angeles-based writer and editor focusing on pop and politics, race and culture, and where Gen-Yers fit into it all. My writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, WashingtonPost.com, the San Francisco Chronicle and People magazine. Among other things, I'm Oregon-born, hip-hop-addicted, and weirdly optimistic that the journalism business will stay alive.

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    … in Salon, where I contribute to the Broadsheet blog.

    … in Slate, where I’ve recently written an assessment piece on California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman; and ranted about why female journalists in movies are so lame.

    … or in the Christian Science Monitor, where I discussed Gen Y views on originality and plagiarism; and sized up Disney’s progress in representing race on the big screen.