It's been a busy year for Rosie O'Donnell. She's come out of the closet, retired from her run as a six-time Emmy-winning daytime talk show host and, most recently, moved to shut down her self-titled magazine.
As all of this has occurred, it has not escaped the media's notice that her personality has undergone a dramatic change. Gone is the America's sweetheart image, replaced by a more rough-around-the edges, abrasive personality that is rubbing some the wrong way.
A number of the country's biggest news outlets have begun speculating that O'Donnell has snapped and has suffered a very public mental breakdown. Worrying about the impact of all of this on her reputation, Fox News' Neil Cavuto (September 20) suggested, "From the PR standpoint, it looks like she's a nut case."
The most recent headlines regarding O'Donnell have been sparked by her bitter, public feud with the editors of Rosie magazine. The title's publisher, Gruner & Jahr (G&J), has had the 3.5-million circulation publication on the market for the past 18 months. The media has not been supportive of the manner in which she handled the dissolution of the business venture. However, if it's any consolation to her, the sample coverage analyzed by Media Watch carried her reasons for ending the relationship more often than her publisher's side of the story.
Although O'Donnell told the press that she felt that editorial control had been taken away from her, a number of reports interpreted her contract to mean that G&J would retain a veto on all editorial decisions. Without editorial control, O'Donnell felt it was better to abandon ship than to have the magazine express ideas and views that she did not endorse.
Meanwhile, G&J blasted O'Donnell for the 180-degree change in the personality of the celebrity to which they tied their wagon, accusing her of abandoning her past, her current responsibilities, and her fans.
Stories traced the source of the friction between the two parties to O'Donnell's desire to use the magazine as a platform for her edgier, newly outspoken views. The Los Angeles Times (September 20) wrote that O'Donnell's suggestions for topics and cover photos were "not quite right for a mass-appeal, general-interest women's magazine, according to some industry experts."
Many reports addressed the legal activity that was gearing up in the aftermath of the fallout of the two parties. A guest told CNN's Paula Zahn (September 19), "I would not be at all surprised if in the next few days or weeks, we see a pretty whopping suit filed against Rosie."
A few reports wondered if coming out of the closet had sparked the change in O'Donnell's personality. GLAAD told USA Today (September 24), "All of this is about freedom and shedding an identity that wasn't her. And the battles with the publisher are more of the same."
At the same time, though, some questioned whether the newly acerbic O'Donnell would be as popular as her "Queen of Nice" personality that had won legions of fans. Whatever
she is up to, many have said that her latest actions are not in her career's best interest, and that she may be alienating the very fans that have given her celebrity status.
? Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www.carma.com.