The Matrix Awards 2018

At a high-heeled and smart-suited luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria today, women (and some men who know what’s good for them) gathered to honor each other at The Matrix AwardsNew York Women in Communications Inc. (NYWICI) honored eight ladies of reknown: actor Geena Davis, author Candace Bushnell, NBCU Digital Media’s Beth Comstock, WOR Radio veteran Joan Hamburg, NYC Film Commissioner Katherine OliverGlamour EIC Cynthia LeiveNew York Times managing editor Jill Abramson, and Starcom Mediavest CEO Renetta McCann.

Talkshow host/dance crazer Ellen DeGeneres hosted the event and generated a lot of enthusiasm, judging by the four women we overheard on the subway looking forward to both the luncheon AND recording Ellen every day.

The Matrix Awards 2018

Asian chicken salad fed the masses at the Matrix Awards, giving the first quarter of the event a clinking soundtrack. Fishbowl was seated at Table 9, between People correspondent Diane Clehane (who got an exclusive with Ellen, much to a Star reporter’s dismay) and Peter Rush, president and CEO of the Kellen Company, home of NYWICI. Peter (who loves Tic Tacs) told us the event was sold out by the end of January and confessed that seating is one of the toughest parts to organize. The Matrix Awards “represent the best of the best in terms of women in the communications industry,” he said. “There continues to be so many to choose from.”

Mayor Mike couldn’t stay too long because it was Opening Day, but he did take the time to effusively introduce Katherine Oliver, the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting. “You hold the first pitch. I’ve got something more important to do.”

Ellen must have a bionic vision as she was able to read a teleprompter all the way across the ballroom. “It’s an accomplishment just getting up and doing hair and makeup in the morning. Men don’t have to do that.” She paused for a beat and called David Guest an exception to the rule. Ellen also danced a little at the podium, which is what everyone was waiting to see.

The Matrix Awards 2018

The Wall Street Journal‘s Albert R. Hunt introduced The New York Times‘s Jill Abramson, but he didn’t say mention, as Jill claims he has in the past, that she had “balls like cast-iron cantalopes.” Instead, he offered a more touching tribute, calling her the first person he would hire at a newspaper and the one he hoped his children would turn to if something happened to him and his wife.

Hearst Magazines president Catherine Black admired the new “sleek” podiums at the Waldorf which she says weren’t there last week. Everyone loves brushed steel.

Renetta McCann of Starcom Mediavest Group won the advertising award and shared her mantra with the crowd: “Leaders are people who have grown comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Renetta said she read this somewhere. The end result is that most of the crowd would have followed her anywhere after her speech.

Bill Moyers introduced the very funny Joan Hamburg, but we didn’t get a photo. Ellen noted that Moyers had won two Gold Baton awards and then deadpanned, “I didn’t even know he twirls.” In her acceptance speech, Hamburg earned the most laughs with tales of Andy Warhol, Clay Felker, and Lenny Bruce. Her best line? “The women’s movement was moving, only it didn’t go near my house(The Matrix Awards).”

the matrix awards 2018
"Many of us in this room pride ourselves on understanding what's going on with women in the workplace. But it turns out that even we didn't know the half of it."

n keeping with one of the more notable themes of the year, the annual Matrix Award ceremony, which celebrates women in the communications industry, on Monday honored the #MeToo movement at the Sheraton New York Times Square.

“Obviously, we are living in very strange times — politically tumultuous, socially significant and constantly turbulent,” Mika Brzezinski said while accepting her award, which was presented by her cohost and fiancé Joe Scarborough.

Last year’s honoree Savannah Guthrie, who acted as the emcee this year, mentioned that so much has changed in the media industry over the last 12 months. And indeed, it has. For example, a year ago Guthrie was introduced by her former co-host Matt Lauer, who was ousted from NBC after the #MeToo movement revealed allegations of sexual misconduct against him. “She’s a cool chick,” Lauer said of Guthrie at last year’s ceremony. “I know that expression might get me banned from future The Matrix Awards, but it’s true.” (He’s definitely banned now.)

The Matrix Awards

The Matrix Awards ceremony itself remained largely unchanged — once again, the ceremony was held over luncheon at a Sheraton near Times Square. But although the meal and the format followed a familiar program, the events of the past year injected a new energy.

“Given the reach in a resonance of the #MeToo movement, it would be easy to assume that the awakening of our national consciousness was inevitable. To assume that of course men like Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly would be held accountable. But exposing wrongdoing, especially by those in positions of enormous power, has always been difficult work, full of equal parts drudgery and daring—and these stories were no exception,” said New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger. “With courage and perseverance, these honorees managed to not only reveal abuses of power by two of the most prominent men in America, they helped spark a global reckoning that continues to reshape our society for the better.”

New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey and Emily Steel, who just last week won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly, were honored with a standing ovation.

Other award recipients included Halle BerryCondé Nast executive Kim Kelleher, who is the chief business officer of GQ, Golf Digest, Pitchfork, Wired and Ars Technica (and was introduced by Wendy Clark, global president and chief executive officer of DDB); The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.’s executive vice president of global communications, Alexandra Trower (introduced by the firm’s executive chairman William Lauder), and Combs Enterprises president Dia Simms (Sean “Diddy” Combs introduced her in a video tribute).

“Many of us in this room pride ourselves on understanding what’s going on with women in the workplace. But it turns out that even we didn’t know the half of it. We now understand that harassment and abuse is not a private shame, it’s a collective problem, a gigantic hurdle in the quest for equality. Right now, many of our readers and viewers are asking us what is going to happen to the alleged perpetrators. That’s certainly a key news question,” Kantor said. “But the bigger question is: what happens to this whole system? We would like to ask you in this room, we’d like to ask everyone in this country: are we still OK with secret settlements? Is every offense a firing offense? And most importantly, what will all of us say to our grandchildren about this moment? Will we say that we lived through a surreal couple of months and then the issue faded away? Or do all of us get to say ‘We were there at the moment the walls came down and a new spirit of common decency pervaded in the workplace?

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