When There’s Smoke
(There are a lot of stories that will come out of my time at NMR. I’d been waiting until my year-long NDA after my termination was safely a distant memory, but after [WARNING] April’s post, I’m gonna tell this story and will get to some of the other stuff at a later time. Needless to say, all the links come with trigger warnings.)
Toby Turner. This is a name that’s rattled around my brain since, well, September of 2014 to be specific. At the 4th Annual Streamy Awards, I was in attendance as Editor-in-Chief of New Media Rockstars. I may have been on the job a month to two months — I really can’t remember, but I’d just started.
By hook or by crook, we got out of our shitty back-of-the-bus tables (NMR was a competitor, obviously, to Tubefilter, so heh, the table assignments were funny to me, felt like a cold war game), and lo and behold, I end up at the table with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries team, lovely people and friends all, and more importantly, a young female employee — whose real name I will not be divulging, we’ll call her Jane— was at Table #1, a few tables down from me, right next to the stairs up to the stage. If you wanted to, you could toss a napkin and it’d hit Hannah or Grace when they were MC’ing.
The details of what happens throughout the course of this night are a little hazy — though not because of drink, because while there was an open bar pre-show, you weren’t going to get more than two drinks out of it, and there wasn’t alcohol, at least up front where all the cameras were, during the show. (Clearly, if they weren’t serving, it didn’t deter Harley Morenstein, the beautiful bastard.)
But before the show, another employee comes running up to me, and tells me that Toby forcefully made out with Jane, in front of witnesses, at the biggest award show in our industry. Security was not doing anything. No one was doing anything.
After the show I angrily went up to our CEO, whom had skipped the ceremony but was attending the afterparties, and told him what happened. Jane didn’t want to make a big deal of it. (Not that I blame her.) But I was aware that our CEO had worked closely with Toby prior to working at NMR, was still friends with him. I made it clear that this night does not end without an apology from Toby, at fucking minimum. “Either that, or he gets the fuck out right now.”
Neither of those things happened. Instead, people bought him drinks.
Months go by and our editorial team at NMR went to bat against folks like Sam Pepper, Curtis Lepore and others — all what I’ve gotten mostly on deep background and couldn’t report directly you can find in this old Medium post of mine — but any attempt to even suggest that we might look into Toby was immediately shut down.
Instead, we brought on his friends to work with us. Some of our employees worked with him, as best as I can tell. Toby was, for all intents and purposes — regardless of how many people would quietly whisper about his bullshit — insulated from us being able to look at him. Even after repeatedly bringing up that he assaulted one of our own, the company was not going to support looking into him.
Why? I can’t tell you how many times I heard the phrase “because he’s Toby.” And though I heard about the vague drug-fueled antics, I knew deep down that after the Streamys, there was a lot more hurtful, actionable and possibly criminal activity going on beyond just popping whatever narcotic he had on hand, a wide open secret in this community. Because when there’s smoke, there’s always fire.
I 100% believe you, April, and I’m sorry. I should have done better.