The New York Observer Revisits 1998’s Infamous PR ‘Power Girls’

(A 98% accurate, period-specific approximation)

The New York Observer has a big new report on the current state of public relations in the city, but first they’ve offered readers a chance to reflect upon competitor New York Magazine‘s infamous 1998 story about five young women who would shape the PR industry of the future.

The original article, titled “Welcome to the Dollhouse”, was something of a hit piece that succeeded in making the entire industry look bad. Filled with unflattering tales of “socialites” who spend time at “their summer homes in the Hamptons” when not busy “traveling in packs from party to party” or using media connections to turn a retail employee into an “it girl” just because they can, it reads like a Sophia Coppola satire of the PR industry.

The follow-up’s conclusion is that these five professional women are doing just fine, thanks.

Some took 98’s bad press to heart while others shrugged it off. Lizzy Grubman tells the Observer that all crises will pass and that “there will be a new headline overshadowing your crisis in no time”, but Jennifer Posner says that the article, which was a “gross over-exaggeration” of the industry, nevertheless convinced her to dissolve her firm and turn toward other career goals like teaching impoverished orphans around the world.

It seems that each of the five have either outgrown New York‘s artless caricature or never resembled “those people” in the first place. (Not that this makes the original report any less damning today.)

Our takeaways: we have no idea “corptique” means, but we do know that whenever a journalist calls you a “socialite”, it’s not a compliment—no matter who you are.