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Matt Lauer Allegations Detailed by Multiple Women in Variety (Exclusive)

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On the heels of Matt Lauer’s firing from NBC News “Today” after allegations of “inappropriate sexual behavior,” more detailed reports on Lauer are surfacing.

The cause of his dismissal, according to sources, was a “detailed complaint” from another current NBC employee a Monday night about inappropriate sexual conduct from Lauer that started on a trip at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 and continued for several months.

A New Variety Report Features Several Accusations Of Sexual Misconduct By Matt Lauer, Details A Door-Locking Button Under His Desk (Getty Image)

Variety “Exclusive” reported on Wednesday the co-host of NBC’s “Today,” Matt Lauer once gave a colleague a sex toy as a present. According to the report, the present included an explicit note about how Lauer wanted to use it on her, which reportedly left Lauer’s colleague mortified.

According to Variety, on a separate occasion, Lauer summoned a different female employee to his office, upon which he dropped his pants, showing the employee his penis. The employee said after she declined to adhere to Lauer’s advances, he appeared visibly shaken and reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.

Lauer would, at times quiz female producers about who they’d slept with, offering to trade names.  According to the Variety exclusive, Lauer “loved to engage in a crass quiz game with men and women in the office: “f—, marry, or kill,” in which he would identify the female co-hosts that he’d most like to sleep with.”

The accounts of Lauer’s behavior at NBC News reportedly are the result of a two-month investigation by Variety, with dozens of interviews with current and former staffers.

Variety interviewed three women who identified themselves as victims of sexual harassment by Lauer.  The allegations by the three women were corroborated by friends or colleagues that the women confided in at the time. The women have asked to remain anonymous [for now], fearing professional repercussions.

On Wednesday, NBC News announced that Lauer was fired from “Today.” It was a shocking move for a co-host who was widely considered by many as the cornerstone of the network’s news division, with a $25 million annual salary.

Lauer met with human resources at NBC on Monday night. In a statement, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack called this the first complaint about Lauer’s behavior in over 20 years and acknowledged that it might not be the last: “We were also presented with a reason to believe that this may not have been an isolated incident,” Lack said.

Several women told Variety they complained to executives at the network about Lauer’s behavior, which seemingly was brushed aside, merely falling on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding “Today.”   During Lauer’s tenure at “Today,” the morning news show was No. 1 in the ratings, and executives were eager to keep him happy.

Variety said it is not clear if NBC will pay Lauer through the end of his contract, which expires in 2018.

According to insiders, NBC was forced to act quickly after the detailed complaint against Lauer.

Amid the severity of the accusations and the national dialogue around sexual harassment, ultimately ending the careers of Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and other prominent men; Lauer has joined the walk of shame—with a plethora of questions about the future of “Today,” a troubling portrait as mounting allegations against Lauer emerge.

For more than two decades, while the cameras were rolling, Lauer had positioned himself as the above reproach father and husband.  If the allegations are true, behind the scenes, Lauer’s indiscretions paint him as an entirely different person.

Lauer was fixated on women, especially their bodies and looks, according to more than ten accounts from former and current employees. Despite his marriage, Lauer was known for making lewd comments verbally or over text messages.  Lauer’s actions led observers of his actions to think that his work and sex were intertwined.

Variety reports that Lauer once made a suggestive reference to a colleague’s performance in bed comparing it to how she was able to complete her job, according to witnesses to the exchange.

“There were a lot of consensual relationships, but that’s still a problem because of the power he held,” says a former producer who knew first-hand of these encounters. “He couldn’t sleep around town with celebrities or on the road with random people because he’s married. He’d have to do it within his stable, where he exerted power, and he knew people wouldn’t ever complain.”

Paranoid about tabloid reporters following him, Lauer appeared more confident at 30 Rockefeller Center following Katie Couric’s departure from “Today” in 2006. His office was described as a secluded space, with a button under his desk, which allowed Lauer to lock his door from the inside without leaving his chair.

Variety reports Lauer welcomed female employees and initiated inappropriate contact knowing no one could walk in on him, according to two women who were harassed by Lauer.  With the sexual harassment extending to Lauer’s travels while on assignment for NBC, several employees recall Lauer’s behavior.

The employees alleged that Lauer paid immense attention to young women on his staff that he found attractive, focusing intently on the woman’s career ambitions. He asked the same producer to his hotel room to deliver him a pillow, according to sources with knowledge of the interaction.

According to multiple accounts, independently corroborated by Variety, Lauer had a habit of inviting women employed by NBC late at night to his hotel room while covering the Olympics in various cities over the years.  He told colleagues that his wife accompanied him to the London Olympics because she didn’t trust him to travel alone.

After Lauer’s longtime booker Matt Zimmerman was fired over sexual harassment complaints—the spotlight intensified on Lauer.  Lauer had promoted Zimmerman to a high executive position and offered him a powerful perch.

Secrets have a way of getting out, and Lauer’s conduct was not a secret among other employees at “Today,” numerous sources say. At least one of the anchors allegedly gossiped about things she had heard, spreading the gossip among the staff.

“Management sucks there,” a former reporter said, who asked not to be identified, speaking about executives who previously worked at the show. “They protected the s— out of Matt Lauer.”

Concerned about their careers and backlash if they reported Lauer or did not reciprocate his advances, some producers told Variety they were conflicted on what to do about the behavior.

In the wake of Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein, Lauer was pressed on reporting national conversation about sexual harassment.  Having considerable editorial decision over which stories would ultimately air on “Today” — It often made for awkward moments on TV for staff members who knew about Lauer’s private interactions when he opted not to speak on the subject matter that mirrored his behavior.

In a September interview, Lauer sat down with Fox News star anchor Bill O’Reilly, who was fired from Fox News in April amid sexual harassment allegations.  Lauer grilled O’Reilly in the interview—asking him for a response to allegations against him, and the culture at Fox News.

“You were probably the last guy in the world that they wanted to fire because you were the guy that the ratings and the revenues were built on,” Lauer said. “You carried that network on your shoulders for a lotta years. Doesn’t it seem safe to assume that the people at Fox News were given the piece of information, or given some evidence, that simply made it impossible for you to stay on at Fox News?”

In a climate tainted with sexual harassment allegations, and inappropriate sexual conduct as in the case of Matt Lauer, and many other prominent names, the “Today” anchor’s September interview with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is particularly disturbing in light of Lauer’s firing for alleged inappropriate sexual conduct.

By LeNora  Millen                 11-29-17

Variety and NBC News contributed to this report

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Soul Singer Audra Bryant Releases Single “Scars”

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Audra Bryant is a soul singer, songwriter, producer and entrepreneur! Audra is releasing her single “Scars” today! Her song is available at www.audrabryant.bandcamp.com Born and raised in Detroit, Audra moved to California to bring her dreams of encouraging others through music to life. She will be releasing her EP “Through The Dark” Soon! Audra’s story is one of strength, faith and resilience! We were happy to meet up with Audra in Los Angeles so we can share his inspirational story with you! Enjoy!

Exposure Magazine: Congratulations on the release of your single “Scars” today! When I heard it I knew that I had to interview you so you can tell us about it! Where did the inspiration for this song come from?

Audra Bryant: First of all Thank you!! I am very excited about this release and I am so happy to speak with you!

I would say “Scars” has been a “work in progress” since I was a little over a year old. I was burned at that age and developed excess scar tissue called keloids and between the ages of 2 and 16 I had six keloid removal surgeries that still left me with very prominent scars. Throughout adolescence and into adulthood I felt very unattractive and not very feminine. I wore turtlenecks and crewneck shirts at all times. I avoided mirrors. Honestly, I did not look at myself change clothes in the mirror until I was 25 years old!

I could not understand why and how God could allow something like this to happen to me and still give me the desire to be in the entertainment industry as a singer/songwriter where I am supposed to look “perfect”. It would take some MAJOR photo shopping to get rid of these scars and so I hid myself for a long time and lost faith in myself and the possibilities of success. I knew however that one day I would write a song about my scars but I thought it would be a sad song about how difficult it can be for me when people see them and ask me questions about them or how hard it was during puberty to see girls wearing v-neck shirts and having cleavage and I didn’t. Over the past few years however, I did a lot of self-reflection and came to the conclusion that in life you are dealt the “hand” you are dealt and whether it is “traditional” or not as “traditional”/uncomfortable or not so much you still deserve to experience joy and that can only come through self-acceptance. I literally forced myself to love myself even though I felt ugly and this song was birthed in a time when I finally got the lesson that I am beautiful “scars and all.” That I don’t have to live my life mad at myself for pulling the hot cup of coffee down off the table as a child or at God for allowing it to happen or my parents or the world or anything! I can fully own my scars and choose to love them as they are a part of my journey and inner stength that by embracing my scars I am also embracing and loving myself and that is most important!

Exposure Magazine: Tell me about your upcoming EP “Through The Dark”?
Audra Bryant: So, this EP is definitely me putting my feelings, my frustrations, my insecurities and my heartbreaks out there! It’s the most personal I have ever been and honestly, I must say that has been refreshingly therapeutic! It has always been my dream to encourage others through my artistry but I had NO idea that that meant I would have to endure so much heartache, self-doubt, stagnation and disappointment in order to create that kind of material. (Lol)

Overall, this EP is an expression of me waking up to self-love, my greatness, owning my femininity and acknowledging the areas in which I need to make better choices. I feel like this project is the equivalent of your best friend pulling you to the side and saying “Hey, what’s up with you? You know you trippin’ right? You are better than this, you are amazing…now own it!!!” Something to that effect! (Lol)

Exposure Magazine: When did you know you had a gift to sing?

Audra Bryant: Hmm I feel like my voice has developed throughout the years. I remember singing Jodeci and TLC songs when I was a kid and I remember liking to sing. I sang my first solo at 8 years old (Man I wish I had video from that! Lol) and I sang in plays throughout high school with Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit. I wrote songs for their plays and honestly at that time I thought of myself as more of a songwriter than a singer. I actually won the “Most Improved Singer” certificate my first year in the program. So that should tell you how I started out. Not so strong to say the least! Lol

I don’t feel like I had the “gift” to sing until one day when I was like 22 I came back to Detroit to visit my Mom and we went to a piano bar and I went up to sing. My Mom hadn’t heard me sing in a performance setting in a few years at this point. I sang “Killing Me Softly” and the response I received surprised me! The look on my Mother’s face and the crowd’s face was one of awe and joy. My Mom heard the growth in my voice and she was so very proud! I must mention that she is not the kind of Mother who will rave over her child even if she sounds like wailing cats. Trust me! She had never really encouraged me to sing until that moment! The piano bar wanted me to be a regular as well but I lived in LA at that point.

Exposure Magazine: Has it been difficult to pursue your singing career? What advice would you go to others who want to make it?

Audra Bryant: Heck yeah it has been difficult! VERY difficult for me but not for the same reasons and one might think. My struggle has not been so much about the business of music as it has been my own confidence in my gift. Truly believing I have a gift and that I can and will be successful as an artist. When I moved to LA I developed SERIOUS stage fright! It took me a few years to work through that but I persevered. It also took me a while to develop my “voice” as an artist and by “voice” I mean my truth, my perspective. I was just a singer in my opinion until recently. I feel like I was a good songwriter but I feel like being an artist is different. It’s not just about having a good song or good stage presence (which I believe I had and others would say the same) but do you have a well written song that you connect with? Can you articulate that song well vocally? What is your purpose as an artist and are you approaching the stage with that purpose or intention every time? What message are you trying to convey to the audience? Are you being mindful of them and creating an experience for them that will be long lasting? And lastly, are you being transparent and honest with who you are in your music (song to stage) and expressing yourself confidently?

Those are the barriers I feel that were holding me back so I am happy to say I feel more clear about my purpose and that I am being honest and transparent in my approach. I feel much different than I did before. I feel like I am more of myself and that had always been the missing link for me.

For others who are looking to make it in this industry I say ask yourself the questions above. I feel like the “forever artists” like: Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Sade, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, etc of our time approached music from a holistic perspective…with a clear intention and that is why people still resonate with their work at any age and time. Of course, make sure your Management team, Lawyer, PR, Stylist and all of that are on point but know that no one eats (at least for an extended period of time) unless you do this work that has the potential to make you a “forever artist” and not just a singer (unless of course being a “singer” and not an artist is what you desire is to be).

Exposure Magazine: What can the readers expect from Audra Bryant in the future?

Audra Bryant: Readers can expect some variety from me. I am a singer/songwriter but also an actor/comedian so they will see me on stage in concert or possibly doing standup. I have a few projects brewing now that I can’t speak on so let’s just stay connected. 

Exposure Magazine: Where can we check out your single?

Audra Bryant: https://audrabryant.bandcamp.com

Exposure Magazine: Where can our readers follow you online?

Audra Bryant: IG- @AudraABryant
Twitter: @AudraABryant
FB-Fanpage- https://www.facebook.com/AudraABryant/

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Apple Confirms it has Acquired Music Recognition App Shazam

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Apple confirmed Shazam acquistion on Monday. Image Source: Peter Kotoff/Shutterstock

Apple on Monday confirmed its acquisition of music recognition app Shazam, saying it’s “thrilled” to be gaining one of the consistently most popular apps in its App Store.

This news had previously been reported by TechCrunch, which had one source claiming the sale price was around $400 million—far less than Shazam’s $1 billion valuation at its last round of funding.

“Apple Music and Shazam are a natural fit, sharing a passion for music discovery and delivering great music experiences to our users,” the company said in a statement. “We have exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today’s agreement

Shazam is arguably best known for its music recognition technology; tap the “Shazam” button in the app for smartphones and it will usually identify whatever song it hears after just a few seconds. Shazam has become so popular that there’s even a network TV game show called Beat Shazam hosted by Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx. In it, contestants must guess songs faster than Shazam can.

Shazam has also invested in second-screen TV viewing features, image recognition, and augmented reality services and products. Shazam’s talent and technology could be used in several of Apple’s products and initiatives, including Apple Music, Siri, and augmented reality.

Shazam already integrates with Siri. You can ask Siri “what song is this” while a song is playing externally, and, after a long pause, it will provide you with the name and artist, along with a “buy” button for Apple Music/iTunes gussied up with Shazam logo. Currently, the Shazam app allows you to add a song to your Spotify playlist after identifying it, regardless of whether you’re using an Apple or Android phone. We don’t know yet what, if anything, will happen to that feature because of the Apple purchase.

The acquisition is probably about much more than the widely known music recognition feature. Shazam has been developing augmented reality features that allow brands to serve up customized ads and transaction opportunities to users who use the app on visual or aural cues around them. Apple’s Tim Cook has made it abundantly clear that he expects augmented reality to be one of Apple’s biggest areas of growth and investment. Much of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X’s hardware and software is built with AR specifically in mind, and Apple is even rumored to be working on a pair of AR goggles, though it will likely be a while before we see those in the market, if we do at all.

Apple generally does not spell out the details of how it plans to use acquisitions, but there are a number of areas where Shazam’s current business overlaps with that of Apple’s, making for an interesting range of possibilities for where and how the two will work together.

Shazam’s core business is in music recognition: people use its app to capture a clip of music that is playing, and then it matches that against its large database to tell you what you are listening to, a business that has brought the company over 1 billion downloads of its app to date.

Over the years Shazam has augmented this with a number of other services: it sends users through to other sites to download and listen to the music at their leisure; it provides more information to users about the music and the artists behind it; it keeps charts of popular music based on the clips that it hears and that people want to identify. It’s also branched out into more marketing services based on visual recognition — essentially augmented reality plays where users can capture snaps of images that lead them to more content from a brand or another organization.

Through all of this, Shazam has developed some interesting partnerships, specifically with Apple and Spotify (who together get around 1 million referrals each month via Shazam), and Snapchat, which currently has an integration with Shazam where Snapchat users can “recognize music, engage with Shazam content, and send their music and artist discoveries as Snaps to their friends.” It is no surprise that these are also the three names that we heard were all approached and discussed an acquisition of the startup.

Shazam provided the following statement to TechCrunch on the acquisition.

“We are excited to announce that Shazam has entered into an agreement to become part of Apple. Shazam is one of the highest rated apps in the world and loved by hundreds of millions of users and we can’t imagine a better home for Shazam to enable us to continue innovating and delivering magic for our users.”

Notably, Shazam had a post-money valuation in its last round of over $1 billion — a far cry from the roughly $400 million that is being paid by Apple. The reason for this, one source says, is that for all of Shazam’s popularity and move into revenue-generating areas like marketing, the company never really found a solid business model for the long-term future.

“Shazam should have moved into streaming music years ago,” the source said, “which is one reason why the Apple deal makes so much sense.” Spotify, as a point of comparison, has healthy recurring revenues from subscriptions and Apple Music has both subscriptions and downloads — not to mention the wider use of Apple Music and the ecosystem pull it gives Apple for its wider hardware business. That hints at some interesting integrations coming up.

A Backstory on the Acquisition:

Apple and Shazam have had a friendly relationship for years, but the catalyst was that pending bid from Snap. As Recode first reported, the Snapchat parent had entertained buying the company.

It turns out that the conversations with Snap began about six months ago, after advisor Goldman Sachs drummed up interest. Snap was open to acquisition talks because its integration with Shazam’s music recognition technology had been going well.

Snap has had a volatile time on the stock market since it went public in March, and so Shazam was getting mixed messages about how much the social media platform would be willing to pay.

Shazam’s conversations with Apple began the following month, and they became exclusive about two months ago. From what we understand, the Spotify talks were earlier and couldn’t progress because of the price, and likely also the fact that Spotify, which is gearing up for a public listing, has a lot on its plate right now.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, saw an opportunity for Shazam to help build out its music business. Since the days of the iPod, music has long been a priority for the company. Lately, it’s been focused on enhancing its Spotify competitor, Apple Music.

Cue believes that Shazam could help improve its offering and liked that the app had moved beyond music discovery, building out artist pages and other music-related content.

Shazam already integrates with Apple Music, referring many of its 100 million users to play songs on its platform. It also lets users buy the music directly via iTunes.

Techcrunch and Apple Music contributed to this report.

 

LeNora Millen               12-11-17

 

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TV One Cancels Roland Martin’s Morning Show ‘News One Now’

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TV One is canceling Roland Martin’s morning show “News One Now,” Roland made the announcement in a tweet Wednesday.

“Fam, the sad news is true. The staff of @tvonetv #NewsnewOneNow was informed this afternoon that after four years of doing groundbreaking and award-winning work, the show will cease production at the end of the year,” Martin tweeted.

Martin, who thanked audiences for their support, said the last episode will air on Dec. 21.

Roland Martin’s morning show “NewsOne Now” was cancelled due to budget cuts according to various reports from reliable sources.

“They called a meeting on Wednesday and told the staff they were canceling the show. They’re having significant financial problems and they have to scale back,” a source said. “After four years of award-winning programming and distinguished service to our viewers as the only black daily newscast on television, the network has made the difficult decision to suspend the production of NewsOne Now as a daily morning news show. The last live show is scheduled [Dec. 21],” TV One’s interim GM, Michelle Rice wrote in a memo.

Host of “News One Now” Roland Martin speaks on stage during ColorofChange.org 10 Year Anniversary Gala. (Rob Kim/Getty Images for ColorOfChange)

The news of “NewsOne Now” cancellation shocked Martin and staffers according to sources. The network had recently expanded the morning show to two hours in September.

The memo added: “While we will continue our long-standing partnership with Roland Martin to ensure his important voice can be heard across all Urban One platforms examining issues of importance to the black community, we regret this decision adversely affects several of our valued colleagues whose positions will be eliminated with the suspension of the show.”

The network issued a statement on Twitter that read, “We are committed to providing quality news to our viewers and to our long-standing relationship with @rolandsmartin #NewsOneNow who will continue to have a voice on #TVOne.”

LeNora Millen         12-07-17

 

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