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When is an Apology Not Enough?

Published on March 27, 2024, 8:55 p.m.
by Halston Seton.

If you were a child of the ’90s or early 2000s, you more than likely grew up watching Nickelodeon. Furthermore, because Nickelodeon was a children’s network, your parents probably left you alone to tune into your favorite TV show while they worked, cleaned, cooked, etc.

But what if you found out the ugly truth behind that TV show’s production team? Would it ruin Nickelodeon for you?

Photo via IMDb

The ugly truth

Well, on March 17 Investigation Discovery aired “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV,” a four-part docuseries on the “alleged abuse, sexism, racism and inappropriate behavior some former Nickelodeon stars faced while working for the network as children.” Directed by Mary Robertson, the series was created to educate those on the horrors of Hollywood, as a warning to anyone wanting to become a part of the business and an attempt to gain justice for the victims.

The series begins by explaining the sexism that several female writers encountered while working under ex-producer Dan Schneider. Cristy Stratton and Jenny Kilgen were two writers for “The Amanda Show” who were not only severely underpaid — because of a split salary — but they also endured countless false sexual remarks made by Schneider in front of their male co-workers. “Working for Dan was like being in an abusive relationship,” said Stratton. Kilgen disclosed that when she learned that earning a split salary was against Nickelodeon rules, she confronted Schneider. She said that when she came to her boss with the concern he turned her away and threatened to fire her if she complained again. This alleged abuse is what ultimately forced these female writers to quit their jobs and never look back. But it didn’t stop there.

Multiple child stars spoke out about their experiences with Schneider in “Quiet on Set,” including Drake Bell of “Drake and Josh,” Alexa Nikolas of “Zoey 101,” Marc Summers of “Double Dare” and various actors of the kid sketch comedy series “All That.” On top of the weird, sexual-like sketches these children had to perform in front of millions of viewers, the abuse continued to escalate. The most talked-about story of the docuseries is the confirmed abuse Drake Bell endured at the young age of 15. Sexually assaulted for months by Nickelodeon dialogue coach Brian Peck, Bell spoke out publicly for the first time ever. In the docuseries Bell stated, “The abuse was extensive. … It was not a one-time thing.”

Photo via Adobe Stock by sdx15

The apology: sincere or dishonest?

What makes an effective apology? When crisis hits, it can be difficult for public relations professionals to make the right decisions. “Seven Tips to Improve Apologies During a Crisis” by Forbes discusses the best ways to deal with a crisis apology. The most important tactic to remember when crafting an apology is to educate yourself of the public’s view of the situation. The most effective apologies only work if the person apologizing knows exactly how the public is getting information and from where.

In addition, being humble and sincere is another vital component to an apology. Informing the audience of the steps being taken to make sure this crisis doesn’t occur again should be included as well. Lastly, an effective apology uses common language. No one cares about the big words they can’t read aloud; they care about the relatability of the words. Let’s see how Schneider did on his apology video.

After the airing of “Quiet on Set,” Schneider posted an interview to his YouTube channel attempting to clear up the allegations of abuse on set. When interviewed by ICarly actor BooG!e, Schneider used tactics to dismiss the docuseries. He showed regret when addressing the alleged sexual innuendos toward writers, Stratton and Kilgen. Schneider said, “Facing my past behaviors, some of which are embarrassing and that I regret. I definitely owe some people a pretty strong apology.”

The former Nickelodeon producer defended himself by denying that any of the sketches he created had sexual meaning behind them. “Every one of those jokes was written for a kid audience because kids thought they were funny — and only funny,” he said. He also went on to deny that he did not think about gender when hiring staff members and did not refuse anyone equal pay. When the situation between Bell and Peck was discussed, Schneider told the world that he was not responsible for the employment of Peck and claimed he had no idea about this alleged sexual abuse, although Bell stated otherwise.

The apology from Schneider seemed extremely rehearsed to these child actors. Alexa Nikolas stated she would never believe any apology from Schneider and felt no sympathy for him. Because the interview was posted from Schneider’s account instead of the interviewer’s, most people believe that he paid BooG!e to conduct this interview with the hopes of changing people’s minds about him.

Photo via Adobe Stock by waranyu

The fight for justice is still in motion, and “Quiet on Set” is only the beginning. Do you think Dan Schneider handled this crisis correctly? Do you think he has a PR team on his side? What will this do to both Schneider’s and Nickelodeon’s image moving forward?

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