Rarity: Everypony, please! She's just a harmless schoolpony engaged in a little idle gossip. You're really making too big a deal out of this. Twilight Sparkle: But it's all lies! Gabby Gums prints what she wants! She doesn't care whose reputation she destroys!
Written by M.A. Larson
Another school day ends, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders are disappointed that their classmate Featherweight got his cutie mark before them. Apple Bloom's got an idea, though: they can use the school newspaper, the Foal Free Press, to get their cutie marks! Not through arts and crafts, despite Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo's first impressions, but by writing for the newspaper.The next day after school, the would-be Cutie Mark Crusader Journalists and the other hopefuls for the school newspaper meet their new editor-in-chief: Diamond Tiara. She's set to make a few changes, starting by shifting the focus towards "juicy" stories and away from the "namby-pamby" stories the paper has been running in the past. The Crusaders run themselves ragged trying to get stories, but Diamond Tiara isn't impressed by articles about baby birds, Rarity's new hat, or the history of Ponyville... she said she wanted something juicy, and she orders the Crusaders to go find such a story.As luck would have it, the Crusaders and Featherweight (who's serving as the newspaper's photographer) catch Snips and Snails trying (and failing) to unstick themselves from bubble gum, and the article (written under the pen-name "Gabby Gums") catches the attention of the amused readers. Diamond Tiara demands more stories from Gabby Gums about the secret lives of ponies... but the Crusaders are hard-pressed to come up with anything besides Snips and Snails getting stuck to gum again.Inspiration strikes when Rarity finds Sweetie Belle's copy of the newspaper, and gushes about how much her friends would love Gabby Gums' articles. Sweetie Belle convinces her fellow Crusaders to broaden the paper's coverage and start investigating the Ponyville locals for more gossip. The Foal Free Press quickly becomes a hit around Ponyville, even getting sold at the local news stand.At the Spa, the Mane Six discuss the latest Gabby Gums column. Despite Twilight's worry that Gabby Gums' articles are too mean-spirited and invasive, the others brush off her concerns... and then Featherweight sneaks in and catches a photo of Rainbow Dash contemplating a hooficure. Sure enough, after Diamond Tiara dismisses their "tell-all" interview with Spike, the Cutie Mark Crusaders come up with even nastier articles about the locals of Ponyville in a desperate attempt to get their journalism cutie marks. When they target the Mane Six ("Applejack Asleep on the Job", "Twilight Sparkle: I Was a Canterlot Snob", "Rainbow Dash: Speed Demon or Super Softie?"), the gang decides they need to get to the bottom of Gabby Gums and put a stop to their harmful rumor-mongering. Rarity still thinks they're blowing things out of proportion... until she reads an article containing excerpts from her diary. Twilight innocently asks if Sweetie Belle would know who Gabby Gums is, since they both work on the school paper - which is all it takes for Rarity to put two and two together. Keeping her suspicions to herself, Rarity loudly insists to her friends that her dear little sister would never associate herself with somepony like Gabby Gums.Soon after, Rarity finds her diary in Sweete Bell's saddlebag, confirming her suspicions. She proceeds to call her little sister out on the carpet for hurting everypony's feelings.
The Crusaders are ready to call it quits as gossip columnists, but Diamond Tiara refuses to let Gabby Gums end... even if it means blackmailing the Crusaders into digging up more dirt! Desperate to avoid having their own embarrassing candid photos (courtesy of Featherweight) published, the Cutie Mark Crusaders try to find anyone they can interview for the paper. However literally everyone in Ponyville has heard about their secret identity and they all refuse to speak to the Crusaders.Just as Diamond Tiara is about to follow through with her threat the following morning, the Crusaders burst in with a new story. Diamond Tiara quickly has the staff print it up... too quickly, as it's not a gossip column but "An Open Letter to Ponyville". In it, the Crusaders officially reveal their identity as Gabby Gums, apologize for spreading ugly rumors, and resign from the gossip business.Once Cheerilee gets the whole story, she strips Diamond Tiara of her position as editor-in-chief in favor of Featherweight but there's still room at the newspaper for Diamond Tiara... right next to the messy printing press.
Tropes present in this episode (YMMV tropes can be found here):
Adults Are Useless: Most school paper advisers have the final say of what gets printed to avoid lowbrow humor, cruel jokes, and possible libel. Cheerilee hands the reins over to Diamond Tiara and then disappears until the very end of the episode, well after Diamond Tiara's editing demands have gone too far. Lampshaded: Cheerilee admits, at the end, that she let Diamond Tiara have too much authority.
Rarity: Do you really think that writing nasty things and making everypony feel horrible is your destiny?
Art Evolution: Of the positive type. Just like "Lesson Zero" and "Putting Your Hoof Down", this episode pushes the boundaries in animation of the series to a new level, with more expressive faces, more dynamic animation and incredible background sounds.
The Gabby Gums column delves into this as the episode progresses. Spike's interview, for instance, is altered to make it sound like he thinks Twilight was a snob, even though he never said anything like that in the interview (which the Crusaders claim was lighter and softer than their usual work). An example is set up for the audience, in which Rainbow's blatantly reluctant and failed hooficure is turned into a suggestion that she's secretly a "big softie".
Blowing a Raspberry: Diamond Tiara does this to the Cutie Mark Crusaders after she gets her comeuppance.
Blush Sticker: All three Crusaders get them, one after another, when they end up in embarrassing situations after their failed attempts at finding stories. Also when Diamond Tiara reveals that she has photos of the incidents.
Borrowed Catchphrase: Applejack steals Big McIntosh's "eeyup's" and "nope's" when she was angry at the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
Covered in Ink: Whoever works the printing press will end up this way, including Diamond Tiara within seconds of getting the job.
Da Editor: Diamond Tiara is the school newspaper editor, complete with a big chair, big desk, gold nameplate, and desk slam. She chews out the CMC for giving her boring stories and demands "something juicy" instead.
Death Glare: Cheerilee gives Diamond Tiara one once she finds out what she's been up to. Diamond Tiara dishes these out often whenever she's displeased.
Fluttershy's "tail extension" and her embarrassment is like being accused of breast augmentation.
An editor who finds that the gossip column is more popular than the news, and forces the reporters to stoop to underhanded methods to get the scoop? Calls to mind just about every newspaper scandal ever.
Pinkie Pie's reaction to Gabby Gums saying she's obsessed with parties is a lot like someone being forced to confront their alcoholism.
Dye Hard: In-Universe, the scoop on the Mayor reveals that, in a reversal of how people usually do it, she dyes her pink mane grey.
Easily Forgiven: Reconstructed. While the Cutie Mark Crusaders find themselves almost instantly back in Ponyville's goodwill, it takes a lot of soul-searching and a heartfelt public apology (plus the loss of their column and the risk of personal humiliation) to do it.
Failed a Spot Check: When Rarity became furious about Gabby Gums reprinting her diary, Twilight suggested asking Sweetie Belle if she knew who was writing the column. They could have just asked the dragon who had already given Gabby Gums an interview.
Though the CMC may have gotten the interview using a means that didn't involve a face-to-face conversation.
Rarity: Honestly, you ponies have no sense of humor. So she tweaks a few ponies every now and then. [turns page to story on her]Maybe they deserve *gasp* I'LL DESTROY HER!!!
Gilligan Cut: The CMC hoofbump, ready to start gathering news. Cut to them bored out of their minds trying to come up with something to write on.
Hates Being Touched: Rainbow Dash has a problem with having others touch her hooves. She either really hates the girly hooficure, is phobic about being touched there, or is simply extremely ticklish. Magic Duel implies that the last is true.
Rarity: Gossip can be a very hurtful thing, it is an invasion of privacy. Just like when I snooped through your saddle bag. You didn't like that much, did you?
Hypocritical Heartwarming: Sure, Angel can be a downright jerk to Fluttershy at times, but you can clearly see by the dirty look he gives the CMC (as Fluttershy's flooding her house with tears), that he does care for her, even if it gives off the vibe "No one makes her cry but me."
Ironic Echo: The CMC give each other an eager hoof bump on starting out their work as Gabby Gums. By the time they start regretting their hurtful stories about other ponies but decide to continue, they give another, but less confident, hoof bump.
Intrepid Reporters: The CMC become this and start investigating everyone's personal lives.
Jerkass Has a Point: While the Gabby Gums articles were hurtful and earned the CMC animosity from the whole town, it lifted the Foal Free Press from a school paper to town-wide distribution. Though Diamond Tiara's methods were unethical and cruel, under her direction the paper was the most successful it had ever been. Then again, school papers are free and "greater success" is no excuse for publicly humiliating total strangers who did nothing to harm you, both because it is immoral and it burns bridges.
Karma Houdini: Featherweight doesn't get any flak for the embarrassing photos he took of others. In fact, he gets promoted in the end. Presumably he was Just Following Orders, but the episode never makes that clear.
Kick the Dog: If Diamond Tiara telling the CMC that she doesn't care about other ponies' feelings didn't tick anyone off, her blackmailing CMC and then confessing that she would continue the column one way or another should. Later, she steals Dinky's paper and shoves her hard enough to send her flying off-screen.
Kick the Morality Pet: Despite Fluttershy saving their lives in an earlier episode, the CMC still see it fit to humiliate her. It wasn't until the near end in that they realize how mean they were.
Lampshade Wearing: In the "Pinkie Pie Is an Out-of-Control Party Animal" article. Oddly this is the only time we've seen Pinkie do that.
Mean Boss: Diamond Tiara harshly criticizes the CMC's original stories for not being "juicy" enough, does not consider the feelings of Ponyvillians, and blackmails the CMC to keep them from quitting their job.
Meaningful Name: Featherweight, who's easily one of the thinnest ponies on the show. He probably had to be light as a feather to sneak around getting those pictures.
My God, What Have I Done?: The Cutie Mark Crusaders start having this feeling as early as their first round but ignore it. It isn't until they've enraged the entire town that it sinks in just how much they've hurt everypony, whether or not everypony's reactions were justified.
Pinkie Pie when Gabby Gums writes about her being an out of control party animal. She wails that she has a problem.
Fluttershy, after Gabby Gums wrote a particularly mean article about her, is flooding her house with tears. Understandably, Angel Bunny slams the door in the face of the CMC when they try to come by to get another story.
Off Model: During the scene where Diamond Tiara congratulates herself for "averting yet another crisis", the white Skunk Stripe in her mane disappears for one shot.
OOC Is Serious Business: Applejack and Big McIntosh are so upset with the girls that it's Big Mac who delivers a What the Hell, Hero? lecture, and Applejack who limits her responses to "Eeyup" and "Nope". It's the first time he's ever raised his voice to another pony, and man, does it have an effect!
Pen Name: Gabby Gums. Ironically, the CMC created the persona not to hide their identity, but because they couldn't fit all their names when signing it.
Personal Raincloud: Invoked. Rainbow Dash's revenge on Gabby Gums, justified or not, is to let loose a torrential downpour on them.
Pragmatic Villainy: Diamond Tiara actually holds off on the teasing she usually dishes out to the CMC this episode, and is even friendly with them when they start providing her with the stories she wants. Sure, she was a smug, amoral Bad Boss, but you have to give her the fact that she was dedicated enough to the editor-in-chief position that she set aside her usual Alpha Bitch tendencies for it.
Rant Inducing Slight: Rarity flies off the handle more than the other ponies, despite the fact that Gabby Gums only printed excerpts from her personal diary. An embarrassing violation of privacy, yes, but not outright slander as happened with the other Mane 6.
Given that someone had actually stolen Rarity's diary and had printed certain pages of it, which would most likely mean Rarity's personal thoughts had been taken out of context, Rarity had as much a right to be angry as her friends did.
Where all the other ponies either shunned the Cutie Mark Crusaders or were so angry they sent the fillies away rather than say something they would regret, Rarity's response (despite her own fury) is to scold Sweetie Belle, use her own actions to make a point about privacy, and make Sweetie Belle question if what she was doing was truly worth her Cutie Mark. This prompted the CMC to stop being Gabby Gums and eventually write their apology letter.
Twilight starts out as one when she questions Gabby Gums' ethics during the first spa scene, but derails from it when she harshly rejects the Cutie Mark Crusaders once their secret somehow gets out.
Cheerilee at the end, when she demotes Diamond Tiara after realizing the filly went drunk on power.
Skewed Priorities: While the Cutie Mark Crusaders feel bad for the gossip they're spreading, they still worry about getting their cutie marks. Getting their Cutie Marks should have been the last thing that they should have been worrying about in that situation.
Slasher Smile: Diamond Tiara when telling the Cutie Mark Crusaders that their next story better be juicy. It doesn't help that she's right up in Apple Bloom's and our faces.
Featherweight never speaks onscreen. It's never said whether he is a mute or whether he just chooses not to talk.
For some reason, Fluttershy appears in several scenes as more or less a main character, but never says a word. The only vocalization she makes is sobbing when the Cutie Mark Crusaders confront her in her house. (Bizarrely, Andrea Libman's other character Pinkie Pie does appear with a speaking role, albeit a small one. Andrea must've been busy.)This is not the only time this has happened.
Apple Bloom: This is the worst day ever! Scootaloo: Oh yeah? Just wait for tommorrow!
You Bastard: In-Universe example. When the CMC post their open letter to Ponyville, apologizing for what they did, the reason they continued with the Gabby Gums columns was because everyone in Ponyville liked to read the gossip. Also a downplayed example in that little emphasis was put on it, the intent of the letter clearly being more to explain the CMC's own actions than try to call out Ponyville.
"We knew that what we were doing didn't feel quite right, but we ignored the guilt because everypony seemed to want to read what we were writing."