In what appears to be the first and probably not the last repercussion of last week’s Shitty Media Men list, and the larger floodgates of assault and harassment survivors speaking out against their attackers, Lockhart Steele, Vox Media’s Editorial Director and former Curbed CEO and founder, has been fired, effective immediately. Vox employees were alerted by a message in the company’s CEO AMA slack channel:
Hi team, I am writing to let you know that earlier this evening Lockhart Steele was terminated effective immediately. Lock admitted engaging in conduct that is inconsistent with our core values and will not be tolerated at Vox Media.
Our investigation into issues raised by a former employee in a post on Medium continues. Anyone with information should contact our external investigation leads, [redacted].
Vox Media is committed to fostering a safe and welcoming community, and appreciates everyone who has been willing to speak up and share information during the course of this investigation.
Last week when the spreadsheet was still circulating, several women I know remarked at the lack of Vox representation on it, especially given the outsize number of Buzzfeed employees who were named. The aforementioned viral Medium post by Eden Rohatensky alleges misconduct by more than one Vox employee; one wonders how many more firings are yet to come. I would be remiss not to point out that Steele would likely have been leaving the company within a month anyhow; November 2017 marks four years from the sale of his Curbed properties (Curbed, Eater, Racked) to Vox for a reported $20-30 million. Looks like the golden handcuffs are off, one month early to boot. I’d be further remiss in not noting that Steele was also the editorial director of Gawker Media, which had its own notorious “problem with women”.
The newest, wokest media conglomerates on the block are no more immune to the same kinds of abuses of power and workplace sexual harassment that we’ve been reading and writing op-eds about for the past two weeks since the Harvey Weinstein bubble burst than any other old company made out of women and men behaving badly. What a world!
UPDATE: In a previously scheduled hour-plus-long company-wide all-hands call, CEO Jim Bankoff told his staff, “I can’t stress enough this is an ongoing investigation.” He continued, “Even though there’s been a termination, it’s not concluded. There are still people coming forward, and I want to encourage people have not come forward to do so as well.” Bankoff effectively confirmed that the VP in Eden Rohatensky’s Medium post was about Steele, and also suggested there is at least one more person being investigated
The company is retaining the services of the law firm Gibson Dunn to run an external investigation, and Alexis Juneja, a Vice President at the company head of People & Culture, has been recused from the investigation due to her personal friendship with Steele. Bankoff also clarified that the company had not previously settled any harassment cases, and firmly insisted “unequivocally” that with any investigations that yield findings of misconduct, he would act swiftly to protect his employees. He brought this up as a proxy answer to the questions about “a previous investigation that was ignored” (per Rohatensky’s Medium post), which suggests the Medium post is the first Bankoff heard about it.
Towards the end of the call, COO Trei Brundrett “jumped on” the call to go over the company’s new Slack retention policy. He announced that all channels would now have deletion policies instated, per the following:
- Public channels: 15 days
- Announcement channels: 60 days
- Open working channels: (can be left open)
- Private channels: 60 days
- Direct messages: 90 days
The new policy was supposed to have begun yesterday, but due to the ongoing investigations, the messages won’t begin deleting until Next Friday. Brundrett said this feature was requested by several teams so they could have open conversations in Slack, but then quickly doubled back to say, “this is not a cure-all for this…this does not fix everything, technology rarely does.”