After today’s all-hands “state of the union” meeting, many editorial staffers emerged furious from what they thought was going to be some sort of cathartic elephant acknowledgment. Brandy Zadrozny reported on the anger and frustration in the Daily Beast:
“When the fuck are they going to address sexual harassment? We are all waiting for it, are we not?” one senior-level employee stood and said during the all-hands, according to two sources in the room. The audience erupted in applause.
The whole propagandizing/self-aggrandizing tone of the meeting, which included a documentary-style video about Vice’s cherry-picked pros and cons, was very clearly an unsatisfactory showing for anyone looking for answers or any reassurance whatsoever. The Hollywood Reporter, meanwhile, took a slightly different tack, naming the star-studded cast of the recently enlisted advisory committee (Roberta Kaplan, Alyssa Mastromonaco, [cones hands for amplification] GLORIA STEINEM, Tina Tchen, Maya Harris, Susan Tohyama, and Ariel Wengroff), taking care to note, “Sources inside Vice say that the efforts laid out in the staff meeting were in the works prior to the Daily Beast article’s publication.” Ok then!
But it sounds like senior management at least received some part of the signal that the editorial staff was not pleased, because Shane Smith sent out this company-wide email at 8:23 p.m.:
My apologies for the Friday evening note, but I wanted to address some of the feedback we have been getting on today’s State of the Union. While we attempted to cover a wide range of issues impacting the company, I’m sorry that we missed the mark, especially when it came to clearly addressing issues around sexual harassment at VICE.
I’d like to make it abundantly clear here and now: the behavior outlined in the recent Daily Beast article is unacceptable, and the fact that anything like this could happen at VICE is my and my senior management’s responsibility.
VICE does not tolerate sexual harassment, abusive behavior, assault or retaliation, and just as we have in connection with the allegations in the Daily Beast, we will investigate and discipline inappropriate behavior of any kind. We will continue to investigate all allegations brought to the company’s attention, enlisting outside independent counsel when necessary.
We’ve built this company by hiring the best and most talented voices of a generation. It’s my job to make sure that everyone who walks through the door is treated respectfully and has a chance to thrive without intimidation or harassment.
Following the State of the Union, I spoke with the heads of editorial to express that going forward we are committed to working lockstep with all of you to improve VICE’s workplace culture. This includes enacting everything that we outlined today, continuing to communicate with you about these issues in the coming days, and discussing how we can best solve them.
Yes, we can change the world, but first we have to start at home.
Thank you for your time and your patience.
This was preceded earlier today by a note from the heads of editorial, i.e., the ones who stood up and said something, to the rest of their staff. Top editors had been discussing whether or not to post similar statements after Waypoint published one last night, but ultimately decided to hold off until they could discuss it more widely. The entire email is reproduced below:
Last night, EICs and senior editors met to discuss the company’s inadequate response to sexual harassment and abuse. We hoped today’s State of the Union would speak to these ongoing problems, but the company’s internal and external communications have failed to address the concerns of its employees. The company has also not acknowledged its past in any meaningful way.
We all agree the current situation needs to change.
After the State of the Union, a group of 22 people in editorial and the digital video department including Sara Rodriguez, Derek Mead, Dory Carr-Harris, and Ciel Hunter met with Shane Smith, Suroosh Alvi, Sarah Broderick, Andrew Creighton, Jon Lutzky, Susan Tohyama, Alex Detrick, and Ariel Wengroff to discuss how our company is dealing with current and past misconduct, and how to change VICE’s culture for the better. The conversation was a first step. VICE executive management has committed to better informing all VICE employees of the processes through which sexual harassment complaints can be filed, to providing more consistent training, and to taking direct action against offenders.
After Waypoint posted a statement last night, members of all verticals discussed whether we should put out a more collective and comprehensive statement. But the handful of employees in that meeting can’t speak for all employees across all departments of this company globally, and we realized that any action we take must be informed by your input. Given this, we decided not to release a statement at this time, and to open up a dialogue.
We encourage you to reach out to managers at this company, including any of those undersigned, to weigh in on changes you want to see here and issues you want addressed. From there, we will work with the new HR leadership to put together a list of changes that must happen.
Together we will hold executive management accountable. All of us deserve an environment where we feel safe to do work we are proud of.