Last night, Vice’s gaming site, Waypoint, went rogue and posted a statement in light of the recent allegations of sexual harassment at the company detailed in a Daily Beast article published on Wednesday.
When we came here, each of us had our own reservations about VICE. We have all, publicly or privately, spoken about our desire to be a force of positive change at VICE, a company which we believe has both a torrid history and a great deal of journalistic excellence. In light of the Daily Beast’s story, we have realized how important it is that we not only push for change in private, internal meetings, but that we also must use our platform to publicly hold accountable our own workplace.
In addition, Vice’s editorial union posted a statement on Twitter:
Vice Union statement on workplace sexual harassment: pic.twitter.com/YbGlZSuQgJ
— VICE Union (@viceunion) November 15, 2017
It doesn’t take a tea-leaf reader to see that these, along with a very odd (and previously unbylined, now attributed to Oliver “Oli” Coleman) Page Six item lightly threatening Shane Smith, plus a lot of rumors I have personally been hearing for WEEKS, portend a big story is on the way, almost certainly in the New York Times, detailing a larger investigation into the company’s less than stellar record in the workplace sexual harassment department. “Given the current wave of sexual harassment scandals,” Coleman maybe warns, “Vice mogul Shane Smith may regret a 2003 interview in which he brags about having sex and orgies with models he hired for shoots for his magazine.” The whole piece is reminding everyone that Vice already aired its dirty laundry in a 2003 book that already detailed all the coke orgies, and a Vice spokesperson said something to the effect of, we definitely didn’t preëmptively (let me have it) plant this item in a rag owned by Rupert Murdoch, who owns a 5% stake in our company.
Vice Media may be getting the full Times treatment as early as today—earlier this week, Vice News had an all-hands meeting led by Josh Tyrangiel, and this morning, the editorial leadership had a meeting as well to come up with a joint statement to be published to the sites this afternoon. A company-wide State of The Union meeting is scheduled for this morning at 11am.
The run-up to the release of this story is bigger than any other in the mediasphere to date, if surely the least shocking. Vice insiders describe the company as a place with a lot of “Company Men (and women)” with a culture of protecting friends of Shane Smith (reminds me of Fusion’s “F.O.I.L”—Friends Of Isaac Lee). What happens when you throw a bunch of older punk rock bros together with a bunch of poorly paid content producers who are only there in the first place for the advertising the site would draw? I’ll leave that to the New York Times, but suffice it to say that there’s a reason Shane Smith is a billionaire, and it’s not the editorial arm of Vice. When you have money like that, you can often shove your badly behaved dirt a little deeper under the rug rather than causing a big scene by letting it go. After all, what’s a few extra aging hardcore dudes and foulmouthed editors on the payroll when you’ve got that sweet Unilever cash rolling in?
UPDATE: Sounds like that meeting went great!
According to several attendees of the State of Vice’s Union, staffers were shown a…video? Documentary? Produced media document? A video, of some kind, at a length of greater than thirty minutes, intended to address employee questions. Employees from around the company were sat across from co-founder Suroosh Alvi, to tell them “very anodyne things they liked and disliked” about the company, according to one viewer. Vice CFO Sarah Broderick came onscreen assured the staff that gender pay discrimination is a problem nationwide, not just at Vice, which, thank you, Sarah! Needless to say, if you have the video and would like to share it anonymously, you know where to find me. In the immortal words of the erstwhile Vice COO Alyssa Mastromonaco (and Obama-era operations guru), Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?