In light of recent allegations of sexual harassment at VICE, the team wants to address our own commitment to equality and safety.
Over the last day and a half, we’ve received a lot of questions from you, our readers and fans, about this story published by the Daily Beast yesterday morning. While we stand in solidarity with the VICE Union’s statement against sexual harassment, we also felt it was important to address this story—and the issue of sexual misconduct—in our own words and on our own platform.
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.
It is tempting, yet facile to frame incidents like the one in the Daily Beast article as being the result of a few bad apples. Sexual misconduct is perpetrated by individuals, but it is enabled and emboldened through structural, institutional, and societal factors. These need to be addressed, and so, speaking as an unified editorial staff, Waypoint has communicated to VICE Senior Management the following expectations, which represent the bare minimum of what we feel is necessary to ensure the safety of its workers.
How any organization responds to sexual misconduct allegations is important. But reacting is never enough. VICE needs to place new, stronger preventative measures in place. These should including better education about acceptable workplace behavior, more clarity on what resources are available to those who experience or witness misconduct, and a commitment to regular, ongoing evaluation of workplace safety and professionalism.
If these require new staffing, a reworking of senior management, or additional resources being made available to the staff already here, these must be prioritized.
While we have had a strong working relationship with the editorial leadership at VICE’s New York headquarters, and while our personal experiences have been safe and positive, VICE is a global media company, with dozens of offices across the world.
Protections must be put in place not just here in New York, but also in our global satellite offices. Additionally, the safety of employees must be made paramount when considering future expansion into new markets. We love our office and feel safe here, and we need assurance that security will extend to everyone who works under VICE’s banner.
As a media company, VICE often reports on uncomfortable, difficult matters, and it is important that a policy is in place to inform its workers that they may encounter potentially upsetting material. However, as written currently, the non-traditional workplace agreement is vague at best and odious at worst.
The purpose of such an agreement should be to allow reporters the freedom to investigate complex, often unpleasant topics, but lines like “I agree to hold VICE harmless from any and all claims I may have based upon VICE’s workplace environment…” are irresponsible and provide cover for bad actors. This not only puts people in direct danger, but also actively discourages those who would report misconduct from doing so.
This agreement must be re-evaluated and revised. Full stop.
When Gawker closed in 2016, it brought to light a punitive legal strategy that risks to derail vital journalism. We are grateful that this has not stopped incredible reporting about powerful figures, work that has inspired us, and stories that bring to light the machinations of the powerful.
In 2017 these stories all come at increased legal risk, and in light of the the allegations published by The Daily Beast, any attempt to speak truth to power will now come with questions about VICE’s credibility. In the face of these challenges, we seek a re-commitment from senior management of the importance of reporting on difficult topics, including stories about sexual misconduct, and a commitment of meaningful material resources to pursue those stories.
It is not enough to simply make demands of others, though. We must hold ourselves accountable according to the same ethos that guided us in championing the above issues. We must continue to stand in solidarity with victims of sexual misconduct and targets of all kinds of abuse. As long as there is a Waypoint, we will continue to investigate difficult subject matter with integrity, offer transparency into the decision making that guides our publication.
We've spoken to leadership at editorial channels across VICE, and they have voiced their support and commitment to equitability and safety in the workplace (and many have been working internally for a long time on improving these very conditions). Additional communication from those channels will be coming soon, but given our unique relationship with you, our readers and fans, we wanted to speak out as soon as possible.
To those of you who have been asking us to respond to this matter over the last two days, thank you for your patience and for holding us to our own standards. We will continue to strive to be a beacon of hope, positivity, and criticality in the world of games and beyond.