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FutureStarrThe Human Cost of Vice Media's Layoffs
The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on media outlets, with numerous publications either laying off employees or closing entirely due to this epidemic. Vice Media announced company-wide layoffs and a strategic refocus, as well as its plans to cancel award-winning news program Vice News Tonight on May 25. 1. Getting Rid of the Wrong People Last week when Vice Media announced their layoffs, employees expressed worry that veteran workers might be let go to make room for younger, inexperienced staffers more prone to making poor decisions. Vice's troubles began with its co-founder, Shane Smith. A scrappy counterculture magazine founder with aggressive sales tactics who expanded Vice into an international media player by 2012 through aggressive sales methods, Shane was one of Vice's chief catalysts of failure. Disney initially expressed interest in Vice in 2016, which led to discussions that could have given it an estimated value of $3.5 billion, according to multiple people familiar with those discussions. But Smith declined, asserting that Vice was still growing strongly and being maintained by him personally. That may have been true, but that also meant Vice's investors -- including TPG, James Murdoch's Lupa Systems, WPP and the Raine Group -- prioritized short-term gains over building an enterprise. However, Vice found a promising revenue strategy through Pulse Films streaming service that generated advertising revenues and could help jump-start Vice. But as digital ad revenues declined and digital revenues disappeared altogether, this business model began crumbling. As advertising fell into economic decline, digital media companies like Vice began cutting workforces suddenly. For many workers who were used to regular new hires and promotions, this felt like an unpleasant shock. These changes ultimately led to the company experiencing market share loss and struggling to retain competitive edge, prompting layoffs and executive changes at the company. Vice has struggled despite its best efforts, as digital media and advertising markets continue to shift rapidly. CEO Nancy Dubuc recently left, prompting Vice to consider cutting 100 staffers. 2. The Pain of Losing a Job Media companies are beginning to experience layoffs this year due to an uncertain economy, which has become a familiar pattern over time. Vice is especially painful as its cuts came from an organization once seen as the leader of new media industry. Vice was once seen as an industry titan and attracted significant investments as it pursued an IPO, yet its growth came at a price - often falling short of revenue targets even while expanding internationally. Even as it struggled financially, the company maintained a steady flow of investors. Meanwhile, its board maintained hope of finding a buyer for its business; but those plans were put on hold when investors lost faith. But at Vice, a more high-profile sexual misconduct scandal was unfolding. Two days before Christmas, The New York Times published an expose alleging that executives and managers at Vice had engaged in sexual misconduct against female employees; additionally, Vice had responded poorly when dealing with it. As women began speaking out against Vice's culture, it soon became evident that there were numerous unresolved issues within. Although most aspects of its culture had been improved since it had first been implemented, remnants of an old-school "boys' club" existed at Vice. These vestiges were manifest in how Vice treated its female employees and in some of its interactions with outside parties. Employees described a culture wherein they needed to be cautious when talking outside the office and sexual harassment claims which had initially been dismissed without investigation; these incidents have since been revisited for further evaluation. Some employees expressed relief that Smith and Dubuc were taking steps to ensure the company would avoid repeating previous difficulties; others, however, felt cheated out of an opportunity for personal growth and advancement in their careers. 3. Finding Yourself in a New Job After Vice Media's layoffs, many affected employees are struggling to regain their footing and determine how best to move on with their lives. Some staffers were forced to quit altogether while other workers have come to accept working at unprofitable companies in the future. If you're one of the many who is struggling after being laid off, here are a few steps you can take to ease your transition. First, take a deep breath and acknowledge all your emotions; next turn to friends and family for support as they may offer advice that could help navigate this new situation in a healthy manner, and they might have connections to companies looking for talented individuals like yourself. As you search for new employment, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and out-of-place in certain positions or companies - don't let that discourage you from taking steps toward discovering your next career opportunity! To help find your ideal career fit, be honest with yourself about your expectations of it and identify both strengths and weaknesses. When given an outlet to express themselves freely and show others that you have something valuable to offer them, amazing things will occur! Make an application in an industry with less traditional job requirements - for instance if you're an operations manager working long hours, look into jobs which allow more of a "lean-in" style in the office so you can still reach home on time. Option two would be to secure another job within your field as a backup plan if the new position doesn't go according to plan. It is also wise to update your resume, making it easier for recruiters to locate you should the time come for new opportunities to arise. 4. Getting Through the First Month Vice once enjoyed great success as a media company, yet is now struggling under massive debt payments and has laid off over a dozen editorial staffers as advertisements decline and sale speculation increases. Recent reorganization efforts of its newsroom caused staff cuts impacting about 2% of global news staff, as reported in an internal memo written by co-chief executives Bruce Dixon and Hozefa Lokhandwala. Their memo indicated the layoffs as part of an initiative to reduce costs in their news division. These cuts come as part of an evolving media company's shift towards videos and visual storytelling to reach younger audiences, including canceling its flagship news show Vice News Tonight. BuzzFeed, Verizon Media Group and Gannett are among many digital media companies who have recently undergone massive layoffs due to harsh economic headwinds or industry challenges. Nearly every major news, entertainment and technology company has seen its workforce reduced as they attempt to remain viable amidst such difficulties. Vice isn't alone: digital media publisher G/O laid off 11 employees in December; business news site Quartz was acquired by private equity firm Great Hill Partners last summer and this week saw around three percent of staff laid off. These layoffs were both heartbreaking for those affected, as well as leaving gaps in editorial content at Vice News. That is why many affected employees, including former editor-in-chief Michael Learmonth, chief political correspondent Elizabeth Landers, senior political reporter Cameron Joseph, national security reporter Ben Makuch and audio journalist Sam Eagan took to social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook to share their experiences. Some of those let go had worked at the company for many years and developed strong bonds with colleagues, leaving some staffers dismayed at this decision but hopeful that a new CEO can help resolve its problems. Sources familiar with Vice Media's plan indicate that their executive team will undergo a restructuring, with Cory Haik, who oversees digital and video operations, being promoted to Chief Operating Officer; Jesse Angelo will continue running Vice's news and entertainment operations; Morgan Hertzan who previously ran TV will now lead Global TV - reporting directly into both positions.