Reply All, one of the internet’s most popular podcasts–ranking as high as number three on Apple’s U.S. chart of all podcasts, and reaching a reported 5 million listeners per episode–has gone on hiatus according to an audio statement released to listeners today. The announcement follows several former Gimlet employees of color coming forward to describe what they found to be a hostile work environment.
“We plan to find a way to get to the bottom of what went wrong here, both with the series and our show,” co-host Alex Goldman states in the two-minute clip. “And once we fully understand it ourselves, we also want to tell you, as best we can, what happened. As we contend with everything, we’re placing the show on pause. You’ll hear more from us soon.”
Reply All was in the midst of airing a four-part miniseries about the toxic, racist workplace culture of food magazine Bon Appétit, hosted by Reply All senior reporter Sruthi Pinnamaneni. Two episodes of the series had aired when Eric Eddings, a former Gimlet employee and co-creator of podcast The Nod, stepped forward to describe his time with the podcast network, drawing comparisons between the environment Pinnamaneni was reporting on at another media outlet and the one he had experienced at Gimlet.
On February 6, the day after his wedding, Eddings received an email from Pinnamaneni. She was reaching out, according to the email, because in the course of working on her series about the toxicity at Bon Appétit, she was confronting racism within Gimlet and her own role, and wanted to run what she was considering saying on a future episode by him for his thoughts as a Black former colleague who she knew had negative experiences.
“It was upsetting just because it really actually brought up a lot,” Eddings told the Los Angeles Times. “[She] had plenty of time to reach out to me. Doing it in this context felt really disingenuous.”
Eddings said he was frustrated by Pinnamaneni approaching him for his opinion on her work without doing more to acknowledge the acrimony between them.
“I probably wouldn’t have talked to her regardless, but I would have expected her to reach out knowing that she owed me an apology. And so when those things weren’t there, I was pretty upset.”
After listening to the two episodes that had gone up at that point, and hearing in the stories of workers of color who grappled with insidious racism, class issues, and other inappropriate and inconsiderate treatment at Condé Nast, he decided to go public with his own experiences, sharing a number of recollections on Twitter on February 16. Within hours, other former colleagues and others in the podcasting and radio world came forward to corroborate and amplify his accounts.
Last week I got an email from Sruthi about Reply All’s Test Kitchen series. I had been avoiding listening but once I did I felt gaslit. The truth is RA and specifically PJ and Sruthi contributed to a near identical toxic dynamic at Gimlet. This will be a longer thread, apologies.
— Eric Eddings (@eeddings) February 16, 2021
In part, he told the Times, he was motivated to share what he had experienced on the inside at Gimlet because he felt that the Condé Nast staffers who had trusted Reply All with their emotional, personal stories deserved to know.
“I didn’t feel confident that the sources knew everything that happened before they shared,” he said. “It felt like I had context that people didn’t, and that if I was in their situation—which I was—I would want that context.”
Eddings noted in particular that Pinnamaneni and Vogt were viewed as unsupportive of an effort by their Gimlet coworkers to form a union, an effort that was largely inspired by staffers’ concerns about inequity, pay disparities, and unfair treatment of people of color within the workplace.
Bargaining began Aug '19. The goal? A more equitable workplace. About a yr passed. We got nowhere on the big stuff. Then we sent this petition after a 3rd-party review of Gimlet culture. Silence. Then defensiveness. Over the last month, some recent moves but we're still waiting. pic.twitter.com/SeOE9cyvAv
— Gimlet Union (@GimletUnion) February 23, 2021
In the days after Eddings went public, Pinnamaneni and Vogt issued public apologies for their complicity in what Eddings had termed a “toxic dynamic,” and both stepped away from their roles with Reply All.
“I deeply failed as an ally during the unionization era at Gimlet, ” Vogt wrote in his statement. “At the time, I was a baby and a jerk about it in myriad ways. Reflecting on my behavior, I find it humiliating. I should have reflected on what it meant to not be on the same side of a movement largely led by young producers of color at my company. I did not.”
Due in part to their departures, the final two episodes of The Test Kitchen will now not air. As Goldman clarified on Twitter, contrary to some rumors that had circulated online, the episodes were not yet completed when Vogt and Pinnamaneni left. But, beyond the challenge of attempting to complete the reporting and editing of the unfinished episodes, Goldman and the remaining Reply All team felt it would be inappropriate to move forward.
“We now understand that we should never have published this series as reported and the fact that we did was a systemic editorial failure,” he said in today’s update.
Gimlet Media, now owned by Spotify, was founded in 2014 by former public radio journalist Alex Blumberg, who rose to prominence for his work on This American Life and Planet Money. Reply All itself grew out of an earlier show developed at New York City public radio affiliate WNYC. Within the larger media reckoning with racism and other forms of discrimination, public radio outlets and affiliated organizations–perceived by many on the outside as liberal bastions–have been forced to address problems within their own workplaces.
There’s a lot I can’t say right now and a lot that I’ll probably never say but know this: when a person of color working in audio/radio/podcasting is telling you how they’ve been hurt by the industry, believe them. Always believe them. We are not making this shit up.
— Sam Sanders (@samsanders) February 17, 2021
Los Angeles public radio station KCRW has come under fire this week after former employee Cerise Castle, now a contributor to this publication, appeared on a local podcast and shared her experiences at the station. She described the atmosphere at the station as “marked by microaggressions, gaslighting, and blatant racism.”
KCRW was aware of what I was going through for months. It’s heartbreaking to see them choose to deny my and other’s experiences. Here is my resignation letter from the station, which details more of them. pic.twitter.com/F5A0Nz0Wa7
— Cerise Castle (@cerisecastle) February 23, 2021
“Cerise’s accounts here on Twitter and on [L.A. Podcast] are representative of racism at KCRW and more broadly at most media organizations,” Jarrett Hill, a journalist, incoming president of the L.A. chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, and a fill-in KCRW host tweeted. “Our organization has been engaged with KCRW about their need to be better when it comes to race, from under-employing Black talent to needing better business practices and trainings addressing anti-Blackness.”
KCRW has asserted that some portion of the allegations raised by Castle and other Black employees of KCRW “were found to be unsubstantiated or not corroborated.” Nonetheless, in an email to staff obtained by the Los Angeles Times, station president Jennifer Ferro reportedly acknowledged “unhappy and unwelcoming experiences” for staffers of color. “For that,” Ferro wrote, “on behalf of KCRW, I am incredibly sorry.”
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