Vice Media to Fire Hundreds of Journalists

A very grim year for the journalism profession will get even worse by next week. That’s when Vice Media, which filed for bankruptcy last year before being unloaded for $350 million to a consortium of its creditors led by Fortress Investment Group, will drastically reduce its 900-person work force, “eliminating several hundred positions,” the company’s chief executive officer Bruce Dixon said in a Thursday evening email to staffers.

The gutting of Vice Media, continued Dixon, will mean that the company will transition to a “studio-first model” and “no longer publish content on” and instead “put more emphasis” on “social channels as we accelerate our discussions with partners to take our content to where it will be viewed most broadly.”

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Dixon did not offer a specific strategy as to how publishing content on crowded social channels would sustain the brand’s journalism. And Dixon’s contention that it “would look to partner with established media companies to distribute” Vice digital content also read like cryptic word salad at a time when so many established media companies have already drastically reduced their own output care of industry-rattling job cuts this year.

Reading between the lines, the new Vice may seemingly cease to be a journalistic entity. Instead, the company will “focus on growing its business-to-business media arm, including its production studio and creative agency,” according to a source familiar with the restructuring who spoke to the Wall Street Journal. That means Vice Media, if it even retains its once-storied moniker, will basically be repositioned as a branded content studio.

There is also a rampant rumor inside Vice that the website and its years’ worth of stories produced by actual journalists will be mothballed or simply erased. Meanwhile, Fortress will continue to try to unload Refinery29, which Vice Media bought in 2019 for $400 million.

Even considering the decline of the once-mighty renegade media company in recent years, Thursday’s revelations come as a shocking final curtain defined by greed and egregious mismanagement.

With a one-time valuation of $5.7 billion and investors including the Murdoch family and Bob Iger, Vice Media began 2023 attempting to find a buyer for an increasingly downsized and mismanaged company. No takers emerged and by May 2023, the company had filed for bankruptcy. But as publicly available bankruptcy filings revealed, the company’s top executives including chief operating officer Cory Haik, president of news and entertainment Jesse Angelo, chief people officer Daisy Auger-Dominguez, and executive vice president Subrata De were paid high six-figure salaries as the company was stiffing freelancers and firing modestly paid journalists. Angelo, a one-time top editor at the New York Post and James Murdoch’s college roommate at Harvard, was paid close to $1 million in 2022 and received a bonus of $135,000 mere months before the bankruptcy filing, according to the documents. De was paid $779,000 during the same period. She is still at Vice Media and Wednesday touted on her LinkedIn page a George Polk Award for the Vice News report on Russia’s brutal Wagner mercenaries.

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