Two hosts of the podcast “Reply All” are leaving the show, at least for now, after former coworkers claimed publicly that they led a workplace culture that attempted to undermine an earlier union effort by mostly employees of color.
“Reply All”s PJ Vogt said Wednesday night he was leaving the show and that he “deeply failed as an ally” when workers of Gimlet, the podcasting company that produces “Reply All,” were unionizing. Gimlet has since been acquired by Spotify for a reported $230 million and the union effort was successful with Writers Guild of America East. But the company did not make it easy and Vogt allegedly had his part to play in that.
“At the time, I was a baby and a jerk about it in myriad ways,” Vogt wrote on Twitter Wednesday night. “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.”
Vogt added that he asked to “step away” from the show “to take some time to think and to listen” and then to “try to figure out who I can help in podcasting.”
Another host of the show, Sruthi Pinnamaneni, who allegedly made similar antiunion efforts, also put out a statement Wednesday night, saying her actions were “ill-informed, ignorant and hurtful.” While she did not say that she was also stepping away form the show, she is in fact doing so.
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While Vogt and Pinnamaneni are still employed at Gimlet and expected to return to “Reply All,” there is no timeline in place for that eventuality. Other members of the team are expected to take over hosting duties when the show comes back with new episodes. When that will be is also not clear.
Lydia Polgreen, managing director director of Gimlet, is said to be holding a meeting with the “Reply All” staff this week to address the show’s go-forward plan.
“Reply All,” with its subject being broadly the internet, its culture and the people who make it, is one of Gimlet’s most popular podcasts, downloaded an average of five million times a month since it launched in 2014. Losing one of its founding hosts is likely to have an effect, at least in the short term.
The situation with Vogt unraveled quickly this week, after “Reply All” aired the second in a multipart episode looking into the culture of Condé Nast’s food publication Bon Appétit. A third episode is being shelved. That magazine — which has more recently pivoted to a focus on cooking videos with young cooks, often people of color, growing very popular — had some fallout last year, with employees of color going public with their struggle for equitable pay and promotions.
The episodes were largely praised in media circles, and even became the subject of an online meme or two among industry types who found the former Bon Appétit employees’ experiences all too relatable. But a former Gimlet producer, Eric Eddings, took the wind out of the show with a lengthy Twitter thread explaining his own negative experience at Gimlet and with “Reply All” hosts, specifically.
Eddings wrote that listening to the Bon Appétit episodes he felt “gaslit,” considering the previous actions of Vogt and Pinnamaneni toward him and other Gimlet employees involved in the union drive, saying they created “a nearly identical toxic dynamic.”
“The BA staffers’ stories deserve to be told, but to me it’s damaging to have that reporting and storytelling come from two people who have actively and aggressively worked against multiple efforts to diversify Gimlet’s staff and content,” Eddings wrote.
He noted the power of “Reply All” within Gimlet, as it’s the company’s biggest show, but given the hosts’ close ties to management, they found out about the union effort and were not happy about it. So the “Reply All” hosts allegedly proceeded to use their influence “as a cudgel against our efforts at voluntary recognition,” Eddings said, holding anti-union meetings and sending purportedly “harassing messages” to those on the union’s organizing committee.
Eddings said he attempted to speak with Vogt directly about diversity issues at Gimlet and his own experiences as an employee of color, including an instance when someone in senior leadership told him he seemed “too angry” for the company to work with him on diversity issues. Eddings said Vogt “didn’t comment on the diversity part, but made sure to tell me I had in fact seemed angry.”
Eddings’ thread essentially went viral within media on Twitter. Many other people, some of whom worked at Gimlet and some other people of color who work in media or podcasting, replied and posted either verification of Eddings’ claims or made their own.
Sam Sanders, who hosts the NPR show “It’s Been a Minute,” alluded to Eddings’ thread, too, writing on Twitter: “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. We are not making this s–t up.”
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