Vice begins a new round of layoffs as company shifts to video

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Vice Media quietly enacted a new round of layoffs Thursday, as the Brooklyn-based gonzo news company continued to shift its focus toward video content.

A memo from Vice’s chief digital officer Cory Haik that was peppered with corporate-speak heralded the “growth period” of the last two years — and buried news of the layoffs 15 paragraphs down.

“As part of this continued global alignment we’ve unfortunately had to say goodbye to some of our friends and colleagues. We wish them well and thank them for their dedicated service over the years,” Haik wrote in the memo leaked to The Post.

Vice’s union, which is affiliated with the Writers Guild of America East, put the total layoff number at 17. Calling the layoffs a “macabre ritual,” the union said in a statement that it is “dismayed that the company’s only acknowledgment of these layoffs came in the third-to-last paragraph of an 1,100-word email from the company’s Chief Digital Officer announcing managerial promotions, a ‘global alignment,’ and the achievement of arbitrary social media metrics.”

“We have worked in this industry long enough to know that today’s metrics are tomorrow’s punchline, and yesterday’s pivot is today’s clumsy tumble,” the union added. “What makes our work meaningful is the expertise and hard work of the people callously brushed aside today.”

Vice declined to comment.

The layoffs come just weeks after the company, which also owns female-focused site Refinery29 and fashion publication i-D, announced it was focusing on video again.

Cory Haik, Vice’s digital chief, touted the company’s growth while informing staff of the layoffs.
The Washington Post via Getty Im

A source with knowledge clarified that Vice’s video pivot doesn’t mean it is doing away with the written word, noting that digital news reporting is thriving at Vice News. Thursday’s layoffs mainly came from Refinery29, as well as Vice’s lifestyle-centric digital sites like Noisey and Munchies, which cover music and food, respectively. Those sites will have fewer articles and more videos in the future.

While higher-ups at Vice insist that its move to video has been evolving over the past two years, the New York Times reported last month that the decision was more sudden, and that Vice would be “putting a greater emphasis on videos and other forms of visual storytelling.”

Laid-off Vice workers took to social media on Thursday to spill the news.

“In March of 2020 I said, ‘I’ll be laid off before I work in that office again’ and honestly it feels good to be right,” tweeted features editor Katie Dries.

VIce headquarters
Vice Media laid off under 20 staffers as it pivots its focus to video content.
Getty Images

Other layoffs included the heads of various desks, including digital managing editor Meredith Balkus, Life editorial director Casey Johnson and writers Josh Terry and Jelisa Castrodale, who confirmed their departures on Twitter.

Founded as Vice magazine in 1994 by Shane Smith, the company steadily made its push to video and TV. By 2013, Vice had its own weekly news show on HBO. Three years later, it launched a cable channel, Viceland, which slumped in the ratings. By 2019, the HBO show and the cable channel were canceled and Smith was replaced as CEO by A&E boss Nancy Dubuc.

Under Dubuc there have been several rounds of reorganization, including the recent chopping of 155 jobs that primarily hit Vice’s digital teams.

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