BuzzFeed Staff Eviscerate CEO Jonah Peretti over Handling of Mass Layoffs

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 25: Jonah Peretti, Co-Founder of Buzzfeed (L) and Actress Lena Waithe speak onstage for The Power of Human Connection in Creativity: A Conversation with Lena Waithe, Emmy-Winning Writer and Actress, "Master Of None" and Jonah Peretti, Founder and CEO, BuzzFeed during the Fast Company Innovation …
Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company

BuzzFeed staffers blasted CEO Jonah Peretti as the embattled media organization began laying off dozens of journalists, according to a report.

According to Slack messages leaked to the Daily Beast, furious employees bombarded Peretti with questions amid reports it had let go of 43 people, axing several national security and entertainment reporters.

The company’s chief executive ticked off employees after suggesting it would be “good idea” for employees to bring their pets to work next week, prompting one angry staffer to respond: “What if instead of letting people bring in dogs we paid out peoples’ PTO in all states, not just California?”

“I strongly suggest you receive some outside training on how to conduct this,” another employee told Peretti. “It is dire to watch this occur and it is dire to observe the same mistakes over and over.”

In a Wednesday memo announcing the layoffs, Peretti told employees he hoped the reduction in headcount would keep BuzzFeed from seeking additional outside money from investors. “Unfortunately, revenue growth by itself isn’t enough to be successful in the long run. The restructuring we are undertaking will reduce our costs and improve our operating model so we can thrive and control our own destiny, without ever needing to raise funding again,” he wrote. “These changes will allow us to be the clear winner in the market as the economics of digital media continue to improve.” Despite raising hundreds of millions of dollars and its synergies with Comcast’s NBCUniversal, the media organization has failed to make a profit in the last few years.

“This is the second time in less than six months that such mass layoffs have been leaked and subsequent management of said leaks and their fallout have been inadequate, bordering on cruel,” another employee said in Slack.

“After hearing ‘It was never our intention to manage communications around layoffs this way’ several times through this Slack and other generic messages, I’m kind of curious now – What was the plan to respectfully let go some of the most talented smart hard working journalists producers writers and creatives in the industry?” asked another annoyed staffer.

Other employees wondered how management’s handling of the layoffs could hurt it from attracting top talent in the future. “If the company is to exist after all of this, how does it plan to recruit? Who would take the risk of joining a company that has handled some of the most talented, innovative, and creative people in such a way?” said the unnamed employee.

The layoffs came as another struggling digital media company — the Huffington Post — let go of dozens of staffers as part of its parent company Verizon Media Group’s restructuring plans. Politico’s Michael Calderone reports at least 15 unionized staffers were fired from the left-wing news website, which also included the elimination of its opinion section.


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