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Vice Media’s co-founders told employees the company had “failed” them, in a letter that emerged as the New York Times published a story describing more than a dozen cases of sexual misconduct and legal settlements paid to four women. “We have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive,’’ Vice co-founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi said in the letter, which was dated Saturday. A “boy’s club” culture held over from its early days allowed inappropriate behaviour to permeate throughout the company, they wrote. “It happened on our watch, and ultimately we let far too many people down.” Vice, which has raised money from some of the world’s largest media companies, has fired three staffers, hired a new head of human resources, and revamped its training process for employees, the pair said. It has also named a new chief operating officer and pledged to pay women the same as men by the end of 2018. Smith and Alvi said they will no longer require employees to sign waivers saying they understood that Vice was a “nontraditional workplace” in which they may be exposed to sexually provocative images, video and audio. The Times story portrayed a culture rife with inappropriate behaviour, while not pinning any specific incidents of harassment on Smith, 48, whose cultivation of a bad-boy image included once giving a virtual tour of Vice’s offices without clothes on. Vice has grown from its founding by Smith, Alvi and Gavin McInnes as an alternative magazine in Montreal to the highest ranks in media, earning a valuation of nearly $6 billion, by positioning itself as the Rolling Stone of the 21st Century. Fox, Disney and HBO didn’t immediately respond to to requests for comment. Nor did A+E Networks, with whom Vice operates the Viceland cable channel in the US.
Accusations of sexual harassment have felled several of the most powerful men in media this year, including movie producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, and TV anchors Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose.Media companies have distanced themselves from the accused harassers, often after ignoring past complaints.