At most media organizations, there's a "Chinese wall" between editorial and advertising operations—each department operating independently of one another. At Vice Media—marketing shop first, editorial brand second—that's not quite how it works, according to a series of emails published to Twitter by recently departed editor Charles Davis.
On September 12, Vice.com published a piece called "It's Time to Start Boycotting the NFL" by the writer Michael Tracey, an independent contractor. In it, Tracey goes after the NFL for all the same things everyone else has been going after it for—in particular, the league's gross mishandling of the Ray Rice situation—and argues that things have gotten bad enough to justify a fan boycott of the league.
The NFL is not a Vice client, but the company's advertising higher-ups evidently weren't happy with the post. Davis, the former Vice editor who greenlit the piece, posted screencaps of several emails yesterday.
"Hosi" is Hosi Simon, Vice's global general manager, to whom Davis was apparently supposed to give notice before publishing. The second screenshot refers to a September 17 appearance Tracey made on the BBC radio show Newshour to discuss the NFL. Vice instructed Tracey—who, again, is not an employee of the company—to turn the request down, so as not to "potentially [fuck] things up for them," but he went on anyway. Davis has since been fired, and Tracey's status as a contract worker is unclear.
The tone of the emails indicates that hey, this is normal—chances are we wouldn't have killed the story!—but next time, be cool and run it by us, just in case. A spokesman at Vice gave a similarly no-big-deal statement: "As is normal in any editorial process, VICE.com rejects pitches for stories all the time." Never mind that this wasn't a rejected pitch, but the reaction to a story after it was already accepted and posted. According to another tweet from Davis, the process of "running it up the flagpole" for approval isn't as casual as it sounds.
Just want to add to this: In my experience, every single time -- every single time -- I had a story "run up the flagpole" it was killed.
— Charles Davis (@charliearchy) October 2, 2014
A Vice source familiar with the situation told me that Davis' termination wasn't actually about the NFL piece, but about his falling asleep in a meeting. I'm evidently not the first person who has been told that, and on Twitter, Davis is calling it "slander." He hasn't yet responded to a request to comment on this story.
Update: A Vice spokesman reached out because he wanted to make sure Gawker readers knew the following:
- important to the story that he was with us for under 2 months. you dont mention at all?
- also, he was an associate editor not an editor
[Image via AP]