Gizmodo Media Group is trying to manage the fallout that has erupted over the departure of executive managing editor Katie Drummond, who revealed earlier this week that she was leaving to become executive editor of The Outline.
Insiders said there is the perception within the company that women have a hard time advancing to top positions. With Drummond’s departure, that feeling has been reinforced. On Wednesday, Gizmodo’s editorial union issued a strongly worded letter expressing concerns and alleging that Drummond’s exit demonstrated a gender imbalance within management.
“We were extremely alarmed to hear that Katie Drummond will not become executive editor and instead leave Gizmodo Media,” the letter began. “It continues a disturbing pattern of top management’s failure to retain women in positions of authority, and raises serious concerns about the company’s commitment to honor its contractual obligation to editorial independence. Further, it is yet another sign that Univision still has not found a way to manage the successful independent media company it acquired months ago.”
Drummond, who had been the editor in chief of Gizmodo.com, was promoted to the role of executive managing editor of all six Gizmodo websites following Lacey Donohue’s departure for an editorial position at Hulu last fall. The executive editor role became open not long after, when John Cook launched the 10-person Special Projects unit. Drummond, as the executive managing editor, filled the role in an unofficial capacity with, according to sources, the understanding that she would be promoted to executive editor when the position was listed. But despite Cook having written a job description when he stepped down in December, it was never posted.
In April, Drummond, armed with a job offer from The Outline, was finally offered the promotion to executive editor, although the salary offered was low, according to a person familiar with the situation.
This turmoil comes during a week when Gizmodo Media Group chief executive officer Raju Narisetti has been out of the office at a media conference in Argentina, sources said. The all hands-meeting was scheduled on Monday after multiple employees voiced concerns in a Slack room called “Ask Raju” following Drummond’s announcement to staff. It will take place on Friday, when Narisetti returns.
The search for an executive editor has not yet formally begun. The editorial union has requested approval over the hire “in the interests of moving forward from this debacle with a top editor who has the confidence of everyone in the newsroom.” That process is expected to be discussed at the meeting.
Gizmodo Media Group was acquired by Fusion parent company Univision for $135 million last fall after the network of web sites formerly known as Gawker Media Group declared bankruptcy as a result of losing a tumultuous privacy lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan over a 2012 sex tape. Univision shuttered the flagship web site Gawker, and took on what has proved to be a somewhat rocky process of integrating the Gizmodo sites into the rest of the company.
Fusion, which had struggled to brand itself after initially positioning itself as an English-language website for Hispanic Millennials, finally found a niche as a news site for woke Millennials. But that identity has at times seemed to be at odds with the predominantly male management — an issue that was raised in the letter from the editorial union.
“Drummond’s departure comes after she had been doing the top job in the newsroom for months without the title or pay of her male predecessors, despite that job having become more demanding with the Gizmodo sites’ integration with Fusion Media Group. That this situation was allowed to persist for months is shocking and embarrassing, particularly given the efforts of management to cultivate a reputation for being progressive and socially conscious,” it claimed.
Fusion disputed the allegations.
“Katie is a talented editor and we are disappointed to see her go, despite what we thought were compelling new internal opportunities,” a Fusion Media Group spokesperson said in a statement. “We take our commitment to diversity very seriously and believe that is evident in recent and continuing additions to GMG leadership and staff. Over the past few months, we have worked to bring together several distinct digital media properties into one powerful digital publishing entity and made significant new investments across our news teams. We have had some integration issues along the way that we are working through.”