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VICE Management Kills Vice.Com, Set to Lay Off Hundreds of Employees

While managers got away with millions, it's unclear if laid off staffers will even get severance.

(Hell Gate)

The leadership at VICE, the mortally-wounded-by-its-own-managerial-incompetence news outlet, announced on Thursday that it would be laying off hundreds of employees and ending publication on its flagship (and sole remaining website) Vice.com.

In a memo sent to staff at 5 p.m., which was obtained by Hell Gate, VICE CEO Bruce Dixon wrote that the layoffs were the "best path forward for Vice as we position the company for long-term creative and financial success." Last May, VICE's news division laid off dozens of staffers and the larger company filed for bankruptcy. It was revealed weeks later that executives at the company took lavish bonuses right before declaring bankruptcy, even as staffers were denied severance. In June, VICE was bought by Fortress Investment Group, a private equity firm, for $350 million.

Dixon also wrote that VICE would no longer publish its own content, and instead would license content (produced by whom, one might ask) to more "established media companies" (ignoring the fact that VICE is itself very much an established media company). 

Rumors began swirling in the morning among staff that layoffs were imminent, and employees at VICE spent all day Thursday trying to figure out if they still had jobs—top managers called department meetings for noon, only to share that they had nothing to report. By the time of those meetings, staffers had lost access to Google Takeout, which would have allowed them to download their old articles, setting off alarm among staff that the site wouldn't just stop publishing, but that it would be deleted entirely, like the Messenger. 

After the layoffs were announced, staffers (whom Hell Gate has granted anonymity to based on the fact that they're still technically employed by VICE) pointed the finger directly at management for the failure of a company that still enjoyed huge web traffic, produced award-winning journalism, and had wildly popular social media accounts. 

"Totally think it was flop-sweaty managers fucking things up. Obviously I'd say that, but I sincerely think that was it," said a senior newsroom employee. "The journalism has been exceedingly sound; the durable upper management has just been the most embarrassing collection of doofuses on Zoom calls showing off their scarves or whatever."

There were some warning signs in the past few months, they said: the company switched to using a free trial version of Slack for the newsroom, and there was a rushed pivot to encouraging writers to work on blog posts to get as much traffic as possible. Since the bankruptcy, staffers said, there was never any concrete plan for how to get the newsroom on solid footing. 

"The big business strategy here has been to simply not pay their bills," said the senior newsroom staffer. 

VICE did not return a request for comment. Staffers have not been officially laid off yet, but the employees we spoke with have already been shut out of the website's backend publishing platform. 

Over the past few months, several VICE employees had left the company, burnt out from years of turbulence in the media industry. 

"The company raised $1.6 billion in venture funding, according to Crunchbase. It launched a TV channel in 2016 just as cord-cutting and streaming was rattling the industry. It went bankrupt in 2023. And now the website is dead. Management's work speaks for itself," said Aaron Gordon, a former employee and union steward.

Another laid-off staffer struck a morose and defiant tone. 

"We always joked that VICE would end up being 20 overpaid executives in a room saying 'why don’t we just pivot to TikTok' to each other and now it’s happening," they told Hell Gate. "These people managed to pay themselves outrageous bonuses while tanking the company, and I hope they get perpetual diarrhea."

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