Claudia Eller, the editor-in-chief at Variety, said Thursday she is leaving her position temporarily "to take a serious moment of reflection," following complaints made during a company town hall meeting.
Variety held an all-hands company-wide meeting in the wake of criticism Eller received on Twitter from fellow entertainment journalists, including a fraught exchange with former Hollywood Reporter senior editor Piya Sinha-Roy, following an article she wrote about newsroom diversity. Eller convened the town hall to respond to rising staff pressure over the tweets, with Penske Media CEO Jay Penske joining the call.
In a letter to the staff on Thursday night, Eller wrote, "The last few months have been an incredibly stressful and challenging time, for everyone. That said, there is no excuse for the Twitter exchange I had with Piya last night. I completely understand your anger and upset at me; it is not at all misplaced."
Eller was referring to a tweet exchange with Piya Sinha-Roy, a former top editor at The Hollywood Reporter, in which she called the journalist "bitter."
Eller went on to say, "As a result of my discussion with Jay, it's clear to me that I need to take a serious moment of reflection. Effective immediately, I will be taking a leave from my role at Variety."
She concluded by saying, "I sincerely hope that, when the time is right, each of you would consider giving me a chance to rejoin this great organization and someday make you proud. As I said, I have a lot of thinking, working, and changing to do."
An individual close to Penske said Eller would return. Penske declined to comment to TheWrap.
Eller, a former L.A. Times reporter, is known to be a sometimes brutally demanding boss. She joined Variety in 2013 to run the newsroom with a mandate to dominate in the highly competitive world of Hollywood trade reporting. TheWrap is a competitor of Variety.
According to two people at the town hall, Eller broke down in tears and apologized for her comments on Twitter. She then stepped off the group call and Penske opened up the floor inviting staffers to share their opinions. This opened the floodgates to complaints about Eller, including alleged abusive behavior toward editorial staff. One reporter shared that Eller had pushed staff to go into the field during coronavirus, despite their fears over doing so.
An individual with knowledge of the event told TheWrap, "This was not a termination today. She chose to take an administrative leave. We do expect that she'll come back."
The individual added: "It was definitely tough feedback. And yes, Jay wanted to create an environment where people could speak freely. There was constructive feedback that we're going to take immediate action on in terms of our reporting structure."
Eller wrote a column published Wednesday morning titled, "Reflecting Diverse Voices Starts in the Newsroom," which drew criticism from many entertainment journalists, including Sinha-Roy.
"No, @Variety_Claudia, you haven't done enough, and nor have most other EICs," Piya Sinha-Roy tweeted in response. "I remember speaking with you and @awallenstein years ago about the lack of diversity in your newsroom. POC voices are constantly dismissed. We are not here to make you look better. We are here to work."
No, @Variety_Claudia, you haven’t done enough, and nor have most other EICs. I remember speaking with you and @awallenstein years ago about the lack of diversity in your newsroom. POC voices are constantly dismissed. We are not here to make you look better. We are here to work. https://t.co/viXLXxbO9G
— Piya Sinha-Roy (@PiyaSRoy) June 4, 2020
Eller responded to Sinha-Roy, writing, "When someone cops to something why would you try to criticize them? You sound really bitter."
When someone cops to something why would you try to criticize them? You sound really bitter https://t.co/dSsihholK6
— Claudia Eller (@Variety_Claudia) June 4, 2020