Entertainment Weekly, which fired its top editor a year ago amid complaints about his racist and sexist comments, is reeling from a new set of staff complaints, this time about a lack of editorial leadership and — as a bombshell email sent to top editors alleged — declining standards that the author claims have “made a joke” of the publication.
Signed by “the elephant in the room,” the internal email sent to top editors in early January and obtained by TheWrap said the “writing at EW has gone downhill.” “Yes, page hits are important,” reads the email sent to editor-in-chief Mary Margaret and at least a half-dozen other staffers at the outlet, which includes a monthly print magazine as well as a website. “But people are eventually going to tune out if articles are poorly written. The out of context clickbait titles, posting out of context quotes… and film reviews that sound like paid-for PR pieces from studios completely make a joke of our magazine and entertainment journalism.”
A representative for Dotdash Meredith, EW’s new owner, declined to comment on the letter but acknowledged it was sent. TheWrap confirmed at least nine top staffers received the email. An insider told TheWrap that it was authored by a current staffer who declined to be identified for fear of retaliation.
Last month, EW special project editor Brittany Kaplan sued the outlet and Dotdash Meredith, accusing them of retaliation after she complained about a hostile work environment. In her suit, Kaplan alleged that Heyman joked about the Holocaust and eating disorders in addition to being racist in the workplace. The suit says the magazine worked to keep accusations against Heyman out of view. Kaplan said she “made various internal complaints” about Heyman’s behavior. While no action against Heyman was taken at the time, Kaplan says she “was sidelined and stripped of virtually all of her responsibilities,” and “was denied a promised title promotion and pay increase.”
Heyman was fired in December 2020 after multiple senior staffers filed complaints with Meredith’s human resources department accusing him of creating a hostile workplace by belittling staffers and making “inappropriate” and “racially insensitive” comments, as TheWrap exclusively reported.
But since his exit, problems have persisted for staffers despite mostly remote work requirements for the last two years. At least two other current EW insiders confirmed concerns over a lack of leadership under Margaret, a former Roku and Facebook video/gaming exec who was named editor-in-chief last March.
One insider told TheWrap that reporters do not trust editors to properly vet their stories and have created their own working groups to edit each other’s work.
In a follow-up email to TheWrap, the anonymous email writer compared employment at EW to “working in an out-of-control classroom.” “There have been at least five instances where one male writer is openly making out with another” in the office during work hours, the staffer said. “There are NO consequences for bad behavior, and there is NO leader to keep everything in order.”
A rep for Dotdash Meredith had no comment about the accusations about the outlet’s management.
The original email also accused one unnamed staffer of accepting “special gifts” for “access” to A-listers and for writing uncritical stories — though the accuser has provided no evidence to back up that claim. The email faulted others for a “junior high level of fanboy journalism.”
The email writer insisted on anonymity, saying that there continues to be a “hostile environment,” without offering specifics that TheWrap could verify. “Entertainment Weekly used to be THE premiere source for entertainment news and reviews. It’s true that the move from print to digital has caused every outlet to change, but some outlets, such as Variety and THR, have adapted without coming across as low-level content farms,” said the missive. “We have to do better in 2022. We can do better! We can start by being open with each other while also using criticism to improve ourselves rather than shooting the messenger. We can work as a team rather than as individuals who feel too competitive to help other staff members. Let’s hope this letter leads to improvements before it’s too late.”
Sharon Waxman contributed to this story.
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