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Former Vice Female Employees Say They Endured Harassment On The Job


Another media company is embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal - this time, it's Vice Media. The company is best known for edgy documentaries. It began as a small counter-culture magazine in Canada covering sex and drugs and music. Now, several women who worked at Vice say that they endured harassment. Groping and retaliation. NPR's Ina Jaffe reports.

INA JAFFE, BYLINE: These revelations shouldn't be a surprise to Vice management. According to The New York Times, the company settled four lawsuits with women claiming harassment or defamation dating back to 2003. One woman says she was fired after she rejected her supervisor's propositions. Another woman sued for defamation after Vice editors changed her article to make it appear as if she'd agreed to have sex with the man she was profiling. Erin Gloria Ryan, a senior editor at The Daily Beast, says the highly-sexualized atmosphere seemed to fit the company's transgressive image.

ERIN GLORIA RYAN: One of the ways that a place like Vice sells itself is that as a reader and a consumer, you're participating in this ongoing party. You're imagining that everybody at the news organization is just hanging out and partying and having a great time.

JAFFE: Plenty of more staid news organizations have also been embroiled in sexual harassment scandals, including Fox News, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and NPR, which ousted its top news manager. But Vice doesn't see itself as part of the mainstream media while it's attracted investors such as Disney and 21st Century Fox. Employees at Vice were still required to sign non-traditional workplace agreements which said that they may be exposed to material that some consider offensive, indecent, violent or disturbing. The agreement also requires the employee to hold Vice harmless from any and all claims based upon Vice's workplace environment. Again, Erin Gloria Ryan.

RYAN: Sometimes people who identify themselves as edgy or progressive, they think that those viewpoints inoculate them from behaving just like old-school sexists.

JAFFE: In a statement, Vice Media blamed its current problems on ignorance, rapid growth and internal dysfunction. The company also pledged reforms, including the elimination of the nontraditional workplace agreement. Ina Jaffe, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ina Jaffe is a veteran NPR correspondent covering the aging of America. Her stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered have focused on older adults' involvement in politics and elections, dating and divorce, work and retirement, fashion and sports, as well as issues affecting long term care and end of life choices. In 2015, she was named one of the nation's top "Influencers in Aging" by PBS publication Next Avenue, which wrote "Jaffe has reinvented reporting on aging."