Condé Nast joins media companies under scrutiny on race

Condé Nast, the publisher of Vogue magazine, is the latest US media company caught in a storm over racism after management was accused of not acting decisively on claims of pay inequity for people of colour. 

Adam Rapoport, editor of the Condé Nast food magazine Bon Appétit, resigned late on Monday after an old photo surfaced of him dressed in parody as a Puerto Rican for Halloween, triggering employee allegations that the company did not properly pay people of colour. 

His exit follows the departures in recent days of high-ranking editors at the New York Times, Refinery29 and the Philadelphia Inquirer, as staff of the publications took to social media to castigate their employers.

The chief executive of Condé Nast on Tuesday morning looked to assuage employee concerns over pay disparities and discrimination.

In a scheduled quarterly meeting on Zoom, Roger Lynch vowed to develop a “diversity and inclusion report” to be published later this summer, as well as an internal analysis of pay equity to be shared with staff by the end of the year, according to a spokesperson.

Mr Lynch also encouraged employees to go through “internal channels” to voice their concerns, rather than resort to public channels after an outcry that circulated across Twitter and Instagram over the past 24 hours. 

The remarks struck a nerve with some Condé Nast employees, who questioned whether internal channels would effect real change, according to staff privy to the call. One employee argued that in previous instances, “only a public discussion has led to significant, speedy changes”. 

Other employees said the exit of Mr Rapoport was not enough to remedy the issues concerned, with one executive describing Tuesday’s meeting as “incredibly disheartening” and “tone deaf”. 

Condé Nast managers have encouraged employees to voice concerns with their own manager, the HR team, or an “ethics hotline” that allows anonymous reporting of incidents through a third-party company. 

The internal conflict comes as media groups across the US grapple with reporting on protests over systemic racism, while also confronting the inequities in their own industry. The reckoning has sparked public rebuke by staff as well as reporting on their own employers. 

On Sunday a senior New York Times editor resigned after a staff revolt over commentary calling for the military to be deployed against protesters. James Bennet stepped down as editorial page editor after the publication of the opinion article by Senator Tom Cotton. Black reporters said the article put them in danger, with dozens of other staff members tweeting in support.

Also over the weekend, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s top editor, Stan Wischnowski, resigned over an article in the paper that criticised vandalism during the protests, headlined “Buildings Matter, Too”. After publication, The Inquirer said the headline — a play on the name of the Black Lives Matter movement — was offensive and inappropriate in implying there was an equivalence “between the loss of buildings and the lives of black Americans”.

On Monday, the editor and co-founder of Refinery29, the Vice-owned millennial culture website, stepped down after former employees alleged they had been discriminated against.

A Condé Nast spokesperson said the company was “listening” and “taking seriously” the concerns raised by Bon Appétit employees. “We’re prioritising and addressing our teams’ desires to foster a more open and inclusive workplace culture with new leadership and are committed to making sure that happens.”