Slack is fueling media’s bottom-up revolution

Digiday 15 Jul 2020 04:02
July 15, 2020 by Steven Perlberg

On the evening of June 6, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet entered the chat.

Times employees were in open revolt following the publication of an op-ed by US Senator Tom Cotton arguing for a military crackdown in response to protests in American cities. The “Newsroom Feedback” Slack channel, a venue for more than 2,000 editorial and non-editorial employees to speak out, became a rapid-fire feed of criticism and emoji reactions on how the paper covers race. One employee remarked that many customer care representatives, the people forced to respond to readers cancelling their subscriptions, were themselves people of color. 

“While I don’t run Opinion, I’m the senior leader of the newsroom,” Baquet wrote to the group in a Slack message obtained by Digiday. “I also believe that some of the points being raised in this channel do point to things the news side can do better. So I’m reading. Thank you.”

When media executives have to put out fires, they meet staffers where they live — on Slack, the enterprise software service where employees communicate, plan, gossip, talk shit about bosses and each other — and increasingly, organize themselves to fight for their rights. The irony of Slack is that media business leaders gravitated to it years ago as a tool to make the labor force more efficient and available at all hours. And now, those same workers are using Slack to fight back against their capitalist bosses. It has become the central forum for the media’s bottom-up revolt, in which empowered, often young staffers are demanding accountability from their managers, outing racist and discriminatory practices, and openly organizing unions to rebalance the power dynamic between management and the rank and file. In the coronavirus work-from-home era, Slack has taken on even greater importance as a mechanism for internal change. It is the new water cooler — one of substance to figure out stories in addition to inane banter about the latest Twitter outrage — and media workers are dumping it on their bosses’ heads. 

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Baquetthe TimesBuzzFeed NewsnytimesAlexis Madrigal
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