Variety Editor Claudia Eller is placed on leave of absence
Variety Editor in Chief Claudia Eller was placed on administrative leave late Thursday, less than 24 hours after a heated Twitter exchange over the lack of newsroom diversity.
The dust-up came late Wednesday after Variety published an opinion column written by Eller, in which she acknowledged that she and other editors in chief have not done enough to increase diversity in their newsrooms.
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In response to Eller’s column, a former reporter at a rival outlet, Piya Sinha-Roy, criticized the piece on Twitter. Sinha-Roy wrote, in a Twitter message, that she recalled a discussion with Eller and then co-editor Andrew Wallenstein several years ago about “the lack of diversity in your newsroom.” Sinha-Roy then added that voices of people of color “are constantly dismissed. We are not here to make you look better. We are here to work.”
Eller then lashed out at Sinha-Roy on Twitter, calling her “bitter.”
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The tweet upset Variety staff members and prompted much soul-searching at the news organization. Variety is owned by Penske Media Corp., controlled by auto scion Jay Penske, who also owns Rolling Stone magazine, Women’s Wear Daily and the Hollywood trade website Deadline.
Penske called Eller’s tweet “plainly unacceptable.”
“She should have been listening vs. putting up a fight, and allowing for others to be heard and to heal,” Penske said.
Penske’s note to the staff added that Business Editor Cynthia Littleton is stepping in as editor in chief on an interim basis.
Eller declined to comment, other than to say she recognized that she was in the wrong and was “really broken up.” In a memo that she sent to her staff, published in Variety late Thursday, Eller apologized for her remarks and called them “insensitive and ignorant.”
“I am so ashamed, humiliated and regretful for my actions and the pain it has caused both internally and externally,” Eller wrote in the memo, noting that she sent the tweet “in a moment when what I should have been doing was listening.”
Eller joined Variety as its editor in chief in 2013, after two decades at the Los Angeles Times as a business reporter covering the film industry.
She will be on administrative leave for up to two months.
“After a very tough and emotional conversation with Jay this afternoon, I am recognizing that my many years as a journalist did not necessarily prepare me for a leadership role in such a large and thriving newsroom,” Eller wrote. “Looking back, hard work and competition were two of my main tools to get ahead in my career. The success I found in my hard-charging style as a journalist, I now realize, can come across as autocratic when I’m managing others.”
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