Editor’s Note: This article was updated with a response from Buzzfeed.
Last week, Buzzfeed announced that they would be laying off 15% of their staff — over 200 employees — to help the company turn a profit. The process was staggered over a period of several days, causing panic within the company over the fate of the staffer’s job status.
The handling of this sensitive matter and the company’s initial decision to not pay certain employees for the PTO they had earned have been heavily criticized by former and current employees alike.
Although Buzzfeed has recently reversed this decision following the backlash — reassuring all laid off employees in the U.S. that their PTO will be paid out — remaining staff are still unclear on the future of the company and understandably shaken up over having to say goodbye to many coworkers.
Feel free to tweet me other BuzzFeed persons looking for a new job pic.twitter.com/zIS0Cb0jet
— Alexandre Mouriec (@mrcalexandre) January 26, 2019
Following the chain of lay-offs, computer science student Alexandre Mouriec has developed a website called “Hire A Buzzfeeder” to help these former employees find new jobs. Since then, the link has been shared by thousands of Twitter users, including remaining Buzzfeed staff members.
However, those following this news closely are accusing Buzzfeed of laying off mostly POC and LGBTQ employees. Among these minority ethnic and LGBTQ former staff are some well-known figures within Asian American communities like Kane Diep, Niki Ang, Kevin Nguyen, Shila Farahani, Jared Sosa and Ray Pajar, just to name a few. These writers and producers have frequently created content on race, culture, mental health, and issues facing the LGBTQ communities.
Other former Buzzfeed employees include Norberto Briceño, co-founder of Pero Like; Branson LB, LGBT video producer; Selorm Kploanyi, video producer; and Lixia Gao, art director.
Even those who have been spared from these lay offs have noticed the pattern of valued POC and LGBTQ creators who no longer have a job, and went on to criticize the decisions made by the media company.
Whether you support buzzfeed or not–the facts are that hundreds of people who made/worked on content speaking to marginalized and underrepresented groups are being laid off and that is a problem.
— Jazzmyne Robbins (@jazzmynejay) January 28, 2019
This is a trash thing to say, but here it goes.
The worst part of the Buzzfeed layoffs is that they didn’t really fire anyone who truly deserved it.
And trust me. They exist.
— MATT REAL (@Matty_ReRe) January 29, 2019
So many of the women + LGBT folks + POC being let go from BuzzFeed laid their lives, and trauma, and hearts, and humanity bare for this company and are now gone and I just aoidfjgadkfgj
— Lauren Strapagiel 🦇 (@laurenstrapa) January 28, 2019
interesting how the majority of people @BuzzFeed laid off are poc or queer and make content related to the topics of identity, representation, and mental health….. really interesting pic.twitter.com/Hh3YzzRnYN
— linskey (@ryanlinskey) January 27, 2019
@BuzzFeed did you notice how many of your employees you’ve laid off that are lgbt+, gender minorities, and poc? Bc it’s gross, whatever your intentions were
— Alissa Hansford (@adhans22) January 26, 2019
who did buzzfeed keep???? they seem to have fired a lot of people i enjoyed watching content from (LOTS of poc/LGBT people especially) and i’m suspicious
— katherine 🥀 (@finallyworn) January 29, 2019
So, is it just me or does it really feel like BuzzFeed made a reputation on the backs of very talented queer and POC creators/editors/etc and then got rid of them all once that reputation was cemented enough to get away with it?
— Nadika (@Nadika_Public) January 29, 2019
so is @BuzzFeed really gonna pretend like this layoff isn’t targeted at their poc and queer/trans creators??
— kit // tommy (@faultnourczars) January 29, 2019
To make up for this loss of workers, many believe the company is now relying more on fellows, interns and voluntary Buzzfeed community writers. According to the New York magazine, Buzzfeed’s top quizzes were actually made by a 19-year-old college student in Michigan. Her work has brought in millions of views for the company, for free, and in return Buzzfeed paid her in company merchandise such as coffee mugs, water bottles, recipe books and clothes.
In addition, former staff have noticed the company has increased the length of their fellowship roles from three or four months to a yearlong program with no benefits.
BuzzFeed is currently hiring year-long editorial and video fellows. In the past, fellowship programs were 3-4 months & paid hourly wages with no benefits. Applications are due today while layoffs are happening across the company affecting full-time employees in those same depts. pic.twitter.com/dwc19pHGu0
— Krystie Lee Yandoli (@KrystieLYandoli) January 28, 2019
With many talented and beloved Asian American content creators leaving Buzzfeed, regular viewers have shown their concerns regarding the future of the media company and how they will continue producing meaningful content on Asian American identities and culture as they have done in the past. However, these details still remain quite vague and it appears only time will be able to tell which direction Buzzfeed will take in the future.
When reached for comment, Buzzfeed noted that they do not require employees to self-identify their gender identity or sexual orientation. While they can not provide specific statistics at this time, the company will publish their annual public diversity report at the end of February.
In response to the claims being made about them online, BuzzFeed US would also like to note that their staff was made of approximately 34.8% people of color (non-white).
“We estimate that after the layoffs, BuzzFeed US will be 34.2% people of color. Additionally, BuzzFeed US will be one percent more women, 61% now, vs 60% before the layoff.”