'Reply All' podcast paused amid charges of toxic behavior

Thursday, February 25, 2021 | Tali Arbel, AP Technology Writer

FILE- This March 20, 2018, file photo shows the Spotify app on an iPad in Baltimore. Spotify-owned Gimlet's popular “Reply All” podcast is on hold and canceling the remaining two episodes of a series that explored structural racism and a problematic work culture at the Bon Appetit food magazine after former Gimlet colleagues noted similar behavior by the people behind the podcast. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The popular “Reply All” podcast has been put on hiatus and is canceling two remaining episodes of a series that explored allegations of structural racism and a problematic work culture at food magazine Bon Appetit.

The reason? Former employees at Gimlet Media, the podcast’s publisher, charged that two people behind “Reply All” had exhibited behavior similar to what they were investigating at Bon Appetit.

Alex Goldman, one of the hosts of “Reply All,” said in an audio statement Thursday that “we should never have published this series as reported.” He apologized to current and former colleagues, listeners and sources for the series on Bon Appetit, called “The Test Kitchen.”

“Former colleagues of ours at Gimlet publicly described multiple instances of troubling behavior from Sruthi and P.J.," Goldman said, referring to senior reporter Sruthi Pinnamaneni, who narrated “The Test Kitchen,” and co-host P.J. Vogt. Both have left the podcast, he said.

Spotify, which acquired Gimlet in 2019, said Pinnamaneni and Vogt are still at Gimlet. Neither Pinnamaneni nor Vogt responded to messages seeking comment.

The editor of Bon Appetit, Adam Rapoport, resigned last year after an old photo of him and his wife dressed in stereotypical Puerto Rican costumes surfaced on social media. Upset employees, especially those who had been working on racial inequities at the food magazine and its popular YouTube videos, seized the moment to press for changes at the publication.

Those events took place in mid-2020 during a reckoning in media and other industries that emerged following the death of George Floyd and protests against police brutality toward Black people.

The “Reply All” series on Bon Appetit was reported over eight months. Two of four episodes have aired, telling the stories of current and former Black, Latino, Indian-American and Asian-American staffers at the magazine.

After the second episode of “Test Kitchen” came out, Eric Eddings, a former Gimlet employee, tweeted that Vogt and Pinnamaneni had “contributed to a near identical toxic dynamic at Gimlet.”

He said that Pinnamaneni tried to rally others against a 2019 unionization drive, while Vogt sent harassing messages to organizers and denigrated colleagues.

In the second episode of the podcast, Pinnamaneni confessed to regrets about her own past behavior and how she reacted to the union drive.

“To the extent I talked about it, I talked about the way that their fight was stepping on my toes,” she said on the podcast. “It took eight months of reporting on Bon Appetit for me to see how wrong I was about all that, and if I’m honest, I’m still processing the anger that I feel toward myself.”

She and Vogt apologized on social media last week for their behavior during the unionization push at Gimlet.

“Reply All” is one of Gimlet's biggest shows. Spotify started as a music streaming service but in recent years has made a big push into podcasting. It has an exclusive deal with Joe Rogan, one of the most popular podcasters, and announced this week that it had signed up former President Barack Obama and rocker Bruce Springsteen for an eight-episode podcast series.

“These accounts prompted a reckoning on our team about the work culture at 'Reply All' and left us asking whether we could continue airing this story without interrogating ourselves and what has unfolded at Gimlet,” Goldman said Thursday.

Staffers want to tell what happened and the podcast is paused as they try to understand what went wrong, he said. “We want to tell you as best as we can what happened,” he said. “You'll hear more from us soon.”

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