10:22 PM PST 2/17/2021 by Natalie Jarvey
Reply All host P.J. Vogt and producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni are stepping away from the popular Gimlet podcast following allegations that they previously contributed to a toxic workplace environment at the Spotify-owned studio.
The allegations surfaced after Vogt and Pinnamaneni released the second installment in an ambitious four-part Reply All miniseries about food magazine Bon Appétit, which came under fire last summer for fostering an unhealthy workplace where journalists of color were often paid less than their white counterparts.
Eric Eddings, who previously co-hosted Gimlet show The Nod, tweeted on Feb. 16 that "PJ and Sruthi contributed to a near identical toxic dynamic at Gimlet" as the one they were reporting about at Bon Appetit. "The BA staffers' stories deserve to be told, but to me it's damaging to have that reporting and storytelling come from two people who have actively and aggressively worked against multiple efforts to diversify Gimlet's staff & content," he continued in the multi-tweet thread, which detailed ways that members of the Reply All team actively worked against Gimlet's pre-acquisition unionization effort in late 2018.
Pinnamaneni, whom the Gimlet website lists as a senior reporter for Reply All, was the lead reporter and host on the miniseries, dubbed "The Test Kitchen" in reference to the YouTube videos that put many Bon Appétit employees in the spotlight.
She tweeted an apology to her current and former Gimlet colleagues Feb. 17, acknowledging, "My conduct around the diversity and union organization efforts at Gimlet was ill-informed, ignorant, and hurtful."
Vogt shared his own apology on Twitter. "I deeply failed as an ally during the unionization era at Gimlet," he wrote, continuing that he had asked the team for permission to step away from Reply All "to take some time to think and to listen."
In a letter to staff that was shared with The Hollywood Reporter, Gimlet managing director Lydia Polgreen said that "The Test Kitchen" was meant to be Pinnamaneni's last with Reply All before she moved on to other projects within the studio. She also confirmed that Vogt would take a leave of absence from the show.
"I want to begin by acknowledging the complicated and emotional nature of what has unfolded on social media and in conversations over the last 24 hours," Polgreen wrote. "I have had direct discussions with those involved and many others of you who are feeling the impact of this, and I plan to continue these in the days and weeks ahead.
Polgreen, a former editor-in-chief of HuffPost whom Spotify tapped to lead Gimlet in spring 2020, continued, "From the moment I arrived at Gimlet, it was clear that our culture needed work, and that there were big things that needed to change to make this a better, more equitable place. We have spent a lot of time working to make those changes in partnership with many of you. These events are a reminder of how much work remains."
She also wrote that she would discuss plans for the remaining episodes of "The Test Kitchen" with the Reply All team.
Gimlet was acquired by Spotify in February 2019, the first in several podcast purchases as the music streamer looked to diversify its offering. The studio, founded by former public radio journalist Alex Blumberg and consultant Matt Lieber, is known for putting out highly produced audio projects, including scripted series Homecoming and Wall Street Journal daily news podcast The Journal.
In her memo to staff, Polgreen acknowledged the company's current collective bargaining process with the Gimlet Union. "We sit across the table from each other and negotiate. But I know that the people who organized the union are motivated by a desire to make Gimlet better," she wrote. "We may disagree about the specifics of how to achieve that goal, but we are united in wanting to make Gimlet the best place for the most ambitious creators of audio to work. I believe that thanks to hard work on both sides we have made a lot of progress."
Nick Quah, the editor of podcast industry newsletter Hot Pod, was first to report on Vogt and Pinnamaneni's departures from Reply All.