A Message From The CEO/CFO

Hey there, Autostraddler,

We wish this message came with better news, but it doesn’t. As we’re sure you’re aware, the economic and media landscape is hell right now. And, for the first time in our history, Autostraddle is making cuts for financial reasons.

While your support, via A+ and donations, has held steady this year — and we’re eternally and forever grateful to you because YOU are the only thing keeping us here at all — our advertising revenue has fallen significantly from last year’s. (Not for lack of trying!) With ad companies pulling back their budgets, I had to make what was one of the hardest decisions of my life and scale back our operations.

This means that we both will not be hiring a new Art Director (instead those duties are being shared among senior team members) and we are terminating the freelance contracts of our Subject Editors on July 31, 2023. These were part-time 20 hours/week independent contractor positions that paid a base rate of $2,000/month for writing and editing 6 posts a month as well as other subject-specific duties, with additional payments for writing and editing work beyond the contracted amount. The subject editors and our team were given notice of this on May 10th, and you might have seen that our Ro, Vanessa and Shelli have begun looking for other work. If you have leads, please do feel free to share those directly with them. Ro has elected to stay on the team as a writer, but Vanessa and Shelli will be moving on entirely and we’re going to miss them a whole hell of a lot.

During the pandemic we dreamed big. We started out with massive, weeks-long fundraisers that tested the limits of our physical and mental energy and hours in the day, especially for Nico. We managed to avoid cuts, thanks to PPP loans and ad checks from 2019. We’d hoped that the landscape starting in 2022 would be gentler on our mental/physical health and we’d be nimbly able to get our ad revenue back up, and I took out a $200k SBA loan in 2022 to avoid making budget cuts. That loan bought us an extra year without cuts — but now we have to scale back or we will shut down. We still might, but I am doing everything I can to find a new path forward.

Prior to now, we were one of the few media companies who haven’t made cuts over the last few years of financial uncertainty in the industry. I really liked that about us. But it’s happening everywhere, at media companies with much deeper pockets than ours.

Thanks to your financial support, both during our most recent fundraiser and those of you who are A+ members, we were able to offer Shelli, Vanessa, and Ro three months advance paid notice and hopefully, through that, a runway to find other work. At their request, we paid out the entirety of the three months ahead of time. We offered them the opportunity to remain on the team as writers, and to be able to offer them 25% of their original stipend ($500) for 25% of their work starting July 31st. It wasn’t an irresistible offer, and it doesn’t reflect the immense value of these editors.

These are three incredible people who have put so much of their time and heart and energy into Autostraddle.

Vanessa has been here for longer than anyone besides me and Laneia. Her heart is stitched into our walls. She’s unrivaled in her ability to foster and build community, to scream in support for your hot date and your amazing essay. Her writing is accessible and intimate, she has convinced you to take butt selfies, sleep with your friends, and really truly understand that you are hot. She taught you to be a slut and also to date and also to get married. She has given so much to Autostraddle and we are so grateful for her humor and heart — which have become intertwined with our own.

As our Sex and Dating Editor, Ro has championed bringing voices into sex that are often left out, making a space for everyone in the queer and trans community to muff and masturbate and finger with chronic pain in their hands. Ro has covered so much important and highly specific territory in their own writing and the voices thy’ve brought to the site, applying their wealth of experience to accessible content about sex, from the epic Gay B C’s of sex to pubic hairstyles. They’ve also done fantastic progressive political work, humor pieces, and a very inspirational butt week playlist.

From the jump it was clear Shelli was special — she was organizing live pandemic programming and eventually hustling to get into film festivals and pulling off incredible interviews. Her “Come Vibe With Me” column is one of my favorite things we’ve ever published. Strap Week was legendary. Her writing is so alive, so funny, and so unique. Every time she has 25-35 thoughts on a movie or television show, I need to know every single one of them.

We are also so incredibly devastated about losing a powerful Black voice right now. If we could afford to keep Shelli’s role as a Culture Editor or any of the Subject Editor roles, we would. Shelli is a treasure. She’s a star. Nobody with the money in the bank to keep her in that role would ever not do so. Especially us, especially with the goals we have, and all the work Shelli has done personally to move us forward with them.

We do want to be clear with our Black readers and supporters that the closing of the Subject Editor role is not a reverse course on our commitments to centering Black and other QTPOC voices and perspectives at the core of Autostraddle. The goals we put into place in 2019 remain, and the editors will adapt creatively as we switch more responsibilities onto the Senior Team. We have an amazing group of writers of color on our team and we’ll all be pitching in to recruit and foster and center Black voices and experiences on our website. Nothing, however, can replace Shelli’s specific voice.

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During our last fundraiser, we asked you, our readers and funders, to buy us some time to figure out a way forward. In the past we made other promises — new hires, improvements — and in the past, we promised we would avoid cuts. We didn’t make that promise during this year’s fundraiser because by the time we got there, I already knew cuts were possibly on the horizon. The first was realizing we couldn’t afford to hire another full-time Art Director after Viv Lee, our previous AD, moved to Berlin. Those duties have been redistributed to all of us on the senior staff, with Viv staying on to manage our instagram as an independent contractor.

The fundraiser gave us a little extra money to ease the pain of any potential cuts if they came, although at that time we were still hoping to avoid them altogether. It was really important to us that we would be able to offer anybody losing a position — including independent contractors — three months notice. Again, because of the fundraiser, which we know so many of you supported, we were able to offer three months of paid notice.

We remain committed to keeping Autostraddle around, for y’all, for emerging queer and trans writers, for our readers and community — and I’m really sorry that for all our idealism, and all the many things we’ve tried, and the work and the tears we’ve all put in to avoid this — that it’s come to making cuts and scaling back financially. This is a hurtful decision. We are losing two of our best and most important team members, I know we’re cutting the positions of Subject Editors who have been hustling for us for years, who have been amazing ambassadors for Autostraddle, building community and pitching in on ad campaigns and hosting events and writing and editing incredible work.

I feel that you all might have questions about the recently successful fundraiser, and I’m here to answer them. That fundraiser was successful, and it successfully filled up the “fundraiser” piece in our budget. But that’s only one piece of the pie — the pie also contains advertising, merchandise, affiliate revenue and A+ memberships. We got extra slices in 2020 and 2021 in the form of PPP loans we didn’t have to pay back. We didn’t have that in 2022, so I took out an $200k SBA loan. In order to maintain our 2022 budget in 2023, we needed advertising to fill the hole of the loan, and we also need to start paying back that loan.

When we asked you this year to save us from shutting down, you turned up big-time. A lot of you were also asking me why we keep running ourselves this close to the edge and why I as a CEO and CFO allow this. It was clear, to you, that our budget was too high for what we could reasonably earn at our size, if we so frequently found ourselves on the verge of closure. And you were right. We have no runway. We need to start building reliable, recurring revenue streams. Fundraising is a band-aid but now we need to fortify the ship.

So, I’ve opted to make Autostraddle smaller. Between pay cuts taken by senior team members, ending the subject editor contracts, cutting operational costs and not rehiring an Art Director, we’re shaving off over $200,000 in annual costs.

We’re drawing in our defenses and doing our best to fortify what we have left. We are doing this with grief in the hope that it will allow us to weather the rest of the year, and years to come, in hopes we can build back what’s been lost. I am trying to figure out a sustainable path for our future and I hope that you’ll stick with us, and that if you have leads for Shelli, Vanessa or Ro, that you’ll share those directly with them. A+ members can see what our annual revenue streams looked like last year or in previous years via our annual report.

Some have asked us why we couldn’t simply fundraise for more. Nico brings years of experience to it but we unfortunately can’t fundraise for more or for longer with a department of one that also relies on an already maxed-out senior team for fundraising efforts. In 2021, Nico worked excessive hours to keep this place open and everyone paid through a pandemic. Any revenue stream that entails that many hours or leads to someone working to the point of physical unwellness is not okay with me. Nico loves this place so much that they were more than willing to do two fundraisers in 2022, but I made the decision to take out an SBA loan instead. We can’t do frequent fundraisers if fundraisers require that many hours of work, especially Nico’s and Carmen’s. The past two have been shorter, in part because they’ve been less frequent with smaller initial goals, to save the health of Nico and the team. I set a time limit of two weeks for our most recent fundraiser, regardless of what we’d raised in that time. We’ve learned a lot from every fundraiser about what we’re capable of raising and how long it takes to raise it.

In 2022 and 2023, we just did one fundraiser, but each of those entailed long hours from Nico and seven-day work weeks for many of us leading up, again, for months. Fundraiser time is peak insanity  — in terms of non-Nico senior staff commitment, in the leadup it’s extra work from me and the Art Director and during the fundraiser it’s senior editors and social. It’s like another job on top of the multiple jobs we each already have. It’s all hands on deck and it’s really unhealthy for all of us. There’s just no way for Nico and the team to put in more effort than we already do. My workload is insurmountable on the best day. Frequent fundraisers present major challenges for us to meet our editorial and our traffic goals and work on other recurring sources of revenue.

While this may not be the most professional way to say this, especially coming from a CEO’s letter, I have no other way to put it: This all really sucks, and I’m really sorry. I will miss Vanessa and Shelli so much. I’m glad we’ll still have Ro in the capacity that we can afford to pay for. All of us have taken on more work and responsibility, with no pay increases.

The elimination of these positions does not mean that the work of these great editors in service to our community won’t be done. We are going to continue to publish about queer sex, and culture and community, we will continue to offer queer advice, and we will continue to center QTPOC voices and perspectives through it all. We are all beyond exhausted, and we still plan to continue to serve you. The path ahead is difficult, but I had to make a choice between making cuts now or Autostraddle having no future, and I chose to keep hoping, and working and trying for that future.

I invite you to bring any questions you have into the comments of this post. I understand if you’re mad, frustrated or devastated by this news.

This is our first time making cuts like this. We made mistakes in the way this messaging was communicated — to the Subject Editors, to our people on slack and externally — and have gotten a lot of open-hearted feedback about the ways in which that communication was not what they’d come to expect from us. For example, our message to the whole team on Slack also lacked the level of transparency our team needed from us at this time, and we are working to rectify that.

Also, I gave the go-ahead to Subject Editors to start posting on social media about looking for work without consulting with Nico, who would’ve advised that we communicate this with our members and readers before you saw it on social media. So you ended up hearing the news from social media instead. That is my fault and I’m sorry.

Thank you for allowing us to work to provide you with the transparency you deserve.

Thank you for being here, even in these difficult times,
Riese

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3183 articles for us.

482 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry to hear this. Media everywhere is taking a big hit right now, and these are the hardest decisions to make. Thank you for being so candid about the decision process. Are you currently taking a break from accepting pitches?

  2. Dang I’ve been reading Vanessa’s high quality of work here for close to a decade. All these quality voices will be sorely missed here & look forward to seeing what is next for them! I hope things improve for Autostradle.

  3. Hey Riese, thanks for laying all this out and thank you for inviting questions (and acknowledging that many of us are hurt/angry/upset, et al). Can you say more about this part: “I am considering several paths for our future that will enable us to succeed”

    • Hi Linnea!

      Thank you for your support and your question, Sorry this post has been through many drafts and that was an earlier one and I think the sentiment was better expressed elsewhere in the post.

      But! The short answer is that I don’t know entirely, the probs unsatisfactory answe is that I can’t get into a ton of detail there bc it’s basically like a series of potential options to survive going forward that I have to fully map out, figure out if they’re viable or truly possible, and discuss with my team first before I could discuss them here.

  4. Shelli Nicole, you have changed my life w your work here so much for the better. Strap Week was a crowning example of how you make space for each person to be THEIR personal fantastic self & we hold each other up best celebrating each other (NOT trying to get everyone to agree with us/be like us/or be like other ppl!). but you do that every comment & every article, not just that series. Vanessa, you have made me feel confident there are queers communitying all around the globe & we’ll keep finding each other. gonna miss the hell out of you two.

      • i have been very much in the ‘this shit is hard, readers let’s stop micromanaging AS staff’ boat. and i keep coming back here bc i am grieving what autostraddle, my internet home, has grown into.

        i’m gonna venture to say that actual transparency (e.g. that these positions were at stake in the fundraiser, sharing salaries w subject editors when asked, engaging in how to improve things w them) could have led to a different outcome here. if there had been a fundraiser bucket ‘we need 100 ppl to commit an extra $20/mo to keep Shelli Nicole on as subject editor’ or 300 people to do that to keep all three of these positions, i would have 100% been one of those people. i can & am subscribing to substack, but it’s not the same w/out AS’s infrastructure – it’s not supporting Shelli Nicole’s leadership where she’s lifting up many writers (and visual artists! and content creators outside AS!) at once, and creating a whole experience for readers.

        being a founder, overworked, and holding privileges your staff don’t (especially whiteness) almost always leads to tunnel vision & bad decisions & missed opportunities no matter how much effort a person puts in. from what i can tell, Shelli Nicole was not only supporting a huge contingent of writers making Autostraddle what it is, she was building potential ad revenue streams in terms of connecting w media producers. this decision is a huge, huge, huge, huge loss. yall have come back from the edge before, and i dearly hope that yall consider changing who is holding CEO/CFO power & responsibility and who is making financial & hiring/firing/contract decisions in the future.

  5. ok also i’m a plus one to prioritizing Shelli Nicole & Vanessa getting the heck going on finding their next gigs over members’ knowledge is really an ok move to me? AS people/outgoing AS ppl/former AS ppl getting paid is more important to me than like, me being up to date or whatever.

    • That was the thinking (that it’s important the subeds be able to speak for themselves and promote themselves), but the response on social media has not reflected that reasoning and has gotten tough. Like, absolutely, Shelli, Vanessa and Ro need to get the word out. Unfortunately, the AS staff’s abilities in terms of getting a message up on the site seriously lagged on this. I’m currently turning this into an email blast so when I have that done, I hope that everyone will be duly notified and that also maybe some folks will have some good leads for these three awesome editors!

    • Agreed, many sites I read have let go writers, and none with this level of transparency / prioritizing the writers’ financial stability / amount of severance. That’s more important to me than me as a member knowing every in and out to what’s going on behind the scenes

      • There is no severance, just the Subject Editors being paid for their last 3 months of work in advance as they specifically requested because of concerns about AS’ financial stability. The Subject Editors were told their jobs were not in jeopardy 3 weeks before being informed via Slack DM that their roles were being eliminated.

    • Apparently that part of the statement is a lie—the fired Subject Editors begged remaining staff to put together a statement before they announced their positions being eliminated in order to avoid backlash & maintain the readership’s trust and AS refused to & only put a statement out when they got considerable backlash.

  6. Thank you for all this information. I really value the transparency that Autostraddle continues to bring to its financial decisions. This is why it was so concerning to see the editors’ posts on social media without a corresponding post on the site explaining the decision. It made for an anxious 24 hours, but I was pretty confident we’d hear something from you eventually. So thank you for also acknowledging this mistake.

    I’m really sorry to see Shelli and Vanessa go. I’ve really loved all of Vanessa’s Jewish content, and I’ve been following along closely with her wedding series since I’m also currently planning a wedding. And I love all of Shelli’s tv writing and opinions, I always seek out her reviews and recaps. Both of them will be missed a lot.

  7. Best of luck to you all Shelli, Vanessa and Ro. I hope this will lead to exciting things for your careers. Thank you for all of your writing and the wonderful changes you’ve brought to AS.

  8. I’m sad that these amazing staff members had to be let go. They are really great at what they do.

    It makes me feel really uneasy knowing that one of your staff members became unwell overworking 100 hours a week. “The senior staff is taking on more work and responsibility than ever before, with no pay increases.” How are you looking out for your current team’s wellbeing so that this doesn’t happen again?

    • yes it makes me uneasy too!

      well the first thing is that i scaled back our fundraisers to once a year and set a limit of two weeks on those fundraisers, because that is absolutely not an okay amount of hours for anybody to be working — i know this because i was working 100 hour weeks for years when autostraddle began and continue to work 60-80 hour weeks now. we hired outside help to mail perks for future fundraisers, and all of us have pitched in as much as possible, but that does mean that just means more of us working more hours. we put in vacation policies to ensure nico had time off after fundraisers before anybody else did. we spread that work around as much as we could and did a lot of restructuring.

      we have been making big strides in work/life balance over the past few years. the past few months have not been great in that regard.

      but ultimately what we learned there was that fundraising twice a year is not sustainable for us and we needed to scale back and start looking at how to improve sustainable revenue streams that require less hours. advertising is something that me and anya are working on together so the work is less spread around the entire team, so that’s something that we are focused on as more sustainable.

      • Gonna be clear here that we could only afford help with packing fundraiser perks. I am still personally labeling and mailing all of them and I pack and mail all A+ perks.

  9. I’m really saddened by this news and especially how it was shared. When I was young in this space I very much loved everything here without critique. But growing up has shown me a lot of nuances about this space and community and there’s been mistakes and taking responsibility along the way. The transparency and trust with readers was huge for maintaining a connection here.
    I also deeply care about the quality of life/work balance for the writers and editors who create the space. “Between pay cuts taken by senior team members” and “The senior staff is taking on more work and responsibility than ever before, with no pay increases.” Doesn’t sound like a sustainable or fair plan to me at all. That sounds extremely unhealthy and worrisome for those who are left in the position to take on all that work. I know there aren’t many options, but continuing to burnout a few people sounds more destructive to me and less like a plan for continuing into the future.
    Feeling a lot of grief and concern for the writers and editors.

    • Same! Reading this statement made me concerned about the mental and physical health of the remaining writers, editors, and other senior staff who will be asked to take on more (in addition to my concern for Shelli, Ro, and Vanessa). This post doesn’t indicate that AS has a sustainable plan to move forward while taking care of its people – heartbreaking, considering it is the writers and editors whose voices and curatorial vision make AS what it is!

      • hi shannon! i’m right with you, also am concerned about our mental and physical health, we are all really stretched to the limit right now, which absolutely contributed to me screwing up this messaging.

        just to be clear, the writers are not taking on extra work  — it’s just full-time people who are taking on extra work. this will require some adjustments all around, but i don’t see this as a permanent adjustment. we will be taking a good look at where our hours are going and what can be done to change this for all of us.

    • hi, yes, i feel the same way! i am a person who took a pay cut and i am a person who is working increased hours. we love this place, we love all of you, and we are trying to put in the work to usher it back into health.

      to be honest we did include that piece because we know that media companies often make cuts to improve the bottom line for their higher-ups, and we wanted you to know that that’s not what’s happening here.

      • Another piece of concern I forgot in my comment above, is that a lot of the social media response and questions I saw yesterday were from former/some current(?) writers and contributors speaking to the lack of transparency, issues among senior staff and writers etc being a pattern. I’m concerned that a lot of the people who made this site what it is feel unsurprised by this situation and that it isn’t out of place from what they experienced while working here. I know the issue of being underpaid for their work has been something that all the writers and editors have experienced and talked about before, due the financial challenges of being an independent reader funded site. While waiting for this statement, i was hoping it would address the pattern of writers/editors being underpaid, overworked, burning out, then leaving. But as I mentioned in my comment above the current solution seems to be increasing these circumstances.
        I know everyone who works here does it out of love, but is that enough?
        I love this space and don’t want to see it end exactly but I also don’t want to see more people hurt.

    • The alternative is the site goes under. Without the long hours, there’s less content, less site maintenance, less promotion. Without all that, there’s less traffic and less revenue. That means the site goes under. Literally the only alternative would be to have volunteers who do work for free, but not only do you need someone to manage that process, but it’s not fair to ask of anyone.

      • Yes I do realize the alternative is the site not continuing. I’ve been apart of this community since 2010ish when I was in high school it’s a huge part of my queer growing up.
        But at this point I would rather see them use the fundraising money to lovingly end this space and maintain the archive then continue harmful labor practices and hurting the people who are creating the content.

        • I find this a little confusing because while I agree that nobody should be working 100-hour weeks, and surely the Autostraddle staff should be paid more, it’s not like they’re being forced to do this. They could quit if they wanted to. The fact that Autostraddle still has employees suggests that for some people, working here is worth it. So when you suggest shutting down the site, what you’re actually advocating for is taking jobs away from a bunch of people who still want them (while also taking away all the wonderful things that Autostraddle provides to the larger community).

          • I have greatly benefited from this site and the work of all the senior editors, it would be hard to see them also lose their jobs and lose the site. It would be a loss, just as this decision is. But after seeing many past writers sharing how they felt exploited while working here in light of all this, I don’t really see the current plan from this decision creating better conditions, it actively creates worse conditions for them. I feel like increasingly exploiting and burning out those who remain is not the conditions of a community that I want to be a part of. I would rather see those people being supported by what funds remain to transition from this site and it be closed/maintained with integrity.
            There isn’t really any great choice, I know it must be hard to make these decisions. I would love to hear more about how this new plan could work without causing more of these overworking issues, but so far I’ve just seen yes it isn’t sustainable, it isn’t good, it can’t last. So I’m confused what the plan really is and how long the senior editors could possibly last like this

          • Yikes: “it’s not like they’re being forced to do this. They could quit if they wanted to” — this comes off a bit like “Hey, don’t close down the sweatshop; kids need jobs!”

            Autostraddle employees probably don’t have a lot of alternatives. It’s not like there are a ton of really well-paying queer news outlets they could go to.

    • Let it never be said that you aren’t fighting tooth and nail to provide good, fun, exciting queer media. I started reading things on this site all the way back at the beginning, and I’m so, so bummed that you’re all doing all this and it’s still at this point.

      Thank you for your honesty and transparency. Best of luck for Shelli, Vanessa, and Ro, and to the remaining AS team. <3

  10. ngl i am low-key shocked, ro & shelli have been faves of mine for so long & i’ve been loving vanessa’s content too! really wish a magic wand could be waved to undo this…

    • Thanks for the love, Murray! I hope you’ll continue following our work elsewhere, and the plan is that I’ll still be here after July 31st writing the “More, Please!” newsletter and editing our Anonymous Sex Toy Review series.

  11. Copying my comments on twitter so they may be seen here as well:

    i really appreciate the transparency here, but it’s still deeply disappointing, as at the end of the day you’ve decided to specifically eliminate a Black editor, a trans editor, and a fat editor. Autostraddle becomes a little more white, a little more cis, a little more thin.

    i hear that cuts needed to be made, but look at the specific choices you made here. How many cis thin white dykes remain on staff?

    you can act like you had no choice, but… at the end of the day, we always have a choice.

    I say this all as someone who has been reading since 2010 when I was still in high school, and as someone who has supported financially. This criticism comes from a place of genuine love for this site and it’s editors, and who wants it to be as good as it can be.

    • I really echo this concern – I understand the need for cuts, and that they’re effectively eliminating a tier of staffers in the subject editors, but I wonder if there was any way of making these cuts without losing these valued and marginalised voices. I’m glad that you say you’ll do the work of trying to uphold those voices but I worry that, that will be harder with autostraddle as they say, more white, more cis and more thing. Full of sympathy for all the staff and all the difficult decisions, but especially for Vanessa, Ro and Shelli.

    • wondering what else you think they could have cut? there’s only 2 other editors (besides Dr. Phillips) who likely drive a significant portion of the traffic, which can’t decrease if the site is to move forward. think they also each speak to aspects of community diversity. The other staff roles are business operations that make content possible.

      on top of which, they’re taking pay cuts and along with work expansion.

      none of the above is to dismiss the concerns, because i think we all have them. i just don’t see how blame is well placed here.

      • yes, thank you, everything msanon said is true — cutting another full-time person would require more hours from the remaining staff than we currently have on hand. completely slashing the freelance budget would mean cutting our diversity of voices significantly and would put more weight on the senior staff that remains (carmen, kayla, heather and me do already write most of the site content, but i don’t think any of us have room in our schedule to write more than we do already).

        so basically we just had a basket of bad choices.

    • Until BIPOC have a seat at the table I will not be donating, investing, or signing up for an A + membership. I still support Autostraddle and am hoping these issues will be addressed.

  12. I’m so very sad about this. Ro, I will miss your work particularly because you brought butch content to the site, wrote about gender stuff, historical themes and chronic pain. I absolutely love your articles and always keep an eye out for them. You are amazing <3
    Ro, Shelli Nicole and Vanessa, I wish you the best of luck for finding new positions and a work environment that you are fond of and good working conditions.
    Thank you Riese for the transparency.

  13. I’m so sorry to see Vanessa and Shelli go, and will miss the very specific but capacious perspectives you each brought to the site. Ro, I’m glad you’ll still be writing here, but sorry for what this means in terms of more limited stability and presence. One thing I’ve so enjoyed over the last couple of years since I found AS at the start of the pandemic was the wide range of voices, interests, experiences, and fascinations that the writing team represents, particularly these core subject editors and staff writers whose imprint we see all over. Thank you all.

    I appreciate the transparency, which is so significantly more intentional and clear than basically any other media company (not to mention nonprofit or institution) I’ve ever worked at, much less been a reader of. Thank you, Riese, Nico, and the rest of the senior staff.

    I do want to echo what others have expressed: I know you were aiming to express how few options were available to you and how you didn’t want to have to shrink the team, but as articulated here, the current model does not sound sustainable – nor desirable for any of you. I realize choices may feel profoundly limited by current economic realities, but I don’t feel comfortable as a reader and member with the prospect that everyone will be working more, responsible for more, taking pay cuts, and in every way except perhaps community stretched beyond what should be demanded of a job, even if it’s something one loves and feels lucky to be doing. I care about you all.

    • you’re right, the current model is not sustainable, i agree! i think we are all stretched really thin, and i am really trying to figure out a different way forward, i don’t think the current situation for me or for anybody is sustainable

      and thank you as always for your ongoing support

      • thanks for the generous spirit of reply; I realized afterward that my comment might inadvertently sound critical, when really I was trying to express how terrible hard it all sounds, and that I hope there is a way forward in which keeping this amazing archive/community/repository of knowledge/media criticism/reference library/and on and on afloat doesn’t demand so much of the whole team.

        But I have often been in a position at nonprofits/arts sector where we’ve basically been told “don’t work so much! take care of yourselves better! we’re not curing cancer here, it’s just art, so don’t be so stressed out” but then nothing structurally changes/is able to change because of systemic or economic factors, so I am aware how maddening that rhetoric can be, and please know that I wasn’t saying that!!

    • ~$25/hr for an editor role? does not sound high – that is highly skilled/demanding work.

      and, i’ve noted previously that AS has been criticized for pay rates being low…

      so perhaps as a community we could recognize that we present a moving target which AS admirably aims to serve for nonetheless.

    • Also, independent contractors tend to pay more income taxes because they are covering taxes for both the employer and the employee. And, independent contractors tend to have to cover their own costs for expenses (like a computer, for example) and for health insurance. So it’s not quite the same as being an employee at that rate.

      • I appreciate how it might sound to someone unfamiliar with standard compensation for these roles, but it helps to check out that info, & the expenses of independent contractors, to get a clearer picture.

        Many of us are used to being exploited at work- the intersection between marginalized folks and AS readers… there’s overlap. Digging into the standard rate for certain roles is just one piece of the puzzle. Looking around and applying somewhere with humane working conditions is another.

        I’ve read AS off and on since the beginning, and I’ve found it problematic at times. So, I read what resonates, and comment where I can, but know that I speak from the periphery. With so many sites that were live 10+ years ago shuttered, I understand the significance of this site for the queer+ community. I think you can appreciate something and still offer a thoughtful critique.

        I think it speaks to the impact of the site that so many people want to stop by and say “We don’t want you working yourselves to the point of illness.” …But again, commenters are just that- we don’t work there. Ultimately, it is not our choice to make, and our words are just that- expressions of caring for the people behind the work.

  14. Hello. I need to address the hours I worked. It’s not just about me, my colleagues also work desperately long hours, but I’ll let them speak for themselves.

    Look. I knew and know it was unhealthy and is. No one made me do it and no one is making me do it, but I did it because, during the height of the pandemic, there were no good choices. I did my job so that other people could do (and keep) theirs. I’m fine with my decision, and I am grateful that I was able to bring work to this place in a way that kept it here and open during terrible, difficult years. I have always had the option to work elsewhere, and I have not, because, well, this. This place. These people. Y’all. I care about this space and the people here and what we’re trying to do.

    It hurts me (and everyone here) deeply that Riese had to terminate these contacts, that all of us and especially my editorial colleagues are taking on more work, that things are this tough. And yet do you see us quitting? No. We believe in this place.

    It also really fucking hurts when I hear people say that we should have just fundraised for more. And I’ve been hearing that for weeks. I don’t think we can. I’m sorry. Riese outlined so many reasons above. This money was never supposed to come from fundraising. It was supposed to come from other places and previously it always came from loans. Fundraising is part of our business model, but it’s also just one piece of the pie. We would have to do DOUBLE our fundraising to not make these cuts. We’re shrinking for now so that hopefully we can make it longterm. Maybe we won’t. At least I can say I tried, and honestly, that’s all I have at this point. I am so sorry that I cannot offer you more.

    • Thank you for your hard work, Nico. You have offered enough and as much as you can and no one should be expecting you to offer more, or that you could possibly double that capacity. You kept AS going this year and that’s enough.

    • I have often been an overworked person, usually by choice. I want you to know you are not alone in having exceeded your limits to get through the pandemic and protect the livelihood of yourself and others. I hope you are recovering okay. Thank you for your labor and sacrifices.

      And I hope you know that you are enough, that you are worthy, that you are valuable even when you don’t work a million hours. Even if you don’t work at all.

    • Thanks for your hard work, Nico, and the whole team. I don’t even know what fundraising “more” looks like…it’s up to us (or at least those of us for whom it is a financially stable decision) to donate more. I know I could have donated more and plan to do so. We all need to work together to keep AS going!

    • to be honest, whether or not you “decided” to work 100 hour work weeks, the fact that autostraddle leadership allowed it to happen shows an ALARMING disregard for the wellbeing of their employees and completely inept management abilities. just because autostraddle provides a service to a community doesn’t justify disgusting labor practices, and nothing that i’ve read in the answers provided in this comment section indicates that adequate changes have been made in the treatment of full-time staff. has anyone considered the fact that it might be time for a complete overhaul of autostraddle leadership?

      • We are and have been considering everything every which way. I wish, sometimes, that everyone could know all of our thoughts, our conversations our meetings, instantly. Like, I’ve been at my desk for 12 hours today and I am not nearly done. No one will ever really, truly know what that entails. But it’s just not possible. The answer is yes. I am a thoughtful person. We all are. We are trying. We have absolutely reckoned and will continue reckoning with how bad this is.

        I also have to ask, genuinely and with all due respect, the senior team is 7 people. At what point, what leadership is being discussed? I am leadership. We all are.

        • Just because many people do work 100 hours weeks and to the extent that they become physically/mentally unwell, sacrificing their health in service of their employer, does not mean that it is a sustainable business model or in any way ethical. If it was any other employer allowing this in their workplace, you would be asking serious serious questions. You should be here, too.

      • Have you considered how much it would cost to do a complete overhaul of AS leadership? Who do you propose would lead that process of firing and replacing the entire leadership of the company? Have you considered that any external person brought in would be dealing with the exact same circumstances, but without the bone-deep commitment to keeping AS what it is that all the current senior staff have, and would likely make choices that the community would hate even more? How do you propose to attract new leadership without a hefty salary that, it goes without saying, there is no room in the budget for?

        I understand being worried and frustrated and wanting things to be different, but calling for the firing and replacement of the entire leadership team is not only hurtful and unhelpful, it’s not even a viable business option.

          • No one is claiming that it is.

            If your intention is to express your feelings about this objectively terrible situation, then do that. (“I” statements help.) If your intention is to make serious suggestions about ways to move forward, it would help if they were realistic.

      • The alternative is the site goes under. There are literally no other options. You need the content & maintenance to keep up traffic which brings revenue. Without that, the site goes under. If Nico hadn’t worked the hours they did, everyone would be out a job and you would be without a site to read. Is that what you want?

      • firstly like nico said, we are all leadership.

        secondly, i am not sure if i can stress enough how deeply i did not think these long hours were okay! and how much i have expressed that and made every change possible to prevent that going forward.

        • Nico JUST commented above that they worked 12+ hours two days ago. “These long hours were not okay” and you’ve “made every change possible to prevent that moving forward” but it’s still happening under your watch, and per Nico’s comment, it sounds like a frequent occurrence to this day. What ACTUAL steps are you taking to change this unethical labor culture? Because your empty words don’t seem to be making much change.

  15. Autostraddle was a life raft for me in my late teens/early twenties. And it is still the nest I return to for comfort and advice.

    I love you guys and this reader community. I’m sorry this is happening. I wish I had more to give.

    I’m gonna cling to my A+ and pray AS survives for new generations of baby queers.

  16. I agree with the sentiments shared by everyone so far, and have 2 things to add.

    1. Not informing your readers of what was happening until after they learned elsewhere is honestly ridiculous. If you know your community and pay attention to media then you’ve got to see how utterly boneheaded that was, it definitely does damage to your optics, and it does make me question the wisdom of what happens next. How can we trust you when something so obvious was overlooked?

    2. Why in the bloody world have you not gotten a proper accountant who works in nonprofits? Because the more fundraising and running to the edge you do the more I question if there’s a piece of the financial puzzle that we can’t see, or that you as a entity don’t see or don’t know about. I understand queer media is small and hard and a struggle all the time at the best of times, but surely there’s a reader out there who can at least give you some consulting advice, or volunteer! If the finances have run ragged for so long, why the heck has getting a proper opinion on what is needed and ways to fix it not been a higher priority? To build a proper plan with contingencies?

    • Hi Ray! There is in fact not a piece of the financial puzzle you can’t see. A+ members can see our financial breakdowns in our annual report. Look. I will let Riese speak to the rest, but I would never, ever fundraise for a place where the money was going somewhere shady. They do not pay me nearly enough to torpedo my career like that. It just goes to paying people and minor costs like our server and tech like Slack and Airtable. There’s no secret here. There’s just the fact that PPP loans in 2020 and 2021 and an SBA loan in 2022 sustained a budget that we couldn’t sustain without that money.

    • I want to make clear I love this place dearly! And want you all to succeed. Which is why it’s frustrating to see the ways you dropped the ball, because this place is full of smart thoughtful people and my expectations, and I’m sure many other readers, are higher because you put out such good work. You’ve set a high bar, and for good reason, which makes walking headlong into that bar very scary and concerning as readers.

      • maybe you have read this but The Revolution Will Not Be Funded (and discussion threads on fundraising posts) might do a lot to address your second concern about financial possibilities. in short, autostraddle does not serve the moneyed classes, and we get what we fund ourselves.

      • Not sure how you could read this post and think that the issue is that AS hasn’t put enough time or energy into their finances. I don’t think 24 hours of slight confusion warrants this level of condescension

      • How did they “drop the ball?” Have you been completely living under a rock for the entire year? The biggest companies on the planet have laid off thousands (at my company alone, 22k so far).

        How do you expect an independent site to be able to survive without hiccups while the largest companies on earth can’t?

        • It does sound like, at the very least, they really bungled their announcement of the cuts both to the affected writers and the readership, and the presence of some angry former writers in this discussion is telling. Ironically I think the real problems that need to be addressed are obscured by all of the patronizing and self-righteous comments here.

        • Those companies are not doing mass layoffs for cost cutting purposes; they’re doing it to maintain lower salary floors. When a tech company has someone on staff that’s been there for 5 years, they become too expensive and it’s more economical to lay them off en masse and hire on newbies willing to work for $30K+ less annually. Meta isn’t facing financial woes, it’s just cutting jobs to keep costs low to retain massive profit margins.

    • Riese and her management team focused on their staff – which I whole heartedly support. that we had to wait a day for details following an agonizing turn of events is not fair complaint.

      as for financial issues, assuming they don’t consult with one, an accountant is a cost and though it may be money well spent generally, they’ve been trying to pay writers. given that media everywhere is attriting/shuttering, we could consider how momentous it is that Riese & Co have been making magic from beans for over a decade.

      ours is a demanding community, again as your comment illustrates, so increasing content to drive traffic is a sensible track. it looks to me like they’ve been trying everything they know how to do, and are still trying.

      this is all would seem to call for grace and support. along with whatever resources we can offer to help Ro, Shelli, & Vanessa land on their feet.

    • 1. i know, you’re right.

      2. yes, i have gotten outside financial advice in limited amounts, within what was available to me and what i could afford. it has really all been the same! you probably need to cut at least one full-time person and you need to whittle the outside services (which is freelancers — subject editors as well as freelance writers and other contractors) budget down significantly, and have your senior staff be responsible for 90% of the content on the site. of course i said this was not possible because we need a diverse range of voices on the website and that can’t be accomplished by just our senior staff. i met with another small business owner this year who looked at our books and did suggest this specific cut. it’s really hard because we have very specific goals and ethics that don’t align with what financial professionals would advise.

      i would also like to say that our actual accountant is gay and wonderful and incredible and has worked with us at a reduced rate for years.

  17. Monday morning quarterbacks abound, it seems. Don’t envy your choices, but thank you for fighting the good fight. There’s no good way to move forward when you have only bad options in front of you, and it’s commendable that Autostraddle was able to last so long without having to make any cuts.

    • hii i dont know the answer to this. i do know that A+ membership helps AS be more sustainable (many nonprofits prefer monthly donations for the same reasons of consistency and planning). if A+ is not a good option for you, i understand but wanted to bump that piece of the puzzle in case A+ is an option.

      • thanks, i agree this is a question of financial transparency, especially as the paywalled financial reports have been linked to in comments on this post about financial transparency

    • hi! first, thank you so much for being a supporter! so, i don’t have go-ahead to un-paywall the post (it’s again, not shady, just like, a legacy way of doing things that does not serve us in this specific situation), but i can give you a breakdown in non-pie-chart form:

      In 2022, our revenue came from (and it’s presented as percentages in the post)
      49% A+ members
      21% Advertising
      15% Loan
      13% Donations
      5% Merch
      1.3% Affiliate marketing

      I don’t have super clear data on how much advertising has dropped over last year, but it’s been brutal, is what I know. Plus, we don’t have any loans this year.

  18. Thanks for the memorandum. I don’t follow the writers on the site and only found out after I read Heather’s piece on TOTK and saw all the bummer comments. We’ve all seen a lot of queer media shut their doors the last couple of years, ones I don’t read. Personally I didn’t need to ask what happened as sometimes positions out grow the people and have to be eliminated — especially contract positions — has happened at my own place of employment. Doesn’t make the loss of these editors any less. Or their hurt.

    I was a little annoyed of how reader responses were used on social media. To me that is a from of harassment and didn’t feel like solidarity for a digital mag folks love. I assumed AS would make a statement. The news breaking before an official announcement wouldn’t be the first time this has happened. Moving through grace in this world seems hard to do nowadays and I appreciate your words. I appreciate other writers sharing the socials of the editors.

    Best wishes to Shelli, Ro and Vanessa. You all are incredible and have been a great source of information for me on my queer journey.

    Maybe instead of readers coming down on AS for a response they can provide leads on businesses willing to run ads on the site.

    • Came back to say, has anyone even looked at the staff page because I see a lot of POC, “fat”, trans writers. Why not shout out and support them too? The negativity is a lot.

      • I’ve also seen people legitimately say “of course the queer writers go first.” Babe…it’s a queer website. We’re all queer here.

        Of course, I am still deeply sad that people are out of work! The wonderful thing about AS is its variety of specific and nuanced voices – truly cutting anyone would involve cutting a singular talent, as Riese outlined

  19. What a nightmare for everyone involved. I have been reading Autostraddle since the very beginning, and I feel for Vanessa, Ro and Shelli. I do completely trust that Riese and the team are doing their best and everything they can to keep Autostraddle in existence. I’m sure this is a really hard time- look after yourselves guys. Sending lots of love your way.

  20. So many thoughts…

    1. This whole situation is just heartbreaking. I’m sorry to Vanessa, Shelli and Ro most of all, and for our community that will no longer benefit (for the most part) from their thoughtful contributions to it. I’ve been coming to this site for over a decade — for entertainment, for great advice (whether about sex toys, must see TV, or navigating relationships), for a sense of queer community. There have been unexpected gifts along the way — my father died a few months before Vanessa’s, and her series on grief helped me so much. I’m also so sorry for the rest of the staff. I know this can’t have been an easy decision, that your grief about the staffing changes is 20x worse than what us readers are feeling, and it sounds like everybody is sacrificing to help keep things going.

    2. I am concerned about the poor decision-making around publicizing this news. It sounds like the affected parties have known about this for nearly two weeks (since May 10), and some smaller group of senior decision makers knew for longer than that. 2+ weeks is more than enough time to coordinate an announcement roll out. And I don’t feel like this post sufficiently explains the rationale for these particular (Black, fat, trans/NB) leaders to be the ones who were laid off. It does feel like a major step back in terms of the diversity of voices we can expect to hear from on this site.

    3. It’s clear that there’s a large community of readers who care deeply about preserving this space. We’ve been asked to increase our financial support, and many of us are happy to do that to the extent we are able. But is there a way to invite other forms of support? I don’t personally have expertise that would be useful here, but maybe others would donate some consulting time? I’d certainly happily volunteer if there are unskilled ways to be involved in helping this site. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that I want to do whatever I can to help make sure this community not only survives, but thrives.

    • point 3 should consider that volunteer services often need a volunteer coordinator to make them viable, otherwise staff have to forego work to train and manage vols. it can end up a tradeoff of skilled for unskilled work product.

      plus if vols are part-time, inconsistently available, then the work to train/organize tasks for them can be wasted. so, vols would have to commit/follow through on enough hours regularly to make the investment worthwhile. if people are flakey, which happens, then the org just ends up in a bigger hole.

      • thank you for nuance ans care here. as had volunteers in the past. they had good reason to move away from that (i may not remember right what those reasons were but what comes to mind is coordination work, lack of accountability w volunteers, generally white and more moneyed ppl volunteer)

      • These are good points, thanks for sharing. I’ve already increased my A+ membership level to the extent I can afford, and it’s just frustrating not to have other ways to help when the staff is clearly overloaded. But I do see how that “help” might just create different/more work for the team.

    • 1. it is heartbreaking, it sucks, i hate it, i am really sad to lose these amazing people.

      2. I am also concerned around our poor decision-making around publicizing this news. It has illuminated a lot for me about my personal and professional failures and areas where we were shortsighted. We didn’t spend those two weeks sitting on our thumbs, we were working constantly on everything that needed to be juggled, I was putting in 14 hour days, but you’re correct — and our writers who’ve held us accountable are correct — that we should’ve prioritized differently and planned better. I do ask you to have faith in Carmen, Kayla and Heather here — in their ability and desire to showcase a variety of voices on the site, and on the diverse group of writers we have on our freelance team. I will also be doing everything I can to support them in that work.

      3. what msanon said below is the same thing i would say!
      we also ran on volunteer labor for a long time, and that was really really bad. It felt awful to have so many people working for nothing, and it wasn’t fair, and eventually resentment builds up too.
      that said at this point i would accept one-time consultant help in a few areas (HR, legal, financial)

      • Riese, thanks for taking time to reply, and I’m sorry that I wasn’t more compassionate to the upper leadership regarding the shitty decisions you’ve had to make. The PR miscalculation aside, it seems from some of your other comments on this post that you thoroughly researched alternative solutions and have shown excellent judgment in the other stages of this process, and the fact that you provided nearly 3 months notice to allow more time for job hunting is far beyond what most employers would do. Thanks for creating this space that we love and stewarding it for all these years.

    • “And I don’t feel like this post sufficiently explains the rationale for these particular (Black, fat, trans/NB) leaders to be the ones who were laid off. It does feel like a major step back in terms of the diversity of voices we can expect to hear from on this site.”

      I agree with all your points, but especially this one.

  21. Racial capitalism sucks. Thank you AS for doing all you can to still be here even with how hard racial capitalism makes it and even when hard decisions have to be made.

  22. Not much to say other than this is a huge bummer and I’m so sorry to hear about it. Will definitely really miss Shelli and Vanessa around here, and sad that it sounds like Ro will be around less too. Love AS and the community here and hope it sticks around for a long, long time.

  23. So sorry to hear about this. This community is so important to me. Just upped my A+ tier and will continue working to become that wealthy dyke who swoops in and changes everything!

  24. This is such terrible news.

    Speaking as a former freelance contractor, 3 months notice is pretty freaking amazing, so thank you for taking care of your contractors. I’m sorry we couldn’t raise enough to keep the subject editors but I’m truly glad we could raise enough to give them a cushion.

  25. Oh no. I’m so sorry you had to make this choice. Wishing well paid and intellectually satisfying and supported jobs for Shelli and Vanessa and Ro. Wishing for more ease and pleasure for the whole AS team and community

  26. I started a very small worker-owned business about two years ago, after many years of saving every penny I had, and working 70+ hour weeks, and planning everything, down to the minutiae, for how I would make my business successful. I was so prepared. I consulted with so many small business owners in my field, and many in adjacent fields, and attorneys and accountants and professors of business administration and others. Everyone said the money I had saved was more than enough, and my business plan was more than enough, and my experience in the field was more than enough. Everyone told me I was way ahead of most other people they’d seen start this kind of business and succeed.

    And still. Nothing has gone the way I planned it. Every small business owner I’ve talked to this year has said the same thing. These past three years, and most especially this last one, has been unimaginable. What used to cost $100 now costs $200. Or sometimes $300. What used to take a week now takes three weeks. Or three months. What used to look like a viable business plan now makes me laugh, as if I ever thought it was possible to make it work.

    On the surface, our business is still surviving. We get compliments every day about how successful we must be, because we are constantly seen working and producing and improving. Our numbers are steadily going up, just not at the rate that everyone thought they would. In a lot of ways, we are successful. But I haven’t paid myself in eleven months. And I long for the weeks when I only worked 70 hours.

    So, my heart breaks for Vanessa, Shelli, and Ro. And it breaks for the rest of the Autostraddle team. And it breaks for every person who is in this same boat. This sucks. This year sucks. May there be better days ahead.

      • I’ve been reading your column This Art of Business since it’s inception, as well as every annual report and fundraiser update, anything I felt like I could learn from when it came to running a queer business. The most recent fundraiser update had a couple lines in it about how autostraddle prided itself on never having to cut pay or reduce benefits, even in these really tough years.

        And I remember reading it and feeling happy for y’all, but devastated for myself, because I’d just had to ask my team to take a pay cut, after I’d already stopped paying myself entirely.

        I’m only saying this because my number one emotion this year has been loneliness – feeling alone in my frustration and disappointment and confusion. Feeling like every other business is somehow making it work when I can’t. Except almost every single time that I scratch the surface, I find out that’s not true. Almost everyone I know is struggling, to various degrees. And most of us are just trying to keep it together.

  27. Do Autostraddle writers/employees have a union? As the site continues to grow and shift from a scrappy blog to a media company, now seems like a great time to create some more protections for workers here. I know the site is a labor of love, but that doesn’t negate the fact that a union would be good for the workers and good for the Autostraddle community!

    • You could also consider transitioning Autostraddle into a worker-owned co-op (a la Defector Media). Employee co-ops are becoming more popular, and they seem like a great way to create an equitable workplace. It’s clear that the current model isn’t working and radical changes are needed to keep Autostraddle afloat. This seems like a path worth investigating!

    • Thanks so much for this comment! Heyo! As someone who’s done labor organizing, I have to level with you. There’s not much point for us to do that right now. There’s no money to be had. There’s no profit. There is no surplus from our labor we are being denied. Like…I don’t know everything but I know there is no secret money. The senior team works super horizontally and like…idk what we would accomplish by trying to unionize, and I say that as someone who loves unions! I think that people are looking for a bad guy here, but the bad guy is capitalism, really.

      • unions are not just about money and profits they are about worker protections, transparency around pay, equitable processes around hiring and firing. this is the same union busting line every nonprofit trots out.

        • Did not realize the financial situation was so dire. As a small business employee, I know it’s difficult to maintain. Please use my email submitted to contact me about advertising. I’m an immigration lawyer and could try advertising on this site if I can swing the budget.

      • Unions aren’t just about profit and pay (and frankly, alarm bells should go off in your head if you ever see the words “There’s not much point in unonizing right now.) Unions chiefly protect workers. If you were unionized, the 70+ hour weeks wouldn’t be happening. And I recognize some will argue that those hours were necessary to keep the site up. My response is that this website is not more important than fair pay and worker protections. If AS can’t survive in its current form while providing work-life balance and a strong benefits package to its employees, AS should not survive in its current form.

        • Yes, exactly! I’m an organizer for my union, and we deal with WAY more than just pay and benefits. A collective bargaining agreement can include protections for hiring/firing/layoffs, discipline, working conditions (hours, assignments, etc.), employee evaluations, complaints by or against an employee, grievance procedures, leave, and so much more. Pay and money are just a small piece of what a union is for.

          I get that there isn’t secret money or wage theft happening here, but from the things described in this post and the comments–layoffs, 70-100 hour work weeks, opaque decision-making–it sounds like Autostraddle could really benefit from a union.

          • Hi, Nico explained upthread about the 100 hour workweeks. regarding unionizing; the people who were let go were independent contractors (and we followed the legal guidelines around that delineation) who worked 20 hours a week, which wouldn’t be eligible for unions.

            so we have a very small staff of 7, i think most of us are managers but i’m not sure the legalities.

            regardless if they wanted to unionize that would be ok!

  28. So sad to hear this, and I’m sorry for all the heat you’re taking over it. Obviously this was an incredibly tough decision for everyone involved, and we’re all just human. I love this site and its people so very much and I’m sending ALL the good vibes y’all’s way.

  29. Ooof, what a rough time for everyone at autostraddle <3 Just updated my a+ subscription from yearly to monthly to give you all a few more dollars, even if I can't increase in tiers for now :)

  30. I really appreciate the transparency, and hearing that you were able to give these editors three months of pay. None of these decisions are easy to make, and as someone who’s been through many layoffs, you’re handling it the best anyone possibly can. I’m proud to support Autostraddle even in these tough times

  31. I’m curious of how much of a pay cut the CEO/CFO and all other senior team members got? and are you going to empower your workers to unionize so they no longer need to work 100 hour weeks under your leadership?

    • It’s the leadership team that are working the 100 hour weeks. Like they’re in charge. If they wanted to work less they could because they are in charge. They don’t need a union cause they are already in charge of their working hours.

      The best way for them to work less is for them to be able to hire more people. They need more money to do that. The money isn’t there though so they’re working harder to keep the site running so that you can criticise all of the hard work that they are doing. Good job.

  32. Unpopular opinion, but it feels super obvious to me: have you considered a rebrand?

    Autostraddle is objectively a very silly name that tells potential readers/donors/advertisers nothing about the site or subject matter. I’ve been an A+ Member since 2016 and I’m sick of having to explain that the site has nothing to do with cars and that the name is just leftover from someone’s blog. It feels like an in-joke and it’s sort of clumsy to say out loud which doesn’t help spreading the word.

    I know rebrands cost money (a lot of money!) but I can’t help thinking that advertising revenue would improve dramatically if the name of the site was clearer. If we’re teetering on the edge of losing Autostraddle anyway, losing “Autostraddle” might be the Hail Mary play to come back fresh.

      • I suspect that an easier and more accessible website is something that is on the priority list for *after* they can pay employees and work fewer than 100-hour work weeks.

    • I’m not sure a rebrand is warranted here. The profitability of digital content in a cratering advertising market is an industry issue as a whole — witness the recent folding of Vice, Catapule, and The Nib and the layoffs at Buzzfeed News. I’m not seeing how trading in their current brand, SEO and IT work (since rebranding means changing the URL and doing a whole lot of redirects) and paying for all the necessary design and messaging work to create a new one would solve the cashflow issues they’re describing.

      I do agree the site’s accessibility could use some work, especially on easy wins like color contrast, but I also recognize that’s another area where quality work costs money and you don’t want to have to ask skilled professionals in marginalized communities to do things for free.

    • With the caveat that I know absolutely nothing about how expensive this would be or the potential drawbacks, I will admit that I have also thought this. In particular, I think I remember there being issues in the past over Autostraddle being seen as inherently NSFW and unattractive to advertisers for that reason, and I have wondered if a different name might help with that. Autostraddle is clunky and it *sounds* sexual even if it isn’t (I honestly can’t remember the origin story at this point). It seems like y’all have had very little luck with advertising in general, and I wonder if this could be part of the problem.

      I have no idea how expensive a rebrand would be, or if it’s even feasible at this juncture, but I did want to elevate this idea because it’s a thought I have also had. I hope this doesn’t come off as condescending, and if it’s not helpful, please feel free to disregard!

    • Totally. The name has always seemed stupid to me–but more importantly, it’s not SEO-friendly! Put “queer” or “wlw” in the name or something!

  33. Ugh, hard decisions are hard. I’m really sorry to all the AS staff (including Ro, Vanessa, and Shelli) who are dealing with the very real effects of trying to operate indie queer media in late stage capitalism and its associated financial BS. I love Autostraddle and I just increased my A+ member donation because I want you all to stick around and have more joy and less 100-hr work weeks. ❤️

  34. Wow, lots of people sure seem to have a lot of ideas about how to run a business! Riese, it sounds like you have done your absolute best and I’m so sorry it hasn’t worked out the way you wanted. Ro, Shelli, and Vanessa, we will miss you all so very much.

    I know the process of planning a more sustainable business model may take time. I hope you can find some solutions that feel better than the status quo. We will be here to support you in implementing them once you’re ready to move forward into the next chapter <3

  35. to clarify: although the three editors who were laid off got paid out for the next three months up front, that is NOT severance pay, correct? they are still working through july 31st – it is still money in exchange for labor? as indicated in this post, it was paid early at the request of the staff members being fired (presumably to ensure that it would actually get paid, given the apparently dire financial situation)?

    • I don’t believe anyone is getting fired — the contracts are not continuing. While this sounds like a pedantic difference, calling this a “firing” can really negatively impact these writers’ future career moves.

    • Hi Amy! I’m one of the Subject Editors whose role was eliminated. You’re correct—we were not given severance. One of the Subject Editors requested that we receive our base rates through the end of our contracts in advance. This is money in exchange for our labor through the end of July.

      • that was my understanding, and it’s very frustrating to see all the praise in the comments for AS leadership’s amazing generosity offering y’all three months’ severance pay and AS leadership… not correcting it.

        very very sorry for all you’re going through right now, ro, and even more sorry for the number of people who are empathizing with how hard it must have been to “make such a tough decision” instead of how hard it surely is to be on the receiving end of it.

  36. It sucks for all involved, but understandable given the economic climate. I think it’s incredibly naive and condescending for everyone in the comments to think that somehow Autostraddle would be above financial hardships when literally every company in the world right now is doing layoffs.

    If this site is going to survive, cuts have to be made. Editorial decisions will need to be made. Some things will need to be sacrificed. It sucks and I hate it, but it’s how business works. People won’t be happy if the site goes under, but people also won’t be happy if the site lives another day but requires cutting people and content. It’s an impossible situation and one I would be inclined to prioritize survival.

  37. Definitely going to miss Vanessa, Shelli and Ro in their roles. They were all awesome. Thank you for such amazing content.
    And not to just echo what everyone else has said, I just want to say the root of my frustration/disappointment stemmed from the timeline in which the community found out about this. I completely understand that the tough calls had to be made for the survival of this platform, but not issuing this statement until after you faced criticism felt a bit off.
    As many folks said, thank you for this transparency, it just would have been nice to not have found out this way.

  38. I have some thoughts now that I’ve been able to re-read this announcement and catch up on the comments / replies:

    1. Like so many others, I’m surprised and heartbroken by the loss of such fantastic subject editors. I’m so grateful for everything that Vanessa, Shelli, and Ro brought to this site and the community surrounding it. So much of what I love about AS came from each of their contributions over the last couple of years.

    2. Re: transparency: I appreciate everything outlined here and in the comments / replies. It really does sound like you were out of options financially. But these cuts still feel very abrupt because I didn’t know this choice was “on the table.” I thought I had a handle on the financial situation via the Annual Report and other A+ content — but now I feel like I either missed something or this option wasn’t communicated clearly enough. It also sounds like I’m not the only one pretty surprised by all of this.

    (Then again, how do you effectively prepare people for possible cuts without causing a lot of uncertainty and anxiety — possibly for nothing?)

    3. Like many others, I’m worried about the unsustainable workloads (once again) facing the senior staff. I hope you can figure out something more manageable long-term, even if that means producing less content. I know it’s a delicate balance because content = traffic; but in the absence of decent ad revenue, maybe that doesn’t matter as much? I’d love to hear more about whether this is a workable option.

    4. Even though these decisions will help “fortify” AS in the near-term, I’m still pretty worried about the future (my A+ subscription isn’t going anywhere though).

    For the time being, I’d appreciate even more regular communication to the A+ membership about strategic plans for keeping this place going. What else is under consideration? What’s the prognosis with these changes, assuming that the ad market and inflation continue like this?

    5. I believe in Autostraddle and the people running it. I see good intentions and people trying their best: in the ambitions visions for this site, and also in the hard choices and mistakes. I want to take a moment and send some love and appreciation to *everyone* who’s having a stressful time around this situation ❤️

    • And I totally realize that asking for more communication means adding to an already growing workload, especially if there’s lots of discussion like there is today. And that there might not always be a coherent message to convey during uncertain situations.

      So I completely understand if there isn’t much more y’all can do (at least for right now, anyway). Just thought I’d ask in case there was a workable way.

      • To your second point, Anna – I don’t think it would be fair for us to know that layoffs were on the table. I’ve called for more transparency in the past, but it sounds like these employees didn’t even know this was on the table until fairly recently. I’m okay with employees having more lead time to know about and process changes, even if it means that we are kept in the dark (so to speak) for longer.

        • Ivy, that’s a really good point. Thank you. And I absolutely agree that the most important thing is prioritizing employees/contractors/freelancers having the information they need, along with appropriate time to process and act on it.

          This is clearly an option of true last resort. I think I was just stunned by how sudden this seemed. But in retrospect (and with reading even more of this discussion), there were more signs pointing this direction than I think I put together (or wanted to believe?) at the time. It sounds like some of the financial variables were pretty uncertain, so even seeing this as a possibility “on the horizon” doesn’t mean that anyone had a way to solidly predict this outcome, much less good ways communicate that.

          I’m sorry that Autostraddle was put in this position, and that Riese had to make such difficult choices. With this hard choice done, I hope that AS is able to be on a firmer footing during this “regroup” time.

    • Hi Anna G! I appreciate your questions. I’m one of the Subject Editors whose role has been eliminated. I want to speak to your second point re: how the elimination of the Subject Editors roles felt abrupt to you. I assure you, it felt abrupt to the Subject Editors, too! I haven’t been instructed to keep this information private, so I’m sharing this out of respect for Autostraddle’s Company Values and Code of Ethics, which state, “Autostraddle staff commits to telling the truth in communications with both our creative team and our readers.”

      On April 19th, three weeks before Shelli, Vanessa, and I received the news that our positions were being eliminated, we had a meeting that we’d requested with our CEO/CFO, our Director of Operations, and our EIC. We felt confident and secure when we scheduled this meeting because, according to Autostraddle’s Company Values and Code of Ethics, “Autostraddle Staff will…foster an environment where team members feel comfortable raising concerns without fear of social or professional retaliation.”

      During this meeting, we shared our collective questions and concerns re: financial transparency at Autostraddle, company protocols, and the working relationship between Subject Editors and senior team members. We hoped that our CEO/CFO and Director of Operations would support us in enacting strategies that would A) give us the clear communicaiton we needed in order to do our best work at Autostraddle and provide more adequate and efficient support to the overworked senior staff and B) help us collectively work towards a healthy, functional work environment reflective of Autostraddle’s Company Values: transparency, integrity, professionalism, and communication.

      The primary concern we shared in this meeting was concern about our job security, given the language that was used to advertise our last two fundraisers (“We need to raise $175,000 by March 29th, or we’ll be gone before Pride,” “Things feel dire,” etc.). That fundraising language had not been communicated to us in advance, and as three queer workers who were making most of our income at Autotsraddle (through our base rates and through the additional work we all do on top of our contractual duties), we were scared, and we shared this in our meeting with senior staff. None of the senior staff members in the meeting indicated that our jobs were about to be cut, and we were reassured. We felt confident in the conversation that was had, because according to Autostraddle’s Company Values and Code of Ethics, “Autostraddle staff commits to telling the truth in communications with both our creative team and our readers,” and “Autostraddle editors will be expedient and forthright in the delivery of information that is relevant or necessary for team members to…stay informed about the internal functioning of the company.”

      On May 10th, our Director of Operations let us know that our positions were being eliminated via a Slack DM.

        • These are tough times for all of us! I just love Autostraddle as a publication so much and deeply appreciate the content we’ve been able to publish. I look forward to seeing how Autostraddle and our subscribers collectively move forward from this with transparency, care, and belief in Autostraddle’s Mission and Values.

          • Thank you, Ro. That sounds really hard indeed. I truly appreciate your responses here and your commitment to embodying these values ❤️

      • @rowhite – Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m incredibly sorry that this is how it went down for you, Shelli and Vanessa. This sucks so much. None of you deserved this.
        I wish you all the best of luck for jub hunting and I hope you find a position in which you get the transparency that you deserve.
        Finally, I’m happy that you will still be writing (even if it is in limited capacity) for AS and I just want you to know that I deeply love your work. I will be looking elsewhere for what you publish.

        • Thanks, Butchosaurus. Like I said above, I just love Autostraddle so much, and I strongly believe in this publication’s Mission and Values. I’m excited to see how Autostraddle moves forward with transparency and care, and I’m excited to continue sharing my work here and elsewhere.

      • Ro, I just want to say thank you so much for sharing this. I think it was an incredibly brave thing to do and I commend you for trying to hold this place that you love accountable.

        I find the fact that these editors were laid off via Slack DM very disturbing. It feels very disrespectful. You deserved better; you deserved a personal meeting. That more than anything gives me pause about supporting Autostraddle moving forward – that after years of service to this publication (in Vanessa’s case, a decade’s worth!!) – the fact that @riese didn’t think her employees were worthy of a face-to-face meeting is extremely upsetting, and I can’t think of a good reason why it would be necessary.

  39. My heart goes out to all of you.

    This sucks, I’m sad, and there’s no pain like being let go, but one thing Vanessa, Shelli and Ro (still writing, I know !), that you can be super proud of, is your work ! You are awesome, incredibly talented and engaging. You are focal points, you are magnetic, you are attractive (truth) so you’ll attract great things.

    💔💗💜

  40. everyone’s already articulated everything quite well above. have a little more love and frustration (mostly on AS’s behalf, less with the decision now that it’s been explained) and trepidation (for all of us under capitalism) and appreciation from this corner <3

  41. What a painful loss for the whole community and especially the irreplaceable Shelli, Vanessa, and Ro. I’m so sorry that it came to this, and I trust that you did everything possible to prevent cuts. This is a truly peerless resource and my fingers are crossed that you will survive this low point and thrive in the near future.

  42. I’ve been reading through the comments and mulling over this all evening. Overall, I see questions in this comment section about trust in two areas: 1) competency and 2) values.

    1) Competency: I trust the leadership team’s basic competency at running this business, so I assume they’re right when they say they did this because they had no other option. A lot of commenters are giving advice about specific things that could be done to make Autostraddle more profitable, and tbh I think a lot of it is really patronizing. Do you really think that your 5 minutes of brainstorming is going to turn up a solution that the team of 7+ intelligent media professionals working on this problem full-time for the past 3+ years haven’t thought of? Really??

    The Autostraddle team has been *extremely* transparent about what money is coming in and where it’s going, but their transparency doesn’t make us experts. We don’t have insight into their detailed projections about the future — exactly how many writers are being paid, what ad deals Anya is working on, what generic ad revenue projections look like, etc. We don’t have enough information to each independently recreate Autostraddle’s current finances to verify that the team isn’t lying when they say this was the only feasible option. (And asking for that level of transparency would be ridiculous.) All we can do is to decide whether or not to trust the team. And I have no idea why we wouldn’t trust them, given that they’ve managed to keep this website afloat through the continual implosion of the independent media landscape and are *only now* making cuts.

    2) Values: I trust the leadership team’s values, so I assume that they mean it when they say they didn’t want to do this. A lot of commenters are questioning whether this choice reflects a lack of commitment to equity and/or a lack of care for workers. I share everyone’s deep concern about a) losing three wonderful editors, all of whom represent marginalized voices in various ways, and b) the fact that current staff will have to work harder and longer as a result. Riese has made it extremely clear that she understands and agrees with those concerns, so I think it comes down to the question of whether you believe that she (and presumably others on the leadership team) are doing their best here and could not find a more equitable or better solution.

    I understand that Autostraddle has made mistakes over the years it’s been around, and some people might not trust their values. Deciding how much to trust them is a personal decision that all of us have to make. For what it’s worth, from what I’ve heard and seen so far, I do.

    ***

    More broadly, I think part of what might be going on is that many of the people who read Autostraddle are used to fighting against big corporations we don’t trust. Those corporations lay people off and overwork people and underpay their workers and generally create shitty work environments, and they say they had to because they couldn’t afford to do anything else, and a lot of us rightly call bullshit on that. And so maybe when a group like Autostraddle says something similar, we respond in the same way. But Autostraddle is not a big company. As Nico said in an earlier comment on this post, there’s no secret money floating around somewhere. Yelling “this sucks!! treat your employees better!” is an effective strategy if it’s *possible* to treat employees better. It seems like, in this case, it is not possible to treat employees better; doing so would mean literally shutting down the site. Given that employees are choosing to work here despite the low pay and high hours, taking away their jobs seems like it would be bad for them (not to mention for the entire queer community), so I find it hard to believe that shutting down the site is the right solution.

    I feel a lot of anxiety about what will happen in the future, and a lot of other commenters seem to feel the same way. Almost no one wants the site to shut down, but everyone (including Riese) agrees that the current status quo is unsustainable. Those things seem to be in tension, which is scary! However, it also sounds like Riese and the team are working very hard to find other solutions that will be more sustainable in the long-term, while making layoffs to ensure that Autostraddle can still exist in the short term.

    I don’t know what the future holds, but I know what I’m going to do: practice patience and trust. I’m not going to ask Riese for a solution today; I’m going to wait until she and the team have something they feel ready to share with the community, and support them at that point in whatever way they need. I’m going to remember that Autostraddle is a business, not a democracy, and that my donations/A+ membership don’t entitle me to know every detail of what they’re thinking at every moment in time. Basically, I’m going to trust them to do what they can to keep Autostraddle running in a way that is sustainable for the people who work there.

  43. Everything’s been said, just want to add a little (more) love here. Y’all deserve the best, I’m so sorry this is how things are at the moment. Zooming out, I hope you all find a better and more sustainable path (Vanessa, Ro, and Shelli, as well as AS and everyone still keeping it running). Love to you all ❤️

    • Strong +1 to Camille – I’m so sorry that you are all going through this and having to make these impossiblly difficult judgement calls on what to do to keep things going. Autostraddle has meant a lot to me — the A+ advice column really helped me navigate a major life decision — and Vanessa, Ro, and Shelli have been a key part of AS with their incredible work. Thank you Riese & team for your transparency here — I think this is a really difficult situation to thread the needle on communicating out and there was no perfect way for it to be handled. Really wishing things take a turn for the better for everyone as you all really do deserve the best.

  44. I work in nonprofit fundraising and I also helped run a queer online magazine for several years. This shit is really hard. The way our country is set up means we have to prove that every goddamn thing our community needs can be made into some sort of business, or we have to do it for free in addition to our actual jobs. These are bad options.
    On top of that, queers are incredibly critical of queer organizations because we have so little power outside of our own community. It’s an understandable phenomenon, but it’s exhausting. I hope staff are able to take a break from reading the comments at some point and get some rest.

  45. This is such heartbreaking news. Shelli, Ro and Vanessa brought so much phenomenal content to Autostraddle. It’s really hard for me to imagine this site without them! But I do appreciate Riese for being honest and informative here.
    Thank you all again for all the physical and emotional love you all do. It’s beyond appreciated. Take care.❤️

  46. Wow, the negative comments on this story are super-annoying! It’s pretty darn obvious AS leadership has worked its arse off to find solutions and are heartbroken at the loss of three incredible editors and all they represent. Queers can be really fucking hard on each other sometimes. AS isn’t some evil capitalist corporation that treats its workers like shit and rewards those at the top of the food chain. Someone above said we are so used to fighting corporations etc etc that we unthinking apply the same militancy to our own – I agree! Stop it! Anyway, hilariously ironic negative rant over. Love you AS guys, may you find a way to live on sustainably. I’ll keep up my A+ membership.

    • I agree that queers have a tendency to eat our own, so to speak. But AS is not outside of capitalism. We also have no idea if AS treats its workers like shit and rewards those at the top. What we DO know is what AS has themselves told us – employees are regularly asked to work 60+ hours/week and management was dishonest when these 3 employees tried to get clarity on their job security before their positions were eliminated.

      Just because this is a queer business doesn’t mean they are automatically better than any other business or should be held to softer standards than those we try to demand of non-queer orgs. Speaking as someone who’s been exploited and devalued in the workplace by self-identified radical queer activist bosses/supervisors, it hurts a lot more. And those radical queer activist reputations were pretty effective shields to criticism.

  47. I was one of the original commenters on other articles asking for information who felt pretty let down, so I was super grateful when I came online and saw this statement – thank you! There’s still some elements of the situation I’m a bit concerned about:
    You mention specifically that the most recent fundraiser did not specify preventing layoffs precisely because you guys knew you couldn’t guarantee it. That makes sense to me, but feels a bit like a lie by omission. The 3 editors in question all say they were somewhat blindsided by the news, but it sounds like senior leadership has been receiving advice that these three roles were the most effective cuts for some time now. Why was this never communicated to these guys ahead of time, even when money was somewhat less tight? It would’ve been useful for these guys to know that their roles are most likely to get cut in an emergency, and pretty much every small org I am aware of is currently in a state of emergency financially right now. It might’ve given these guys some time and incentive to start seeking other work if they were aware times were tight and their roles were the most likely cuts. I’m really struggling to align the promises of transparency with the position these three have ended up in, where it seems as though they were reassured their roles were fine and then suddenly laid off. That doesn’t feel transparent to me, which leads me to be a bit more skeptical about AS’s transparency as a whole – could you guys explain how you’ve been taking advice saying these three roles were the most at risk, seemingly for a while, but this messaging never made it to the editors themselves?

    Thanks for taking the time to write this and sharing the situation with us, it’s a scary time to be a small business, and I imagine even scarier to be a small business having to make tough decisions when trust from the reader base is what AS relies on. I’m devastated for these three and for AS as a whole, and hoping there’s a viable financial solution for you guys soon.

    • I work in an organisation very similar to Autostraddle and trust me, people know their jobs are precarious. Organisations like Autostraddle aren’t something you stumble upon or get employed simply for the paycheck – they are passion projects that create spaces for a whole community and content that otherwise simply would not exist. It’s not just working, but it’s CREATING a space/context where you can work on what you’re passionate about. It’s why the hours are long – it’s double the work. And why there are only people who are really passionate about it – the ones that aren’t find work elsewhere. Plus, you work with the awareness it could all vanish very quickly.

      Transparency doesn’t mean disclosing every receipt – that simply isn’t realistic. It doesn’t mean involving readers and your staff in every operational decision you make as a leader – you make many. It’s efficient to have work segmented and a good leader will know how to communicate and work with their team. There has to be some level of trust that the leader is both benevolent and competent at their job for this to work.

      I know you’re speaking from a place of care (and likely distrust that Autostraddle did the best it could), but hearing “I went to a financial consult, they said I should fire you, but I won’t do that, but just so you know” sounds cruel and creates unnecessary anxieties, especially if you conclude that option is not what you’re considering right now. Once the situation becomes dire in a future moment, you can communicate that things have changed and although there haven’t been any layoffs so far, there may be. Specifically informing WHO would be laid of IF it came to that sounds like a recipe for creating a very weird working atmosphere. Personally, I’d rather hear the general announcement that things are worse now than usual so just be ready that it might be a possibility, than have the workplace morale completely crushed with “if we do layoffs, you’re the first to go, these other people are safe”.

      I don’t feel I’ve articulated my point well and I feel I “splained” too much of it, but the level of perfection communities seem to demand are just not possible. We strive, but the question is – would you rather it didn’t exist, or exist as it is, flaws and all? I’m partial to existing. And if people think they’d do better in running an organisation that creates space, culture and community for a disprivileged group, by all means. Go forth.

      I trust Autostraddle did the best it could and hope for swift employment of the people not working here anymore. There are no good decisions in this climate and circumstances, just the best shitty option out of shitty options.

      • This is genuinely very helpful, I’m grateful for the thoughtful response! Definitely gives me a lot to think about and I’m glad you’ve shared it. Thank you!

      • So, I’ve gotten … a lot of financial advice about what I should cut and where to make cuts. But getting advice isn’t the same thing as acting on that advice. And I don’t think it would’ve been productive to tell any of our freelancers “jsyk this accountant thinks i should cut your budget or fire you” — that to me feels cruel and manipulative, like i am asking them to prove their worth to me in the subsequent weeks, months or in many cases, even years.

        we did tell the sub-eds in the meeting in march that we couldn’t promise them that cuts weren’t going to happen, but that we could promise advance notice if we did have to make cuts. at the time of this meeting we still were not sure if these cuts were going to be made. maybe that wasn’t the right call or the way we should’ve phrased it or handled the meeting, i hear and am processing what others are saying about what they took away from it and how we can do better next time when things are uncertain.

        also yes, this: “hearing “I went to a financial consult, they said I should fire you, but I won’t do that, but just so you know” sounds cruel and creates unnecessary anxieties”

    • They got three months notice, though. Their contracts don’t end until August. So it feels abrupt (and it is undeniably shitty to lose a job, especially one you love) but three months notice is a lot.

      • Idk if this is just because I’m not from the US but I work for a non-profit org and I get three months notice as standard, I didn’t realise this was unusual!

    • Hi there! I appreciate your questions. I’m one of the Subject Editors whose role has been eliminated. Here’s a little more context for you re: why the Subject Editors were surprised by the elimination of our roles. I haven’t been instructed to keep this information private, so I’m sharing this out of respect for Autostraddle’s Company Values and Code of Ethics, which state, “Autostraddle staff commits to telling the truth in communications with both our creative team and our readers.”

      On April 19th, three weeks before Shelli, Vanessa, and I received the news that our positions were being eliminated, we had a meeting that we’d requested with our CEO/CFO, our Director of Operations, and our EIC. We felt confident and secure when we scheduled this meeting because, according to Autostraddle’s Company Values and Code of Ethics, “Autostraddle Staff will…foster an environment where team members feel comfortable raising concerns without fear of social or professional retaliation.”

      During this meeting, we shared our collective questions and concerns re: financial transparency at Autostraddle, company protocols, and the working relationship between Subject Editors and senior team members. We hoped that our CEO/CFO and Director of Operations would support us in enacting strategies that would A) give us the clear communicaiton we needed in order to do our best work at Autostraddle and provide more adequate and efficient support to the overworked senior staff and B) help us collectively work towards a healthy, functional work environment reflective of Autostraddle’s Company Values: transparency, integrity, professionalism, and communication.

      The primary concern we shared in this meeting was concern about our job security, given the language that was used to advertise our last two fundraisers (“We need to raise $175,000 by March 29th, or we’ll be gone before Pride,” “Things feel dire,” etc.). That fundraising language had not been communicated to us in advance, and as three queer workers who were making most of our income at Autotsraddle (through our base rates and through the additional work we all do on top of our contractual duties), we were scared, and we shared this in our meeting with senior staff. None of the senior staff members in the meeting indicated that our jobs were about to be cut, and we were reassured.

      On May 10th, our Director of Operations let us know that our positions were being eliminated via a Slack DM.

      • Thank you for sharing this, Ro. This is the element of these layoffs that has been making me uncomfortable, and that I’ve been trying to understand in my comments and questions. Really grateful for you sharing what happened, and grateful for all your work here.

      • thank you for sharing this and i am so sorry.

        if you feel comfortable doing so, can you elaborate on “questions and concerns re: financial transparency at Autostraddle, company protocols, and the working relationship between Subject Editors and senior team members”?

        same as above, can you share any more about the strategies you mentioned (i.e. for clear communication and a healthy, functional work environment) you hoped would be supported in this meeting?

        much love to you, shelli and vanessa for all you’re dealing with

  48. Oof. I was one of the people questioning how Autostraddle could be sustainable during the last fundraiser, so I really appreciated this paragraph:

    “When we asked you this year to save us from shutting down, you turned up big-time. A lot of you were also asking me why we keep running ourselves this close to the edge and why I as a CEO and CFO allow this. It was clear, to you, that our budget was too high for what we could reasonably earn at our size, if we so frequently found ourselves on the verge of closure. And you were right. We have no runway. We need to start building reliable, recurring revenue streams. Fundraising is a band-aid but now we need to fortify the ship.”

    I feel kind of bad that I pushed so hard now knowing that these cuts were potentially on the horizon even then, but I really appreciate your candor. I also don’t care at all that you gave the go-ahead to the subject editors to post on social media before the story was up on the site. It seems like in doing so you prioritized the needs of your employees over anything else, and that’s what matters to me.

    I also think the calls for more fundraising are off-base. It’s very clear that Nico is/was doing everything they can and it’s unfair to ask for more.

    Vanessa’s writing in particular meant a lot to me personally and I will miss its presence here. I also want to say that I feel like three months paid notice is unheard of and I really appreciate that you were able to give your subject editors that much notice.

    I can tell that this was an incredibly hard decision and I only hope that it was not the first of many. Riese, I appreciate your honesty and your commitment to taking responsibility. As the CEO/CFO, you’ve had to weather a lot of criticism over the years – some of it fair, some of it is probably less so – and I just want to say that I think you’ve handled it all with incredible poise and grace.

    Sending love to all Autostraddle employees right now. This shit is not easy, and I have faith that you’re doing the best you can.

    • I want to add that I made this comment before it was revealed that the subject editors were laid off in such an unprofessional and cruel way (via Slack DM, and not even by the person responsible for the decision, it seems). I find this fact very shocking and heartbreaking, and it’s safe to say that it has shattered my trust in the leadership at Autostraddle.

  49. this is heartbreaking, but i have trust in the leadership team and that y’all are making these gut-wrenching decisions in the best of faith despite the broader [queerphobic] media hellscape we’re all in right now. i have nothing to add except my love for the departing editors and my hopes that a less precarious future can be built here.

  50. 1. Why didn’t Riese ever hire an accountant or some kind of experienced manager to oversee the funds? Money has been an ongoing problem for Autostraddle for several years now.

    2. If fundraising, selling merch, ads, and A+ weren’t bringing in the necessary amount of money, why weren’t new money making strategies workshopped? Also ties into point 1.

    3. Everyone who remains needs to unionize ASAP. You aren’t immune to what happened to Shelli, Vanessa, and Ro.

    4. How telling that a black woman, a body positive focused jewish woman, and a trans editor were axed while so many white cis people keep their positions.

    5. I’ve been reading AS since 2009ish. This site has always seemed to be on the verge of teetering off the cliff due to money. I have stuck around because I related to the content and see the importance of queer online spaces. I stuck around even after butch content got cut again and again. I stuck around even when I started to age out of Riese’s target demographic. I stuck around when Shelli was brought on board because she had a clear vision and wanted to give voice to POC, something this place has struggled with. But I can’t stick around anymore. Something fishy is going on with the money, perhaps always has. You lied about offering severance. That was Shelli’s idea, NOT yours, Riese. I can’t support blatant idiocy when it comes to managing money. I just feel horrible for our community. You just doomed this publication. I can only hope something better comes out of this elsewhere that’s better run and better managed.

  51. Sending my love to Ro, Shelli, and Vanessa. You are all incredible writers, and I’m sorry this happened.

    I have been a dedicated Autostraddle reader since almost the beginning (I think I started reading in 2011). I have volunteered to plan in-person brunches and meet-ups. AS grew up with me through my 20s into my 30s. I know you have made imperfect choices (as we all do), and I truly believe there is nothing but good intentions leading this site.

    That being said, as you are well aware, your current mode of operations is unsustainable. I brought up to Riese many years ago (maybe 2015ish?) the idea of a non-profit model. I would like to pose this as a suggestion once again, whether creating its own 501c3 or under fiscal sponsorship. It will allow Autostraddle to apply for grants, encourage higher donations due to them being tax deductible, and keep AS accountable to a mission statement with a board of directors.

    I have worked in the nonprofit sector for over a decade, building 2 small theatre companies from the ground up (both under fiscal sponsorship), as well as working at a 501c3 with a $35M annual budget. I am an expert in strategic planning for nonprofits and as a program/events director. My tagline on LinkedIn is “Building Community through Experiential Programs, Events & Learning Initiatives.”

    I don’t have a ton of time right now (though this summer might lighten up a bit), but I would be happy to meet with Riese and the team to begin a plan for turning Autostraddle into a nonprofit, identifying grants and potential donors, and creating a strategic plan to keep Autostraddle afloat. I would donate two 1-hour meetings as a thank-you for these 12 years. The only thing I’d ask for in exchange is an article in the next month inviting readers to a NYC in-person Pride event I’m producing (it’s a Brandi Carlile tribute concert with an all queer cast & band).

    Please email me at rachel[at]rachelkunstadt[dot]com if you’re interested in meeting. I would hate for Autostraddle to no longer be part of my day, routine, and life.

    • Sounds like you might love nonprofits as much as I do, but just want to note, the Autostraddle team has been super clear and consistent about why moving to a nonprofit model isn’t right for them.* I work for a journalism nonprofit right now, and all these same dynamics are at play in the nonprofit sphere (especially if you follow the standard advice to diversify your funding streams). I saw a tweet from a (for profit) journalism colleague about being in month 18 of an impending recession and sounded about right! It’s being used as the reasoning to not renew sponsorships, and this year has been the worst experience of that in the pandemic so far.

      It seems like this is a really critical period for Autostraddle to figure out what, in an even more volatile than anyone reasonably planned for environment, is a sustainable level of income, expenses, and workload for staff. Right now, it doesn’t sound like there’s any profit (non or otherwise) or slack to figure out big picture stuff beyond ironing out that math. Maybe longer in the future, who knows (personally I find the rebrand comment pretty compelling, and have seen it work well for many for and nonprofits, but that is also not a topic for now).

      I also hope Autostraddle can weather this, but I just don’t think even very well meaning advice drawn from expertise in a related sector is gonna give the solution. I certainly have my own ideas, and maybe to your two free hours point, some focus groups with members with some expertise could be a way to brainstorm a range of useful, out of the box ideas for the team to consider? But it sounds like even that is likely beyond staff capacity right now. (I would also throw my hat in the ring to participate or volunteer facilitate!)

      * Nico’s answer to this is also a really great explanation of why things like tax deductibility aren’t always as important as they seem, depending on the community you serve: https://www.autostraddle.com/yes-fundraising-is-part-of-our-business-model-heres-why/

      • (it’s OP – I’m at work and can’t log in)

        Thank you @unexpectedfreeformfan for this very helpful information. I wasn’t aware of the specifics about the decision to not make AS a nonprofit.

      • Thanks for sharing – I’ve been working in nonprofit/public fundraising for 10+ years, and I’ve also wondered whether it would make sense for AS to operate as a nonprofit. I respect the decision not to pursue non-profit status, but from this post, it seems like some of the reasoning is a little out of touch with the purpose and structure of nonprofits. It’s funny that the post acknowledges that part of the inspiration for their fundraising drives is NPR…a 501(c)(3) org.

        It shouldn’t be just a matter of an organization considering the financial and tax benefits and then retrofitting their operations to meet the requirements of becoming a 501(c)(3). If you serve the community in a mission-driven way and rely on donations from that community to exist (but without the fiscal transparency, oversight, and ethical commitment to those donors that nonprofit status requires), then you probably should have already been operating as a nonprofit.

        “We’d be required to assemble a board of directors, and to hold (ideally in-person) meetings of that board. Volunteering on a nonprofit board of directors is a part-time job in and of itself (as is creating and having a board of directors); we’re always going to choose creating paid opportunities over volunteer.” I agree that the voluntary status of a nonprofit board can create ethical issues and prevent people from marginalized communities from participating – especially if the organization fails to understand the distinction between the role of a board member and an employee. Board participation is an opportunity for members of the community to offer their expertise as decision-makers, and shouldn’t be viewed as free labor. Further, an important role of a board member is to connect an organization with donors. The idea that our community doesn’t include people who would be valuable in this role is a little naïve.

        The statement that “honestly, grants are no easier to rely upon than ad sales” also suggests some ignorance about nonprofit fundraising. That’s true if you view grants as random requests for free money, rather than the result of relationship-building, strategic planning, and ongoing stewardship. The concerns raised about private foundations are 100% valid. Current fundraising dynamics can create toxic relationships that make nonprofits beholden to donors who think their wealth gives them knowledge. These relationships often prevent those who are on the ground in communities, and therefore have the greatest understanding of community needs, from doing their work in the most efficient way. Coalitions like Community-Centric Fundraising are working to dismantle these dynamics and promote fundraising strategies that reduce harm and promote social justice in the nonprofit sector.

        AS operating as a for-profit entity with the freedom to exploit workers and accept donations without transparency and oversight isn’t sticking it to capitalism in the way that they think it is.

        • “AS operating as a for-profit entity with the freedom to exploit workers and accept donations without transparency and oversight isn’t sticking it to capitalism in the way that they think it is.”

          Incredibly said, Emily. Everything you’ve said is spot on. I’m a nonprofit fundraising consultant, and I’ve worked running paid media through grantwriting and board management, and a lot of their reasoning — and some of the reasoning for current efforts and revenue models — has been very frustrating to witness over the years. Thank you for lending a voice to the conversation!

  52. i’m sorry to see shelli and vanessa go, and for ro’s role to be reduced. these changes are going to be felt, majorly, in the shape of the site, and i know this decision was not made lightly.

    these are hard and scary times for organizations serving people or causes that capitalism doesn’t give a fuck about. this is not the only community of mine that is looking nervously at the books and making hard decisions about pay cuts and pulling back on offerings. that’s frightening for me. of course i want to see the people whose work i value and benefit from be compensated well. i don’t want them overworked and underpaid. and i’m grateful for what i hope are temporary sacrifices for labors of love, because there just are not other spaces like these. with respect to autostraddle specifically, the fact that it feels like a community and not an empty art gallery of articles with comments disabled- this is priceless in 2023. wrong word, considering, since there is very much a price for continuing to operate. i am going to be here rooting for the team and fervently hoping this very special place is able to weather the storm.

  53. sometimes it feels like autostraddle really has the deck stacked against it — queer, feminist, indie media, and making an effort to centre BIPOC & other marginalized voices. other (much bigger!) companies have been laying people off left & right so i’m impressed that AS was able to hold out this long, and grateful that the subject editors were able to get 3 months’ advanced notice & pay.

    because you’ve set such a high bar around transparency in the past, readers expect this info to a degree we never would from other big media corps. and as another commenter pointed out, so often these other corps lay writers and editors off (after overworking and underpaying them for years) while giving execs giant bonuses — so I expect some readers / social media commenters got their hackles up out of habit, even though that’s not what happened here. thank you for being transparent about all of this in ways the big media companies aren’t.

    THANK YOU to shelli & vanessa & ro for all their writing and other work on AS over the years. wherever vanessa & shelli end up, i’ll be sure to read them, and i hope they get paid absolute bank.

    for the rest of the team, if y’all can’t get paid bank, i hope you can at least find a way to make your work sustainable (whether that’s hours, output, stress levels, etc.). i’ve loved autostraddle for so long and it’s absolutely invaluable to the queer community — not just as a community space and TV/movie site with fun quizzes and stuff, but at this point also as a digital archive of queer-lesbian-feminist media history and commentary. thank you for all you continue to do. i hope you and we can keep AS going for a long time.

    love. solidarity. fuck capitalism.💜

  54. also this is the last one: the white women in charge of autostraddle have a long history of centering how sad they are at how bad a job they did at managing autostraddle and baby, i’m tired. this is not about your feelings. grow up.

    • I second this. Been hearing a lot about how sad white leadership is and not a lot about solutions for a longggggg time now. It’s not productive, and it’s honestly really gross.

    • Ari and Morgan make very valid points here that should be addressed by Riese. I don’t feel like I’m properly equipped to weigh in since I’ve only been reading Autostraddle for a little more than two years now but this is important and while I do want to believe in the goodness Autostraddle has procured, this could be something that brings damage.

    • Yes! And the reflexive centering of how the remaining editors feel is so ridiculous and a hallmark of white fragility. Three people just got fired and we’re supposed to feel bad for the managers? Three people were explicitly told they would not be let go only to have that happen? Over SLACK? Please.

      The fish rots from the head. I’ve been reading AS literally since 2010 so I feel comfortable saying that the MO that centers the feelings of the two white women besties at the top *must be addressed.* They love their jobs, they’re obviously making enough money to live somewhat comfortably and that has continued to guide the site’s culture and practices. Everyone on Twitter is talking about how low freelance pay is for the site and that should be embarrassing af for a so-called progressive online magazine. Riese, we notice that you’re not answering all the questions, but are taking time to thank the people trying to shield you from criticism. AS is not a fiefdom. It’s a site that many of us have happily contributed to over the years. This thing where you ask for money and refuse to answer questions is over. It’s 2023. No more!

      And look, if AS ends up closing or greatly reducing its output, that may be for the best. But things cannot continue the way they are.

      Also—y’all should unionize.

  55. Thank you for the transparency, thank you to the workers and writers and everyone involved. With indie media shutting down left and right, it’s definitely a scary time.

    Unsolicited fundraising idea: Donate $100 for 15 minutes with Riese where you tell her exactly how Autostraddle should be run while she nods. Donate an extra $100 to be told it’s a great idea and will be taken into consideration. An extra $100 and you get told that you’re so very smart and amazing and a real visionary. This comment section makes me think this strategy could raise a lot of money.

    • The editors were sacked three weeks after approaching leadership with concerns. One of them had been working for AS for over ten years. They were fired via SLACK DM. That part was left out of this pretty little PR letter. Show me the accountability.

      We all love AS and are pissed because seeing something you love hurt people sucks on a core level. Where do you get off telling other people what their responses to that should be?

  56. I would really love to know how much money senior leadership/anyone salaried at AS takes home annually, it would give critical context to the situation. Transparency, right?

      • In countries outside the US, it’s a legal requirement for businesses and nonprofits to disclose leadership salaries above a certain threshold in their annual financial statements, which are publicly available. It’s not an unreasonable question if it was shared as a lump sum without specific names attached.

      • it’s a matter of transparency that isn’t remotely uncommon in non-profits. this is not rolling up to a rando on the street and asking them how much they make.

        these people are having their salaries paid in part by the people in this comment thread, many of whom who are funding this enterprise with a set of expectations about fair labor and maintaining organisational diversity, both of which are now in doubt after both the removal of the subject editors and the information disclosed in this thread, and all of whom are hoping to sustain a solvent, functional media organ. if the pay structure is relevant to that, then it actually should be discussed, assuming this is a serious attempt to lay out the situation to readers/donors.

      • In Norway you can just search online, for anyone in the country, and see the details of any individual or company’s income and tax paid for a given tax year. The idea that it’s ‘rude’ is preposterously anti-worker, serving only those who gain from this concealment.

        • There are also disadvantages to this. Being able to check anyone’s salary can be stigmatizing for impoverished people, particularly when they are unemployed. Further, in terms of surveillance, I don’t love the idea. I understand the appeal in transparency; and there can be a downside to that as well.

    • As someone who works in public education, any person in the world can find my salary (and all of my colleagues’ and my supervisors’). I forgot that the vast majority of employers don’t operate this way.

      • According to Nico during the last fundraiser, their budget is 110k/month and 90% of that goes to payroll (https://www.autostraddle.com/we-need-you-to-buy-us-some-time-before-time-runs-out/#comment-2215436).

        90% of 110k is 99k, subtract the 6k for Shelli, Ro, and Vanessa. I have no idea how much they pay freelancers, so let’s assume all of that goes to the 6 senior staff – an average of 16.5k/month or 198k/yr is the highest possible number here. Which on the one hand is a really massive pay disparity. But for a job that is allegedly requiring 100 hours a week, honestly sounds low to me?

        In retrospect, this was really useless math to do but I already did it, so, enjoy.

        I canceled my A+ after the comment hive mind jumped down the throat of anyone who dared to question why AS’s model seemed so unsustainable. I also really question how AS prioritizes things … Shelli’s work amplifying POC voices seems a lot more important than the self-indulgent fluff the senior staff regularly puts out.

        • I agree that Shelli’s work amplifying Black voices and the voices of People of Color is more important than all the celebrity pieces, articles about TV, food, crosswords, astrology and the quizzes that seem to dominate the site recently. Is it just me or has AS changed in the regard that there were somewhat less fluff pieces in the past?

          • There was a post about the best drink tumblers that went up this morning, got some critical comments, and mysteriously disappeared, but yeah, transparency and accountability

          • I wish I could like this ten more times. I stopped paying attention to Autostraddle for years because it was dominated by fluff pieces that I found completely uninteresting. I understand that every piece can’t be someone baring their soul, but the magnitude of pieces about products/celebrities/other silliness has been a little mind-numbing, to be honest.

          • I agree that Shelli’s work amplifying POC voices is/was very important and will be greatly missed here. But if you look at the most popular posts/the ones that drive the most traffic, it’s the TV recaps and quizzes and “fluff” pieces. It’s unfortunate but those are the types of articles people are most likely to click on when they pop up in their social feeds, etc. so I understand why AS continues to publish that content and why they may be publishing more of it now in an attempt to drive more traffic/revenue to the site.

  57. I think the thing that’s the most frustrating to me from an organizational perspective* is that it seems there is no plan or solution beyond “don’t shut down”. I re-read the fundraising article, and in conjunction with this statement here, there doesn’t seem to be a solution beyond immediate crisis. If there is, I’m of course happy to take that statement back, but nothing I’ve read so far suggests this. The site has tried fundraising, loans, etc. Is the problem that there is nothing left to try?

    I’m not lacking in empathy for the current situation, I know that media everywhere is taking a hit right now, and of course queer media is more tenuous by nature. But as readers and monetary contributors to this site, how are we supposed to have faith that leadership is going to right this ship? To continue the dumb ship analogy, it seems like plugging holes with corks while there is a gash in the hull. For me, I want to know if there is a plan and what that plan is. If the folks running this site can’t provide that, then perhaps the site leadership should change. Because what is happening now isn’t working.

    *The real thing that is most frustrating to me is that once again when it’s time to cut people, it’s always the most marginalized voices that get the chop. I’m tired of this happening, and I guess I mistakenly thought that a queer publication would be better about this.

    • Hearing now from Ro’s comment above and Shelli’s substack, I’m really unsure if I will continue being an A+ Member and contributing to Autostraddle. At minimum, it appears that there is an extreme lack of communication/abundance of miscommunication internally, and at maximum complete negligence and mismanagement. What a disappointment.

      • Yes this! I am also strongly thinking about canceling my A+. I have yet to see any real answers about the (widely admitted) unsustainable plan to cut senior editor pay and have them do more work. Or answers to why many past employees are identifying this overworking and lack of communication as a pattern. Or the false, twisted statements in this letter that haven’t been addressed.
        I want people to have sustainable healthy jobs, much more than I want to be entertained by their exploited work.

    • As Riese’s baby, Autostraddle has always been fundamentally a space for thin white cis lesbians. They’ve tried to change that in the past few years, but it seems like when times get tough, their commitment to diversity goes out the window.

  58. I hear Vox media is hiring writers. I am sure corporate media can use some queer and diverse writers like the excellent ones lost here. Vanessa was a long time writer here, why drop her in favor of some of the newer writers? That seems like a weird move to me. I surely can’t be the only one to think that. Her writing was classic, it was dirty, flirty and all with a staunch voice of lesbianism and inclusivity. Pour one out for the dirty flirty lesbians.

  59. I know this isn’t the point, but saying “post-pandemic” is irresponsible when the pandemic is not over. If you’re referring to a specific time period in 2022, please just write that.

    • When I open the links, they get me to the Substack sites of Shelli and Vanessa but not spacific articles.
      Unfortunately, as a reader outside of the US who doesn’t own a credit card, I can’t subscribe to Shelli’s Substack anyway.
      In any case, thanks for amplifying their voices!

  60. Respectfully: you could have, and should have, avoided this by simply facing reality: this website has never been stable, and it’s never going to be stable, period. Retire, and new lesbian and queer outlets will pop up in your place like ghoul fungus, messier than ever. It’s okay! That’s the business, and no fictional ethical investor or weekly fundraisers are gonna fix it. You had a good run. Thanks for your input.

    • That would mean CFO/CEO would have to find a new job, which sounds pretty difficult considering the economy we are in and she being a bitch who has high standards and taste.

    • This is such a strange and antagonistic thing to say. I doubt that you would ever tell someone to their face to retire and abandon something that’s valuable to a large number of readers.

    • Also why would you want this specific site to go? We lost a lot of lgbtq sites for lesbian/queer/bi women and folks who are aligned that way, like the Babe, The Toast, and others. Why would you want this to go the wrong way or worse become an After Ellen useless and racist?

      • Autostraddle has been around far too long to have not figured itself out. Nothing is worth 100 hour work weeks and other such nonsense, least of all a blog. That’s not a job, that is a cult. The underpaid employees, underpaid contributors, and overly generous readers deserve better. They’re never going to get better from here.

  61. Just wow at some of these comments. Yes, this whole situation sucks, and obviously, it could’ve been handled a bit better. But some people here just seem to gleefully want the site to shut down out of spite because things weren’t run exactly as they think they should’ve been. Some queers seem so eager to eat each other alive at the slightest opportunity. Yes, there are improvements to make, but this place is so important to so many people that it would be a damn shame if we lost it.

  62. Long-time autostraddle reader here: I want to take a make to convey how deeply disappointed I am in this response, particularly in light of recent accounts from the special editors —both of whom are marginalized queers— about how they were mislead prior to being unceremoniously fired. I feel it’s especially important for white queers to hold each other accountable when we see one another perpetuating the tenets of white supremacy culture (https://www.dismantlingracism.org/uploads/4/3/5/7/43579015/okun_-_white_sup_culture.pdf)

    It’s clear, from the accounts I’ve read, that the decision making process that lead up to these folks being fired was steeped in a kind of short sidedness that comes from moving from a place of urgency instead of long-term planning for sustainability. That sense of urgency seems to extend well beyond this particular administrative move, given Riese’s description of how Autostraddle has operated fundraiser to fundraiser, instead of pausing to rethink the sustainability of its model. This kind of decision making often has negative consequences for the most marginalized — in this case for the black, trans and fat special editors who lost their jobs. If these folks were so valuable, why weren’t they informed about the possibility of losing their jobs earlier on when they asked about it? Why were their jobs the ones that needed to be cut for cost-saving measures?

    What’s especially frustrating about this response is that while it perportes to be transparent, it doesn’t actually address the questions, or others that folks have rightfully raised. In this way, this response feels rooted in white defensiveness, in the need to explain away mistakes instead of what is really required: a reckoning with why this decision was made and what would need to change so that marginalized staff are actually prioritized and cared for in the future. This kind of reflection takes time, a willingness to sit with discomfort and a desire to reckon with the parts of ourselves that keeps us from acting in ways that are more just. Mariama Kaba says that our work is always to reduce the gap between our values and our actions. It’s incumbent upon senior staff at auto straddle to do just that.

    • Gee, is it possible that something could have CHANGED in three weeks’ time? Could something truly unforeseen have come up that acted as the final bit of straw? The amount of bad faith shown in these comments, especially by so many claiming to be long-time readers, is really gross.

      Riese, however you choose to move forward, I hope you do what is best for YOU. You’ve given AS everything you possibly could for so long. <3

          • bootlicking is worse than demanding transparency from a “ceo” who harms her staff and can’t even tell you if that staff counts as managers or not but was certain to keep the contractors below 20 hours a week so they couldn’t ever unionize. bootlicker.

        • maybe transparency means discussing whatever catastrophic event happened in those three weeks?

          that would be a much better use of your time, to shore up the good will of those of us who believe deeply in inclusive lesbian media but are 98% done with this entire debacle, and are heartsick at the levels of misuse of our goodwill and money to paper over another anti-worker diversity fail, rather than personally heart-emoji-ing people who are caping for you after dozens, dozens of failures, and will presumably keep caping for you no matter what.

          get it together, Riese. you have had too many third and fourth and fifth chances, this is ridiculous. WAKE UP. if you really love the community and want Autostraddle to survive, now is the time.

    • As much as I think the ceo is a princess bitch, can a person who is one of the targets by white supremacy(she is a white jew, which they also hate, see Charlottesville) be one? If anything we need to keep the white people, including the ones of marginalized religions, to make sure they stay in their lane and up lift voices of colors too. I am just thankful that awful Alex Vega doesn’t seem to have a roll anymore on this site.

  63. first thing – there’s been a lot of engagement on this post while the majority of posts listed on the site’s front page have fewer than 10 comments, several fewer than 5. so while we are asking for them to do stuff, recognize that we could be doing more. staff have said previously that participation helps them with advertisers (and something else i can’t remember…). they make it easy to do (even anonymously, which must be a serious pain in the ass)

    some folks are calling out misstatements, like referring to advance payout as severance, but then refer to advance notice of contract termination as firing – which implies an agenda that is not w/out bias.

    Ro, Shelli, and Vanessa have 3-month’s warning before their income will be affected; and advanced payment requests (acknowledged as such) were honored – while the organization has financial struggles and others take paycuts.

    Ro has herein diplomatically pointed out a 3-week gap between concerned inquiries and information about role termination (though it seems subject editors disclosed that info elsewhere), leading some to question intent or competence. which seems like bias again.

    i can imagine a few reasons for the delay: there was concern, but relevant data to the decision still required review; stating that concern prematurely could cause problems, something potentially like a bank run; at the time of the inquiry, they may not have known who would be affected, so there weren’t details to give which would certainly have been among the questions. or, they may have thought that things could manage longer, even if that was just hoping for it to be the case. not to be flip, but my phone may ring and i might not be able to answer the call, even if the caller really needs me.

    Riese and Nico specifically have stated they recognize mistakes, and certainly the enthusiasm some have shown in pointing at them will have driven home the point. i really appreciate Ro’s engagement here, for those of us who aren’t on social media, it’s been really helpful to sort through what’s happening.

    knowing that staff is overworked, which we are all concerned about, perhaps we are contributing to the problem by continuing this thread – either they have to let discourse continue without comment, neglect other work to participate, or work longer to do both. perhaps it’s better that we offer what we can to help materially, and otherwise let them work on the issues they are trying to address?

    • Thank you for this very reasonable and truthful breakdown of the situation. The pile on is so disappointing and I can’t imagine how much more stress this puts the staff under. A lot of these comments are out for blood, outright untruthful, and not productive. It seems like some people just want to tear queer spaces down any chance they get. It’s really counterproductive to require complete perfection and no mistakes from our queer community, purity politics will destroy us. Things like 3 months notice of essentially a lay-off is spectacular in comparison to what most people get, even if it sucks to lose some great voices. Space to work on these issues are vital for moving forward. Autostraddle is too important to lose and I hope is able to fully bounce back from this. Sending so much love to the leadership dealing with this situation.

      • this is a 100%, totally honest question in response to your post:

        At what point, exactly, do i get to critique queer publications?

        autostraddle dismissed a writer who had been on their team for *10 FUCKING YEARS* *VIA SLACK DM*. they laid off a Black editor who had built a significant POC following VIA SLACK DM.

        autostraddle leadership had the complete lack of self-awareness to feel it was okay to just openly publish that they allowed fundraising staff to work 100-hour weeks to the point of self-harm.

        i’m queer! i support queer spaces! i don’t support queer spaces AT ANY COST NECESSARY. i do actually care about the wellbeing of the people maintaining those spaces.

        the more important question is… why don’t you?

        • There’s critique and there’s dogpiling and calling for blood. Yes, some really crappy communication happened but is that really worth the shuttering of the site people are calling for? I don’t think so. We all live in crappy situations under capitalism, but somehow it’s indie queer spaces that take the heat for it so people can get their rocks off feeling superior by saying they know all the solutions.

    • you are being disingenuous by comparing senior leadership allowing for the cavalier substitution of “paying out contract wages for labor as per the contract as always intend” — the reality — and “three months of severance pay” — a fuckin imaginary dreamland that AS leadership wants the peepz to believe — with readers benignly substituting the phrases “non-renewal of contract” with “fired” — more or less the same the thing?… One of these things is happening by the people in power & in-the-know and one of these things is not! One of these things is fundamentally misrepresenting the facts on the ground in a material way, and one of these things is just a mere difference in wording!

      You say that Ro themself calls out the 3-week time gap in which Things Might Have Changed… I would redirected you to this Very Post in Which You Are Commenting On! in which Riese is very clear in the fact that even preceding the fundraiser, she is concerned that staff cuts are imminent. This means that senior staff went into the meeting with subject editors in bad faith if they did not disclose that layoffs were on the table for reconciling financial troubles.

      riese and nico “recognizing mistakes” honestly means NoThInG to me? just a fucking sob story about how they fucked up AGAIN?

      yeah, staff are overworked. ask yourself WHY. WHY are they too overworked to answer the most basic questions about equitable treatment of staff and contractors? is it because of completely incompetent management of this entire enterprise? …hmm.

      • i don’t have anything to gain by being disingenuous, so i wish i could say thank you for the discourse, but it doesn’t feel like there’s any room for a genuine difference in perspective here – i am sorry for whatever reason that provokes you.

        my empathy for everyone in this situation is an honest sentiment. i’m rooting for whatever changes come to work out because a lot of people still work here and a lot of others rely on the community.

        • lol okay! you’re rooting for “whatever changes come to work out”? as in.. like. *WHATEVER* changes? do you have a viewpoint on life, like, at all? are you actually just a loaf of white bread cosplaying a human?

  64. if 28% of the budget was freelancers and independent contractors and that includes the 3 editors who were getting $2k a month, what are the salaries of the roughly 6 senior staff positions that comprise nearly 60% of the budget? those %s come from your “annual report” but you don’t have any actual numbers which is not transparent.

  65. I was unable to donate to the Autostraddle fundraiser this year as I was not in a place financially to do so. I just donated now. I’m sorry Autostraddle is in such a dire place and everyone is so overworked. I hope Shelli, Ro, and Vanessa are all able to quickly find work that pays well. I will dearly miss their content. I know my small donation won’t fix anything, but it did feel like something I could do to try and help a little.

  66. Autostraddle is not a family. It is, in fact, a workingplace. In which people are now getting fired.
    The mere fact that workers are not unionized, and that Nico (comment above) seems to think that an union would be useless (!!), is enough to be worried about AS’ management. Friendly reminder that people work to earn money first and foremost, not to find community.
    I cannot see a future for AS but the truth is – though I was once part of AS’s membership, I don’t want to be involved in its future anymore.
    Thanks to Vanessa, Ro and Shelli. I hope you find better jobs.

    • The meanest thing about Capitalism is that it always manages to dress up in new trendy clothes, with cool haircut and a youngish looking facelift so it does not get recognized as our all too well known dirty old enemy of the working class. Workers don´t get fooled: your boss is still your boss even if they sweet-talk about equality, justice, minorities and what not. Solidarity with your boss is a trap and when it snaps you will be the one ending up squeezed. Senior staff of AS: open up about your revenue or stop talking about transparency!

  67. No one has more opinions than someone who hasn’t been in that position before and has no responsibility to address the issue personally. Seeing members of the community advocate to end Autostraddle so that the writers can all be employed by corporate media who will present the same or worse working conditions doesn’t make any sense. AS did the right thing here in a world where most of us don’t know what that is anymore. Thanks for the transparency and thoughtfulness. My love to the current and former team members.

  68. I’m being supporting the site since October of 2021 and will continue to support. I enjoy the writing, knowing what I’m missing in the community, the slack pop-ups and keeping this site alive.

    This is a super tough decision to make. I’ve been in the same spot and made very tough decisions that eliminated the non-profit and my position as the sole staff.

    I feel strongly what others have said around losing such great writers and how they brought different perspectives to this site. With that, you can’t eliminate people and then say there was only two options and come back later in the post to say, thinking of the way forward. I thought the fundraisers/A+ were the way forward.

    I’m heartbroken over how everything has gone in not being fully transparent. If a site takes pride in being transparent to everyone on staff, writing for the site and the community reading, why didn’t this happen?

    I understand all the slices of pie in the revenue streams. I still would suggestion two changes, get rid of the advertising and being transparent with people that more will need to come in with fundraisers/A+. I compare this to how community radio stations go all in for one week and shot for the stars in terms of what they need to truly survive.

    • Same here. I really believe that the autostraddle community has more capacity to give financially (I think a spring and fall fundraiser is totally feasible, similar to public radio stations as said above), and it sounds like the staff do not have the capacity to run more fundraisers. Maybe make the fundraisers less perk-heavy (i.e. donate at any level and get a sticker) or only have the perks in the fall, hoping they arrive around end of year holidays? From the communication I’ve received as a donor, our community fulfills goals faster and farther than expected. Taking $200k out every year via loans is definitely not viable, but I believe two $100k fundraisers a year could be.

      I do NOT want autostraddle to shut down! And I also don’t want it to operate under the “hustle at all hours at all costs” model it seems to be going at for over a decade. 100+ hours a week is bananas. This is no longer a passion project blog — it’s a business and while yes, that means capitalism will drive awful decisions, it also means that options like a co-op model, unionizing, a board of stakeholders, and contracting with HR or an ombudsman also exist. There are many exciting possibilities at this fork in the road.

      And while some of those options may feel vulnerable or risky or scary, I don’t think they are any riskier or scarier than losing Shelli, Ro, and Vanessa’s contributions to this community. I don’t want to see anyone else have to go through what they’ve experienced.

    • Isn’t that what A+ articles, A+ podcast and their private A+ Discord channel is for? What else could they do for A+ members? Buy them a table dance at lesbian friendly strip club?

  69. The fact that the Subject Editors all came to you in confidence, concerned about their job security, and you had the gall to reassure them before letting them go via Slack THREE WEEKS LATER is appalling.

    You should actively be ashamed of so much of the shitty practices here, because it’s disgusting. It’s been evident for a long time that you don’t live any of your Values, and it’s never more apparent than now that you’re a CEO, but will never manage to achieve the title of “leader.” Particularly when you center your feeling and your white woman tears over… pretty much anything else.

    • Clearly you’ve never been through layoffs, obviously it’s not ideal but I think most people wish they’d been let go with three months of pay. Especially as a writer, and an independent contractor, where already you know your employment is tenuous

  70. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and a have few more things I want to say.

    1 – I believe that AS leadership made a difficult, necessary business decision to cut jobs in order to stay in business AND that they handled it incredibly badly, in a way that centered the mistakes and feelings of the CEO instead of the work of the subject editors they cut.

    There were so many missteps, from canceling the contracts in a slack DM to not posting the announcement earlier. This post should have been a chance for us to praise and celebrate Shelli, Ro and Vanessa and to mourn their loss. Instead of this shitshow.

    I have a lot of compassion for Riese. I personally hate giving people bad news and I’m an expert in denial and avoidance. I’m not sure I would have done better in her situation. But I also feel quite strongly that AS should have handled it better, and they should treat all of their writers and editors better.

    2 – I hope AS can come back from this breach of trust. They’ve come back before. But their membership strategy relies on A+ members feeling like we’re part of the team, part of something special. I’m not sure how the next A+ post with the 9 funny slack conversations is going to land for me.

    I’ve seen other A+ members in this thread wondering if it’s ethical to keep supporting an organization that’s not treating their workers well. I don’t know. I’ve been around enough shoestring budget, passion project organizations that my norms are probably a little skewed. Right now, I’m keeping my membership.

    3 – I hope that when the time comes, AS is able to close down well, with integrity. I don’t want AS to close – I love this publication and community. But many publications and arts organizations that I’ve loved have closed. And life went on. New organizations grew up or they didn’t.

    I’ve seen a few comments in this thread wondering if it’s time to start fundraising to help AS go out of business ethically and maintain an archive instead of fundraising to stay in business matter what.

    My question is, will AS leadership be able to learn from this debacle and execute the next hard decisions better? Will AS go out like The Toast or like AfterEllen? I hope they can go out like The Toast.

    • Thank you for making this comment. As an A+ member who was delighted to have a space to be queer in after AfterEllen fell apart, it’s unsettling to see the same thing happening again. I want to love this site, I want it to continue to be a place where diverse voices are heard. I hope leadership will be communicative with employees in the future, so that this kind of ball-dropping doesn’t happen again.

  71. Riese, your total silence on the questions being asked about the racism & disrespect to your BIPOC staff speaks volumes. There’s a known pattern where failing businesses bring in POC in a leadership role when they know there’s no way to turn things around, so that person ends up taking the blame when it all goes down in flames. With y’all trying to find a Black person to take on the CEO role & asking if that would keep Shelli on board, it seems clear that’s your plan to avoid critique.

    The paragraphs in your statement about how badly you feel about losing a leading Black voice were only added to your statement after POC on staff spent hours trying to hold you accountable for your previous commitments. (And as MANY people have mentioned, centering your white woman tears about it instead of actually supporting the writers who are out of a job is infuriating. Heather’s post about how best to support Ro, Vanessa, and Shelli that included multiple direct links to financially support them is in clear contrast to this post).

    Your commitment to racial justice is hollow and performative. You’ve used Black staff & Black culture to build readership and turn things around since 2019, but now they’re disposable to you.

  72. + to the need for unionizing

    Also reading Heather Hogan’s substack. Not all of the ‘senior staff’ were involved or informed in this decision. Riese (and anyone else ACTUALLY making $ decisions) – hiding behind a group & “we’re all leadership” when it’s really 1, 2, or 3, possssssssssibly 4 or 5 people making decisions about money is incredibly unfair to everyone in the ‘leadership team aka senior staff aka direct employees/non-contractors’group who does NOT actually have influence over funds. it’s incredibly unfair to writers and readers being told you’re doing your best & that’s why you can’t pay higher rates. Concentrating control over this many people’s livelihoods and trying to make the numbers work by yourself is not doing your best, and it’s not looking at all the options from all the angles. You can’t know there were ‘no good choices’ if you’re not consulting the people who make this organization run (which would have included Shelli Nicole, Vanessa, & Ro).

    I’m devastated for the people who I see doing real leadership here – Editor in Chief Dr. Carmen Phillips, Heather Hogan, Shelli Nicole, Vanessa, Ro – fighting every day for writers & making new possibilities for readers and writers. We NEED a queer media haven. Separating control of the money from the people who support writers in every other way wrecks that. I think a membership/subscription/fundraising model could actually work, and be faaaaaaar better than substack etc, but the decisionmaking power about money has to be spread out. I am still holding out hope that this precipitates Riese and Laneia (and others who need to) ceding control so editors that remain & writers & readers can continue to use the infrastructure here.

    • I should clarify that ‘ceding control’ does not mean handing a sinking ship to people of color to right after firing Shelli Nicole. for everything “Accountability to the community” covered.

      • thanks for saying so, it’s been a lot to process.

        part of the reason i keep coming back here is that i know in a similar position i could have done what Riese did here. I’m not special, I have white privilege, and women & queers with white privilege are – in our modern society – conditioned to do what Riese is doing here from birth. White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color by Ruby Hamad is really helpful for me understanding what’s happening, highly recommend it. i found it liberating, not scolding. i’m taking notes here on what not to do, and i may do my own version of this in the future. if you read what i write carefully i am describing the consequences – practical and emotional and relational – of what Riese has been DOING and SAYING, not her personhood. white queers & women have GOT to get a handle on this stuff within ourselves or it’s gonna keep ripping our queer spaces apart.

        actual vulnerability would have been asking for more help from more directions to figure out how to come up with another $2k or $4k or $6k a month. there was a way to do it, since after writers of color confronted her, Riese pulled together some kind of plan that included inviting Shelli Nicole back.

        another chance for vulnerability would have been telling a LOT more of the truth in this post.

        talking about feeling sad & how hard it is is not vulnerability from the position of CEO/CFO. it actually BUILDS Riese’s power by drawing sympathy distracting from the work at hand – Pulling oneself together & doing the work Shelli Nicole was doing – making a safe & joyful place for Black and Brown queers to write their stuff, and making the case for Autostraddle writers every SINGLE chance to people with $. i COMPLETELY understand if Riese is too tired or what have you to do that, and in that case THAT needs to be addressed with a PLAN.

    • I feel like who is doing “real leadership” is incredibly subjective. I find Riese having to make all the tough decisions and then taking all the blame in this an example of real leadership, whereas I found a lot of Shelli’s writing severely lacking. I don’t think any blame is being placed on Carmen here

  73. Could be the right time trim the excess by replacing the ceo by having EIC take over. Then re-hire all three writers back. It would be the right move as the ceo has shown multiple times she only truly cares about a narrow set of the readers. Just look at the mess that was the last two A Camps. Racism, transmisogyny and people feeling alienated at event that claims to be for them. At least that was all the buzz on facebook at twitter at the time. Would save just as much money, no?

    • I’m sure former writers who are trans have a lot to say about those messy A camp debacles. It was not pretty from what I hear. Plus, no one ever really apologized for making multiple people, including a TPOC, a younger trans woman and lesbian of color to cry at their events. Plus, don’t forget this site defended their choice of guests at their camp. Good riddance to bad apples I say and start clean as you suggest with a better management.

    • our EIC is not interested in being CEO of this company, i asked! also as somebody who was both EIC and CEO of this company for ten years, it is a very high-stress, life-swallowing commitment

      • ^ this. Really feels like a suggestion clouded in faux allyship, asking a person with a high demanding job to take on a second high demanding job, with resources tight

  74. I ended my A+ membership earlier this month due to having little money and wanting to support something that is more political than AS has become with all the fluff articles in a time of massive political backlashes… But if I hadn’t stopped being an A+ member already, I would seriously consider it now. Not because times are hard and cuts have to be made – that I understand – but because this is how staff members are being let go. I don’t have any insights and don’t know what exactly happened in these three weeks between the meeting and the moment Shelli, Ro and Vanessa received the Slack DMs. But DMs? This is just…no. Don’t tell people this way that their positions are being eliminated. While I could imagine that it comes from a place of insecurity, sadness, shame and that it is super-hard to tell these three wonderful people that they’re being let go, DMs are just… I don’t know… This is not what any worker should experience, yet alone three persons who put so much heart, love and hard work in this site because they believed in it.
    All the best for Ro, Shelli and Vanessa; good luck out there.

    • I agree that the content of this website is less and less radical and more and more… uninteresting.
      I will always remember the high-quality content of ~2014-2018. But then, I also remember that all these skilled writers were dramatically underpaid and (for many) eventually left. So no, it wasn’t sustainable. But I am grateful for what they offered us.

        • @Janet: a minority of them made a successfull, well-paid carreer after (and probably thanks to!) AS.
          Many didn’t.
          Ari Monts, who wrote for years here, notably about queer & lesbian sex/intimacy, has just called for help because they are at risk of becoming homeless soon.
          It’s an example among others.

  75. I hope I don’t get her in trouble for saying this but everyone’s asking about salaries and during a virtual LongCovid panel at NYPL, someone asked how much $ people made at their jobs/how they were surviving with all the medical expenses and Heather Hogan said she makes $50K from her main job (which I assume is AS) and about $5K from freelancing during the year. She said she has great health insurance through work but relies heavily on her wife’s income to treat/manage her Long Covid. I saw someone float the idea that the senior staff here are making $100K+ but that doesn’t seem like the case.

    • The 100k+ was me and I meant it more in the context of “this is the absolute most they can’t be making and that’s still real low for a 100 hours a week position…”

      And obviously the true number is a lot more alarming…

    • I know someone who worked here full time and made close to six figures so my guess is that the reason there’s actually no pay transparency is that the people who created this mess make twice as much as Heather Hogan. If they all do make $50K, that makes the fundraising money being gone already even more eyebrow raising imo.

      • I’m sorry, if Autostraddle is paying one of the longest running and most loved writers in lesbian internet history [who has been disabled by Covid] half of what they’re paying whoever couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone to call these editors and let them know they were being fired… you guys. When an embattled queer, feminist org won’t be transparent about salaries, there’s something to hide. The ONLY reason to not be transparent is if it would hurt them more than what’s already happening here, and that says a lot to me.

  76. Thank you Riese for giving this explanation, even knowing (as I’m sure you did from past experience) that it would invite even more criticism and demands for even more transparency. And thank you for continuing to keep Autostraddle going even in the face of all the odds stacked against it.

    • I haven‘t read everything that‘s been written on all the various social media channels, so I can‘t comment on all the specifics.

      However, one thing that stood out to me is that even though it seems that most of the senior staff have been working WAY to many hours every week for months or years (which will definitely lead to burnout if it hasn‘t already), lots of commenters here are expecting very quick replies and statements from staff and steps forward.

      Some are even criticizing/voicing concern over the overtime being worked, yet are still expecting even more work to happen very quickly from that same staff. I don‘t think that‘s entirely fair and I think it goes to show how capitalist values can also be embedded in how quickly/when/how queer folks expect others to respond to criticism and callouts, even if those people are already working 80hrs a week and are probably burnt out or close to, and maybe struggling with a range of other things in their personal lives, too.

      Having previously worked for a queer nonprofit, where everybody was working overtime and getting burnt out, I know from experience that being in that cycle makes it SO much harder to do creative problem solving and thinking outside of the box. The more they‘re burnt out, the more people get into fight-or-flight mode and kind of just put blinders on and try to get everything done somehow because everything feels like a crisis. And in that situation, having criticism from your own communities directed at you, whether fair or unfair, especially if it‘s in rather harsh terms, is hard to deal with, cause you‘re so stressed out already.

      That is not to say that I think there shouldn‘t be any criticism or discussion! Just that maybe people could have a bit more patience with fellow overworked queers, who are dealing with multiple crises at once, even if those queers have made mistakes or aren‘t handling everything in the best way.

      I‘m saying all this as a white trans person who has had their fair share of mainly content-related criticism when it comes to Autostraddle (esp. about the lack of trans content and awareness), mostly in my own head but occasionally as a brief comment on an article. Yet I also appreciate that Autostraddle exists and I enjoy reading some of the content every week.

  77. I feel almost ready to cancel my membership at this point.

    1) Terminating the contracts of Vanessa, Shelli, and Ro via slack dm… what. How do you recover from that, *especially* as a company that’s more concerned with ethics and respecting their employees than a large corporation that does the same.

    2) I am pro worker’s rights and part of that means there’s a limit to how many hours one employee is allowed to work; passionate or not. Health is more important than one outlet and this is just not the right price to pay.

    Especially as there doesn’t seem to be an exit from this dire situation, as per this letter.

  78. Just listened to Riese’s interview on the most recent episode of Kate Moenning and Leisha Hailey’s podcast Pants. Kate asked if Autostraddle was going anywhere and I don’t understand with Riese didn’t take the opportunity to scream about how dire things are? The portrait that she painted on the podcast was that things were inherently tough as they are for all media companies right now, but under control. Absolutely nothing about people being laid off or senior staff having to work insane hours for very little pay.

    I have no idea how big the pool of people who listen to Pants but are unaware of Autostraddle is, but why not even even try to tell Kate and Leisha at least how bad things are?? They were interested and invested but clearly not daily readers. I know they were just fired and might not be rolling in cash right now but they do have big platforms.

    Or why not shout out Ro/Vanessa/Shelli (with their consent obviously) so they could benefit from the Pants platform??

    • thank you for listening! i actually did say on the podcast that our finances were dire, i think i used that actual word, and we recorded it three weeks ago. it’s true that it is hard out there for all media companies and we are a media company but also i’m not in charge of editing the podcast! (and i think it was beautifully edited and i was really happy about it.) right now we are in fact trying to get our way out of this hole, so telling a huge audience that might contain advertisers that we are not popular amongst advertisers didn’t feel like the best move. also like, it’s a podcast that is supposed to be entertaining. two people i admire and appreciate were complementing the website, and i did say a lot about the rough state we were in, but ultimately i wanted to be as upbeat as possible for a podcast that is supposed to be fun to listen to. idk this question feels weird to me i don’t know how to answer it

  79. If it means keeping Autostraddle going – I don’t see ADs on the website. And I wouldn’t mind seeing them if it meant knowing we won’t see Autostraddle disappear and become a footnote in queer history.

  80. I have been on and off here since the original blog.
    I have formed parasocial relationships with all the writers and staff who have come and gone through the years.
    Autostraddle has always been the struggle bus. I’ve always been amazed with what they do with so little.
    A decision was made years ago between making this site a full time job, instead of side project.
    We have all benefitted over the years from that decision.
    Like any small to suddenly large site – there have been mistakes. And I believe the staff responded as well as they knew how.
    As someone who is a pretty constant victim of armchair quarterbacking – The decisions that are made in the moment can be so glaringly wrong upon reflection. But that doesn’t mean they were made with ill intent.

    After sitting with news and comments – I am sad and disappointed with how all this happened.
    As with all relationships – sometimes there comes a moment where you have to have a hard conversation.
    I will continue to support this site as long as it is here. I believe that everyone here has the absolute best intentions.
    But I do hope all the critical comments are discussed. Sometimes an outside perspective is helpful.

    So as a long time community member- here are some of my unsolicited notes:

    I think a rebrand should be considered for the points already made in that previous comment. I’m always having to explain the name and what this site is.

    I feel like your presence on social media has always been lacking. Instagram in particular. Me and my friends do a lot of sharing and activism through Instagram (which I am aware its not the easiest site to make things shareable) but while there is a lot of content on your site – not a lot of it has been shared or linked on your Instagram feed. There has been more in the last year compared to previous but a lot of things I would really like to share never seem to get posted to your Instagram. I’m aware this adds more hours to the already heavy hours the staff is working but it could maybe offset the grind by getting more people to your site.

    If you’re really committed to the community aspect of your site – let the community help with things besides money. Be honest. Say your seeking advice, service, etc – but it would need to be volunteered or exchanged for a shoutout of some sort. Yea – in the big scheme of things it sucks you cant pay for valuable advice/service but some people – especially in our big queer community – would just love to help. Ask for input from A+ members – like hey what do you think/have any creative ideas. Workshop it. Etc.

    In the name of transparency – maybe breakdown the staff hours for the day/week/month. What they do with their time – especially during fundraisers – so we really understand just what it takes to keep this site we all love (or some love to hate) to keep this place running. Don’t paywall it.

    There will always be haters after difficult decisions. Especially when its handled quite poorly. This place was created in apartment by dreamers full of passion. Money is unfortunately the primary killer of dreams and passions. I believe you can overcome and outlast. You have all the heart.

  81. A couple of years ago, I reached out to auto straddle to purchase advertising. I had to follow up maybe 4-5 times to get someone to answer me and once I did, the customer service I got was really pretty minimal. The advertising I did get was fantastic and helped my work tremendously – but I was literally begging to give you all money and that was bizarre. I would recommend looking at those processes and improving customer service to people who want to advertise. I have recommended advertising in auto straddle to others – but it has come with a warning that no one will respond until you send multiple follow up emails. This could be one reason why finances are an issue.

      • So when they did that lesbians complained they were centering around cis able bodied white(and white-ish) lesbian voices. Now you are complaining they are being too diverse? It’s like they can’t win. They have higher numbers as others have said now than before. If you want the old autostraddle that’s focused on white able bodied lesbians it sounds like you want after ellen if that trash heap is around.

        Why would a lesbians influence pimp this site(which they probably wouldn’t without getting paid) when you have popular late night shows on NBC mentioning this site and even a few shows on Netflix that have. For free at that.

    • I don’t even know where to start…
      – “Most lesbians” is a very generalized assertion and I find it helpful to speak in “I”-statements. So it seems that you are not interested in trans women and topics about racism… Well, not all lesbians are white and cis. Some trans women are also lesbians, and there are many Black lesbians and lesbians of Color…
      – Trauma is also very much part of the “REAL WORLD” and a struggle for millions of both successful and poor queer people. (By the way, I wish trauma was more of a topic on AS, but it is not something that seems to be a priority