The return of Variety’s suspended editor-in-chief may require an enormous amount of bridge building in a new management structure that seems ripe for problems.
Claudia Eller, who was suspended from her editor-in-chief job at Variety for five months over a spat with a reporter who called her out for saying she’s done enough to diversify her newsroom, has been reinstated as a co-EIC until her contract expires in the summer of 2022. She returns Oct. 26.
Her departure in June was triggered by a Twitter feud with Hollywood Reporter senior editor Piya Sinha-Roy over Eller’s response to the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
“As editor-in-chief of Variety I have tried to diversify our newsroom over the past 7 years, but I HAVE NOT DONE ENOUGH,” she wrote.
It ended with a town hall meeting at Variety in which she tearfully apologized and then stepped out of the meeting while staffers reportedly vented long and loudly to Penske Media CEO Jay Penske about her management style.
Eller was unsparing in criticism of herself. “I am so ashamed, humiliated and regretful for my actions and the pain it has caused both internally and externally,” she wrote in the staff memo announcing her June departure. “I sent a direct message to Piya to apologize profusely for my insensitive and ignorant remarks, which I made in a moment when what I should have been doing was listening.”
She has since been undergoing diversity training. Jay Penske was broadly hinting to insiders that he was thinking of bringing her back after her suspension.
But as The Wrap, one of Variety’s rivals on the Hollywood media scene reported, some insiders are “appalled” by Eller’s return. And it remains to be seen if it’s face-saving by Penske Media or if she is really back in the seat of power.
While Eller is back as EIC she is now sharing the title with Cynthia Littleton who served as acting EIC in Eller’s absence. Littleton has been promised to have the job herself when Eller finally leaves when her contract expires in the summer of 2022. As co-editor-in-chief, Littleton, according to Variety, will still report to Eller and also report to the chief revenue officer Michelle Sobrino-Stearns.