To our Vox audience,
I’m Melissa Bell, Co-founder of Vox and now Publisher, Vox Media. It’s been some time since I’ve had a byline on the site, but I’m here to mark an important moment of transition for Vox. It’s always been important to us to share with you decisions we’ve made as we’ve grown and built Vox. You, our audience, are why we’re doing any of this, after all. And today, I wanted to share some messages that we shared internally with our team not too long ago.
This is a big day of transition at Vox: Today, Lauren Williams, Vox’s Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, and Ezra Klein, Co-founder and Editor-at-Large, announced to the Vox team that they’ll be moving on to exciting new roles and projects in the months ahead. After seven years of helping to expand our upstart into something so much bigger and more impactful than we ever could have imagined, Lauren and Ezra are each preparing for significant career moves.
Lauren will take all she’s learned at Vox and launch a new nonprofit startup, Capital B, focused on creating a news outlet that will provide high-quality civic journalism tailored to Black communities across the country. I couldn’t be more excited for this ambitious step, and can’t wait for Lauren to put all her creative energy into building an urgently necessary publication. We’ll cheer her along, and we look forward to partnering with her new outlet.
After working on Vox before it was even called Vox, Ezra will leave in a few weeks to start a new chapter as a podcast host and a columnist for the opinion page at the New York Times, also a longtime dream of his. We’ll read and listen to his work with admiration, and we’ll hustle to give him plenty of healthy competition.
Vox started as a seedling of an idea with a 20-person team focused primarily on a website and a YouTube page; our team has grown six times that amount in almost as many years, becoming a news organization that reaches millions of people across multiple mediums and platforms. And so much of that is thanks to the leadership of Ezra and Lauren.
So what’s next for Vox?
Vox has had an extraordinary first seven years. We have defined a kind of coverage that has forced every other outlet to respond to and to mimic and echo, in science and in culture and music and celebrity coverage and technology. We have built more forms and formats and platform-specific products than I can count. We’ve won Emmys and ONA awards. We built Explained on Netflix, and Today, Explained, and Glad You Asked, and Land of the Giants, and Future Perfect. We’ve changed the industry. And no other news organization is built with the service of our audience at the forefront of everything we do. That’s our edge. That’s why we’re needed. It’s why governments have used our charts to flatten the curve of Covid-19 and Hong Kong protesters screened our videos in airports to help travelers understand their strikes. And we’re just getting started.
We expect the next seven years to be even more propulsive and creative. That possibility is at its peak right now: We’re doing the best journalism we ever have, and doing it in more places and more formats than ever before. There’s a slew of new projects and partnerships coming, and we have a stronger, more diversified business than ever.
To accomplish all this, we’ll be filling at least 10 key roles in the weeks and months to come. We’ve begun an extensive search for new leaders to fill Lauren’s responsibilities, which we’re splitting into two roles: a senior vice president, focused on the business side of Vox, and an editor-in-chief to set the editorial vision for Vox. We’re also excited to find a new class of writing talent to join us as we invest in and expand Vox. Our YouTube channel continues to lead the way in video journalism and has helped us grow the Vox brand across the world with its global audience. It has become a factory of innovation launching our move into television and streaming services.
You’ll see us launching on more OTT channels next year with our deep video library, and you’ll see our television ambitions grow with partners that include Netflix and YouTube Originals, as well as HBO. In audio, we’ve got a new slate of podcasts planned for 2021, including a new science show and a history show. We’ll be hiring to create and develop those shows, as well as roles to support the reach of Today, Explained and The Weeds and to launch a new interview show.
And we’re posting a role today to support our contributions program, one of our biggest — and most successful — experiments in 2020. We’ll be thinking through how to build a stronger community around Vox’s work, and to sharpen our efforts every day to ensure that what we create at Vox is a uniquely differentiated offering for our audiences.
All this growth will invigorate the work of our already very talented team, and it will give us a unique opportunity to bring a new, diverse group of managers and creators into the Vox fold, helping us work toward our goals of fostering an industry-leading equitable and inclusive newsroom.
I also want to say thank you. Thank you for being a part of Vox, for cheering us on through our transitions, our growth, and our attempts to be a little bit better every single day. We have always strived to put you, our audience, first, and we are so grateful that you are a part of this all. And if you want to be an even bigger part of our team, apply here.
I’d like to leave you with some thoughts that Ezra shared with our team today:
If I thought Vox were weak, or fragile, or in crisis, or it needed me, I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t even consider it. But one of the beautiful things of the past few years is seeing how much less needed I am, how many projects grow beautifully without me. And I know where our business is, and I know how many revenue lines we have, and how well we’ve weathered this year’s storm. This is a time of transition — out of the Trump era, out of the Covid recession, and into the next era of Vox.
I want to leave you with the three things that I’ve really learned, and that I hope you hold as you build the next version of this place, as you make the next seven years as ambitious and extraordinary as its first seven.
First, we’re not just about formats or information. Vox is built on values. It’s a moral place, in terms of what we cover, how we cover it, and how we behave as we cover it. We are at our best when we are curious and generous and kind and open-minded and humane and committed to a better world.
We should model our values, not just state them. At our best, we do. When I watch Dylan Matthews and the Future Perfect team, or listen to Sean Rameswaram and the Today, Explained team, or watch what Claire Gordon and the Explained team create, I always think: That’s who I want us to be. That’s who I want to be. Don’t lose that. Don’t assume it’ll always be there. Don’t leave values to be implicit or assumed. Our values are as important as anything else we do, and more important than most of it.
Second, I know we do a lot of different kinds of things here, but we are the only outlet anywhere built for explanatory journalism. As a founder and as the first editor-in-chief, when I look back on the decisions I’ve made, the products I’ve helped build, the ones I’m proudest of are the ones where we drove harder into that kind of work, where we really lived out our promise, where we owned our mission of explanation.
And the decisions I regret are when I let us stray too far from that to get traffic or to chase an apparent opportunity. Vox’s essential quality is that we do essential explanatory work in a way no one else does, across a range of topics and platforms and products no one else can match. That’s when we win. Whatever else we do, I hope we keep building and winning at that core competency.
And finally, something I underestimated when we built this place is that even with everything we did to be distinctive, even with the clarity of our mission and the buy-in of our staff and the support of this great company, being distinctive, doing our own thing, setting our own agenda of what’s important and pursuing our own ideas of how journalism should look is devilishly hard. The pressure to conform, to do what everyone else is doing and cover what everyone else is covering and sound like everyone else is sounding, is overwhelming.
Vox is worth building because it is something different, so try, to the extent you can, to keep making it something more and more different, because in this era when everything is becoming more the same, the returns to offering something distinctive are only going up.
The year we started Vox, we used to talk about making something that would outlast all of us — an institution of lasting value, an organization that would make its own contributions to the industry, that would become more than we could imagine, that would foster a culture that would create things we couldn’t dream up. That’s happened, in part thanks to Lauren and Ezra’s work, and it continues to happen each day. We are so proud of what Vox is, and we can’t wait to see what Vox will become next.