Graphic: Jim Cooke (Photo: Getty)

On November 2, former music journalist Lauren Nostro published a tweet: “It’s so wild that {redacted} is able to run an entire digital magazine when hes [sic] also running people out of the place because “he can’t keep his dick in his pants.” In the tight-knit world of music journalism, the subject of her tweet was intended to be obvious. But minutes later, Nostro added a name for clarity. “Fuck it...Stop hiring Eric Sundermann,” she wrote.

By November 5, Sundermann, then head of content for the music magazine The Fader, had been fired from his position. Over the course of a week, current and former coworkers who accuse Sundermann of sexual coercion and assault have expressed anger—both publicly and in conversations with Jezebel—that their stories had been ignored for years. (Sundermann replied to Jezebel’s request for comment, but did not respond to further emails. We will update the story with any responses we receive.)

According to 11 of Sundermann’s former co-workers, who spoke to Jezebel under condition of anonymity, Sundermann repeatedly groped women coworkers and aspiring music writers at bars and parties, often forcing himself into cabs with women too drunk to protest. According to multiple sources, this pattern dates back to his years as editor of Noisey, Vice’s music vertical, which he joined in 2013. The former co-workers say that Sundermann’s behavior was an open secret in the industry—that many, including young, aspiring music writers and management at Vice and The Fader, knew Sundermann targeted young women writers, gave them free alcohol and pressured them into sexual acts. Several former colleagues allege that writers who turned him down or called him out for this behavior were blacklisted from writing for the site. This behavior with young women went unchecked for years, nearly a dozen of his former colleagues allege, in part because of a work environment that prioritized loose boundaries between coworkers, and provided little recourse for employees. (Jezebel Editor-in-Chief Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, who was Executive Editor of The Fader prior to Sundermann’s arrival, has recused herself from this story.)

Founded in Canada, the print version of Vice was to the early 2000s what Rolling Stone had been to the 1970s—a magazine whose predominantly male staff reported on politics, sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll with a Hunter S. Thompson-derivative edge. Behind the scenes, employees signed non-traditional workplace agreements, which according to a former Vice editor, worked to shield management from repercussions for sexual harassment. “Although it is possible that some of the text, images and information I will be exposed to in the course of my employment with VICE may be considered by some to be offensive, indecent, violent or disturbing, I do not find such text, images or information or the workplace environment at VICE to be offensive, indecent, violent or disturbing,” the agreements read. (Vice did not respond to Jezebel’s request for comment.)

In 2011, Vice launched Noisey, a music vertical that gave the brand’s irreverent style of reporting broader digital life. Sundermann, who joined the site as Noisey’s managing editor in June 2013, took over as editor-in-chief in 2015. Former writers for Vice.com say they felt pressure to either participate in the company’s party culture—after work for drinks, DJ sets, and industry parties—or miss out on important opportunities to meet music editors and insiders who could further their careers. One venue, in particular, the now-closed Beloved in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, became popular among established music editors and up-and-coming music writers. Sundermann lived nearby.

A writer who freelanced for Vice and received one of her earliest bylines via Sundermann told Jezebel that in social settings. she, along with other women writers, felt pressure to “be cool,” which often meant drinking on Sundermann’s open tab. The writer says she shrugged off warnings about what could happen at those Brooklyn networking-slash-hangout sessions. “It was an ongoing joke,” she says, “‘Don’t have more than three drinks or Eric’s going to come get you.’”

On several of these evenings in 2013 and 2014, the writer says she saw young women—some who she says were aspiring writers fresh out of college—seemingly blackout drunk, being shepherded into taxis accompanied by Sundermann. Once, the writer says, she walked in on Sundermann and a young woman, both completely naked in the bathroom of Beloved. Another night, shortly after Sundermann became editor-in-chief of Noisey, she says, she drank more than the three-drinks limit she had once joked about with colleagues: “I was really drunk, and I remember him putting his hands on me, grabbing my breasts,” she recalls. “He grabbed me by the face and started making out. I remember thinking, I have to do this. He’s my editor.

The writer says she blacked out after the encounter; a friend who had been smoking in the back of the building found Sundermann getting into a taxi with her. Recalling the sequence of events that night, the friend told me she banged on the cab’s windows until Sundermann begrudgingly got out. The writer says she never confronted Sundermann about that night, instead opting to let it slide for fear of losing work. “I was just trying to enter the industry,” she says. “If I hadn’t played it cool, I don’t know if I’d still be writing right now.”

Another former co-worker of Sundermann’s—a writer who worked at Vice—recalled similar inappropriate behavior. She remembers drinking too much at a music industry party one night, after which friends later told her she had left with Sundermann in a cab. She says she woke up later in his apartment with no memory of going there. She says Sundermann stopped returning her emails after that night.

Nine of the former colleagues I spoke to remember either seeing or hearing from friends about similar behavior. One former co-worker says Sundermann used to strip naked at parties. Another said male co-workers often had to step in between Sundermann and young women to physically pull him away. Another, who worked closely with Sundermann, says he received private messages via Twitter from three different women who claimed Sundermann had groped them when he was drunk at parties. “He was known for getting way too fucked up and putting women into cabs,” says yet another writer who worked closely with Sundermann.

In 2017, while Sundermann was editor-in-chief of Noisey, the Daily Beast published an exposé detailing alleged abuses of power within Vice that created a culture of harassment. In response, Vice employees demanded a more transparent, equitable work environment and delivered statements, signed by the company’s managing editors, demanding reform. A former Vice employee, a senior member of Vice’s editorial team at the time, told me that while many staff members wanted a new Vice, Sundermann—who wasn’t one of the men named in the Daily Beast report—advocated for staying true to the spirit of the old Vice. When the former editor’s team drafted a letter for publication supporting victims and calling for changes, he says Sundermann came to his desk. “Maybe I’m just a company guy, but we should try to handle this internally,” he told the editor.

After the Daily Beast report, Vice fired three employees—Jason Mojica, the head of Vice’s documentary films division, along with an editor and a producer for the company who were not named in a memo about the firings released by Vice. Following a subsequent December 2017 story in the New York Times, chronicling more instances of sexual harassment at the company, Vice replaced its CEO Shane Smith, a longtime defender of Vice’s company culture, with Nancy Dubuc.

To the former employees I spoke to, the firings represented a shift in the ways predatory behavior would be treated within the company. Yet, though Sundermann was not named in the published stories alleging sexual harassment and assault at Vice, co-workers say his behavior remained unchanged. By Memorial Day of 2018, co-workers at Vice say they’d had enough. According to two of the co-workers who were present, nine employees banded together and planned to confront Sundermann at a coffee shop. But before they could, a senior-level editor told members of the group that Sundermann’s behavior was an HR matter, and she was reporting it.

At the time, that manager told at least two of the staffers, in an in-person conversation, that an HR investigation was in progress, but it had been hindered because all the stories about Sundermann’s behavior were secondhand. Yet one freelancer told Jezebel that she and two other freelancers took their stories to HR before this encounter. According to multiple sources who worked at Vice in both staff and freelance capacities during this time, after being told investigation was in progress, they never heard anything else from HR.

“Basically HR fired four dudes and everyone else went back to being creeps,” one former permalancer for Noisey told me. “And by the time we realized they weren’t going to do anything about Eric, it had been months.”

Besides, Sundermann wasn’t long for Vice. By December 2018, he had announced a new role, as head of content for The Fader, a New York City-based music magazine with a similar stylistic approach to Noisey—irreverent takes on pop culture and music with a veneer of progressiveness. For employees, there was a pipeline between the two publications, with many freelancers writing for both outlets. Some employees, fed up with the environment at Noisey, eventually left for jobs at The Fader.

Because of the staff overlap, stories about Sundermann’s behavior at Vice traveled to The Fader. One former Fader staffer remembers a recurring bit of black humor that went around their office: “It was a running joke that one day Eric Sundermann was going to be our boss,” she says.


Lori Kay, a former music journalist, tells Jezebel that she was catching up with a friend who had started a new job at The Fader, and was visiting the office when she learned the news of the magazine’s latest hire. “It better not be Eric Sundermann,” she remembers saying, relaying that she had heard young women say that they didn’t want to attend parties if Sundermann would be there. She also told her friend that she had been warned not to get drunk around Sundermann, the same warning that the woman writers who frequented Beloved had heard.

Before Sundermann started working at The Fader in December, both a senior editor and a senior member of the video team independently asked the executive-level editors in charge of hiring about the Vice investigation, in the office; according to both employees, the editors said there was no truth to the allegations. When I emailed The Fader to ask about claims that senior staff spoke to management about the Vice investigation, a spokesperson for Fader responded: “When Eric was hired by Fader, due diligence was conducted, including a check of references. Nothing we heard from anyone as part of that diligence process corroborated any rumor and we hired Eric with no basis to believe there would be any issues with his behavior or compliance with our policies.”

But soon, there were reports from women at The Fader that mirrored the accounts from Vice—reports of parties, some company-sponsored, some industry events, and some casual after-work, with too much alcohol, coworkers pulling Sundermann off employees, and a whisper network warning young women writers about exceeding the storied three-drink limit.

But in addition to sharing a similar editorial vision with Vice, employees allege that the Fader shared a culture of harassment, too, which employees say was enhanced by the magazine’s co-founder, Andy Cohn. “You’re working alongside people you’re getting wasted with,” a former staffer for both Vice and The Fader told me. “There’s drug use, free booze, free food, and no real accountability.” A source who worked closely with Cohn for several years told me about an incident that eventually caused her to leave the company and her first full-time job in the music industry. (The Fader declined to comment on Cohn’s behavior, writing “We do not comment on personnel matters relating to current employees.”)

On the last day of the 2011 CMJ music festival, where The Fader Fort hosted big musical acts like Pharrell and A$AP Rocky, she says that the staff was drinking as they broke down the tent. She says Cohn had been making oddly sexual comments all day, so she was relieved when he said he was going home. But 20 minutes after he left, she says Cohn came back and went into a private studio area where some women who worked in PR for Fader were drinking and playing music. He allegedly began to unbutton his pants, saying that he wanted to join their dance party. When she yelled at Cohn to stop undressing, he did, but said that he was going to talk to Rob Stone, another co-founder of The Fader, about the company’s hiring process, allegedly complaining, “Why can’t I pull my pants down. I gave you guys the day off Monday.” The former employee says he then pantomimed giving a blow job.

At the time, David King, The Fader’s CFO, also served as their human resources representative, according to the former employee. When she reported Cohn’s behavior to King on Tuesday, following the weekend festival, he assured her that he would protect her anonymity. On Monday of the following week, she was called into Cohn’s office, where she was encouraged by both Cohn and the CFO to “move forward,” which she understood to mean drop the complaint. When she angrily stood up to go back to her desk, only then did Cohn seem contrite:

“When I started to leave, he just starts apologizing,” she says. “Then he asked for a hug at the end of the meeting. I had to give him a hug and go back to my desk.”

By the time of Sundermann’s arrival, The Fader had hired a new human resources manager, who joined in September 2018. According to one former employee, the company had gone six years without an official HR department. (In an email, The Fader confirmed that from 2012 to 2018, HR responsibilities at the company were split between the CFO and COO.) But there were rumors among staff that the employee was friends with the company’s chief executive officer, Anthony Holland, making staffers reticent to come forward with complaints. In an email, a Fader spokesperson responded to these suspicions: “Anthony Holland was aware of Lauren Stodolski’s professional background through her husband with whom Mr. Holland is acquainted. Ms. Stodolski interviewed for the position and brought on board and reports to our CFO.”

A former staffer for The Fader told me that a friend, another staffer, had confided that a drunk Sundermann rubbed his penis against her at a birthday party. Instead of going to HR, who she worried would just tell her story to her manager, the employee left the company two months later.

When asked whether Sundermann was good at his job, many former co-workers from both Vice and The Fader use similar language. “He was well-liked,” two separate former co-workers told me. Not by staff, they said, but by executives of Noisey and the The Fader.

Some of the staffers I spoke to believe Sundermann was hired, despite rumors about his behavior, because of his friendship with Andy Cohn. A member of The Fader editorial team says staffers saw Sundermann and Cohn drinking together just before he was hired, during the same time that staffers at Noisey were waiting for the results of the investigation into Sundermann. That same staffer recalls seeing Sundermann with Cohn at the Fader Fort every day during the March 2018 SXSW music festival in Austin. Additionally, Sundermann’s girlfriend of four years, Chloe Campion, is the sister of Thobey Campion, head of publishing for Vice, and worked for the company as a producer from 2011 until June 2018, when she was hired as an executive producer at Fader and was the direct supervisor of at least one woman who told co-workers at Fader she had been assaulted by Sundermann. No one I interviewed gave any indication that Campion knew about inappropriate behavior, but four current employees of both Vice and Fader told me that they worried that confronting Sundermann would result in negative consequences at work. (Asked about the protocol for reporting workplace misconduct, the Fader replied, “As we have always done, we will investigate all good faith complaints and reports of breaches of our policies. We are considering additional measures to address this.”)

After Sundermann was hired, staffers tell me they were demoralized not just by Sundermann’s alleged behavior but by the fact that behavior was allowed to continue with what felt like limited ways for employees to report him. A former Fader staffer told me she left the company three months into Sundermann’s tenure after becoming disillusioned by the rumors about Sundermann’s behavior and concerns that there was inadequate investigation into his conduct.

For nearly a year after he became head of content at The Fader, current and former employees say that Sundermann’s behavior continued unchecked. It wasn’t until November 2, 2019, when Lauren Nostro published the tweets about Sundermann’s behavior, that his years of alleged sexual misconduct became public knowledge. In addition to her own experiences, as well as stories she had heard about Sundermann during her years as a music writer, Nostro tweeted that 18 different women had sent her direct messages on Twitter about Sundermann’s behavior. The stories, that she subsequently tweeted, were evidence of the music industry’s history of turning a “blind eye for years” to the behavior of men like Sundermann.

According to a copy of the email sent to Jezebel by a member of The Fader’s staff, Sundermann was fired just two days after Nostro’s tweets. As the whisper network quickly became spoken accusations, management insisted that they knew nothing about the rumors prior to the tweets and had launched an investigation as soon as the allegations began gaining attention on social media:

“In light of the recent allegations regarding Eric Sundermann that came to our attention this weekend,” the email read in part, “we wanted to send this update to let you know that the Company launched an immediate investigation into the matter this morning.”

But the email also seemed to acknowledge the whisper network that had protected women when the company did not: “We take all allegations of breaches of our policies seriously and want to encourage employees to come to us directly in the future so that we can properly and promptly address any issues as they may arise.” It also suggested that the persistence of workplace sexual harassment and assault could be attributed, at least in part, to employees that failed to report incidents to HR. “We also want to reiterate that we expect everyone to do their part to maintain a safe and harassment free workplace for all employees, which means reporting behavior that is in breach of our policies,” it read.

In the days following Sundermann’s firing, according to a member of the editorial staff at The Fader, four employees have done as the email suggested and filed complaints with HR about co-founder Andy Cohn’s relationship with Sundermann and their suspicions that Sundermann was hired despite management’s full knowledge of the Vice investigation. None of the complaints reported to Jezebel concern the sexual harassment allegations against Andy Cohn. (The Fader declined to confirm these reports, writing: “Our employees are our priority and before we make any announcements in a public forum, including the press, we will speak with our employees.”)

Current and former Fader staff members I spoke to believe that a firing coming down so soon after Nostro’s tweets wasn’t the result of an “immediate investigation,” as cited in the email, but rather was the magazine’s attempt to get ahead of the fallout. “These stories have been around since 2012,” says the freelance writer for Noisey who feared she would lose work if she didn’t kiss Sundermann at Beloved. “But people get blacklisted, or they get labeled.” So instead staffers relied on the warnings and the whisper network, until such rumors became impossible to ignore.

Share This Story