By Conor White
Make no mistake, Jonathan Friedland lost his job as Netflix's top communications executive for using a racial slur on two occasions. But social media and an increase in public pressure for corporations to take responsibility for its employees may have expedited his departure.
"If you're a big company like Netflix, you can set an example for other companies in this country about what type of behavior should be tolerated in the workplace," explained Sara Fischer, media reporter at Axios. "That is new; we haven't seen that type of transparency. It's the same way we're seeing it around Disney with 'Roseanne', around even ESPN and John Skipper's drug use. These are newer topics that companies are being radically transparent about."
Friedland was fired for using the N-word in two different meetings, with the second held to review what had happened during the first. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings gave an surprising amount of detail in a company-wide email on Friday, denouncing what Friedland had said, and admitting he didn't have all of the answers. Fischer said the memo was unlike any she had ever seen from a top executive.
"It takes a lot for a CEO to check their own privilege and say, 'Look, I might not the best person to understand how you deal with all these issues internally,'" Fischer said in an interview with Cheddar. "He mentions in that note that they're going to bring in external experts to help deal with these types of issues at the company."
"That's a whole new level of seriousness in understanding racial relations in a big company like that."
In his email to Netflix employees, Hasting emphasized the unacceptability of the racial epithet. "For non-black people," he said, "the word should not be spoken as there is almost no context in which it is appropriate or constructive (even when singing a song or reading a script)."
Fischer said Netflix handled the crises about as well as could be expected.
"If I'm an employee at Netflix, I feel pretty happy about the fact our highest leadership is taking this so seriously that not only are they talking about this from their own perspective, but that they can see they need to bring in outside experts," she said.
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