Former Ozy employees say it was like a ‘cult’ that used people upstairs

For the two weeks leading up to that night, Rodriguez said recently, he has been working up to 18 hours a day every day to create the title of “The Carlos Watson Show,” a protest speech hosted and hosted by the CEO of Ozy Media. As a production manager at Ozy, where he has been working since 2017, he was accustomed to working long hours to perform complex tasks with limited lead time. But this was too much.

The good news is that it was not a heart attack; ER doctors in Chula Vista, California later told him that Sunday morning was a panic attack. But it had been bad enough that he had to take a few days off work.

“I felt weak because I wanted to sleep and rest, but Carlos had said how important my work was at the show,” Rodriguez told CNN Business. “And if I didn’t do this, the show wouldn’t go on.”

“I didn’t want to let him go,” he continued. “I never want to dump him. When you meet him you know that he is already a charismatic leader and not the person you want to demean.”

Rodriguez, whose story was also reported by Forbes this week without naming him, said he ended up in a six-week program for “people who are too depressed to get better.”
In December, Rodriguez’s doctor’s office informed him that Ozy had asked for documents in support of a doctor’s note. That alone was unusual, but when she sent a letter to her doctor’s office a signed form allowing it to provide information, she said, she received a phone call from a nurse telling her that the director of Human Resources at Ozy’s call had been “oppressive” and aggressive and asked her to check Rodriguez ‘records. When someone asked for the person’s name, Rodriguez asked for a personal name, and the nurse replied, “Samir,” which is also the name of the company’s CEO and chief executive, Samir Rao – is currently on leave from Ozy after being released by the New York Times. YouTube chief in call by Goldman Sachs.
Ozy’s board of directors announced Tuesday that it had hired a law firm named Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP to “conduct an audit of the company’s business,” The Wall Street Journal was quoted as saying. The board also said Rao’s absenteeism “is awaiting the outcome of the investigation.”

The Times reported that Watson “said the incident was caused by a mental health problem” and shared details about Rao’s diagnosis.

“Samir is an important employee and close friend,” Watson told the Times. “I’m proud to have stood by him when he suffered, and we’re all excited to see him now succeed again.”

Monday, Watson he shared an email sent his staff members who referred to the Times story as a “laughing hitjob” and also referred to Rao’s impersonation as a “mental health issue.”

Watson, Rao and Ozy did not respond to a number of detailed requests for comment from CNN Business.

Rodriguez returned to work for a while after completing the program. It wasn’t until he was tested for Covid-19 virus in February and asked to use it when he decided to quit, he said.

“It’s like religion,” Rodriguez said. “I felt like I wouldn’t be anything without them because they gave me so many opportunities and that I would bring them down a lot if I ever quit.”

Interviews with nine former Ozy employees show that Rodriguez’s case was not an isolated incident but part of a widespread culture of workers being employed to exhaustion or extreme stress. Seven of these former employees spoke to CNN Business on the grounds that they would not be identified for fear of reprisals – some pointed out concerns that Watson would try to undermine their job prospects if he found out they had spoken to reporters.

Several former employees said they were outraged after reading the Times article and found that Watson said Rao impersonated a YouTube executive with a mental health problem and said the company “stood by him,” noting that they had seen Watson disappear. supporting and empathizing with such concerns with other employees in the past.

Why do you join Ozy

Watson, a former actor and analyst at CNBC, CNN and MSNBC, started Ozy in 2013 as a digital media site with the aim of covering “what is new and what follows.” The tagline, which did not change much, was part of attracting more prominent journalists to work for the first time. It was an opportunity, they believed, to stop chasing some of the shopping malls and instead to tell stories revealed from around the world.

“Carlos and, at the very least, Samir are the people with the highest position to meet you,” said a former employee. “Their goal was to build a media company within the next two centuries, a company that would live not only for a short time but also for a reputation for decades and generations to come.”

The former employee said he knew the idea that Ozy would be able to survive, let alone control the industry, because it would probably be uncertain for a long time. But that kind of high ambition was the hallmark of Watson and the culture he expected in Ozy, and the staff was inspired by one of them.

Ozy’s team of writers created a platform to call the program. In 2017, Ozy journalists visited all 50 states of the project called “World Countries.” The following season, Ozy announced “Traveling the World” – volunteering to tell three stories from around the world. The project ended, though they merged other small countries together.
Watson’s desire to investigate was that Ozy’s stories cover the advice of the people to be six months ahead of major foreign and national spheres. In fact, journalists were told that if a major news company – two of which said CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post were what they considered to be so-called – had closed the story so they should not follow it. Like many of Ozy’s wishes, however, this may have sounded good, but that did not make it real. (Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton said this week that some of Ozy’s comments about celebrities before they started or covered other people have no water.)

“The hope was that we would get appreciation from the readers, who liked to feel like they were hearing about important things in front of the public,” said one former employee. “But I think those of us who have been there for a long time have realized that it wasn’t all the many readers who cared about it.”

Carlos Watson speaks onstage during OZY FEST 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on July 21, 2018 in New York City.

Voluntary care was sometimes impossible – or done only through long hours.

In 2014, Ozy raised $ 20 million from German publishing company Axel Springer, adding to its $ 5.3 million in seed money from Laurene Powell Jobs, Ron Conway and others.

But former employees realized that, although they were collecting all that money, the company did not go looking for as many people in the news media at that time. A former employee who discussed the prospect of faith from readers said Ozy was “too scared to ever work the way they wanted” due to the large and frequent rotation of dismissals by some digital media companies in the mid-2010s.

“They just thought they could continue to get more out of the people there,” said a former employee. “They brought in talented, inspiring, happy people and they just used it.”

Watson had high expectations for the publication of the article. A former employee recalled that in the early days of the article Watson seemed to expect a full-time employee of about four writers and two editors to produce 40 high-quality magazine articles per week.

Former employees found themselves in positions of authority, holding others or even all departments, still in their 20s. Rodriguez, for example, was hired as a graphic intern intern while still in college and was promoted to director only two years after graduation.

It was an incident in which one of the former employees said he “gave them power” and may not have been available to the selected broadcast media. But the position of power came with a lot of work – they were expected to do the job and their former job at the same time, three of the former employees said.

Former employees said they often found themselves unable to say no to Watson, not even about the issue of the case he went through or any other job he wanted done urgently.

“Carlos was a bully,” a former employee said. “He would do whatever it took to get what he wanted. He refused and not to respond.”

Not working enough and working too hard

Weekends were rarely a holiday on Ozy. Sunday meetings were a regular feature. Prior to the plague, these meetings were held in person at an office in Mountain View or at other times, requiring staff to go to Watson’s home.

Meeting times were described by former employees as a moving event. A former employee remembered the nature of the event would be, for example, that five minutes before the meeting was due to begin, Watson would push it back two hours – and then end up being 20 minutes late.

“It’s an hour of your Sunday that will change to about four hours of your Sunday because you have to be there and be there all the time,” said the former employee.

“You were expected to give up everything,” said one former employee.

That was especially difficult for some employees who did not live near the office, and not just on weekends.

“They may be waiting outside Carlos’ door as his phones are making a pile. The Caltrain just keeps getting closer and eventually it’s eight or nine o’clock and they have to wait another hour,” a third former employee said. “No wonder people are sick.”

Former employees said they were always tired due to lack of sleep and that employees could see and see that fatigue in the office when in-person.

Two former employees remembered Watson calling them, several times, during their Ozy time. One former employee was not directly called upon by Watson but heard moral issues from others.

Eugene Robinson, a former editor-in-chief at Ozy spoke to The Times about its exposure and said he was fired earlier this year, also telling CNN Business that he had been working long hours in nine years at Ozy, and that he had seen such behavior from Watson.

“[I was] trying not to lose sight of it and prevent the explosion of Carlos’ usual location, “Robinson told CNN Business.” Although the outside world he faced saw a glorious and exciting world, those who should have worked with him saw a different face. ”


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