Arlington, Virginia-based digital media company Axios announced that it will cover bail or medical bills for any of its employees who need it while participating in protests during this time.
Jim VandeHei, Axios cofounder and CEO, shared a memo with the 192-person workforce on Monday to announce the policy, The New York Times first reported. The news was shared in a companywide email in response to a question from an Axios employee on where the company stands on protesting.
“First, let me say we proudly support and encourage you to exercise your rights to free speech, press, and protest,” VandeHei said in the memo that was shared with the Times. “If you’re arrested or meet harm while exercising these rights, Axios will stand behind you and use the Family Fund to cover your bail or assist with medical bills.”
The Times reports that this stance from VandeHei was not necessarily meant to encourage employees to protest or march, as them doing so could jeopardize their trust with sources. He also said that this announcement does not mark a change to any of Axios’ already established company policies.
“We trust our colleagues to do the right thing, and stand firmly behind them should they decide to exercise their constitutional right to free speech,” VandeHei said in the statement to the Times.
Founded in 2016 by former Politico staffers VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz, Axios has raised $57 million in venture capital to date, according to Crunchbase. Though the company qualified for a Paycheck Protection Program loan back in April, it decided to return the $4.8 million in funding after securing other financial resources. One of the reasons Axios returned the loan was that “the program has become much more politically polarized since its inception,” VandeHei said in a statement.
Axios deciding to support its staff members in this way may seem unusual, but as Technical.ly has also been preaching, now is the time for leaders to create the space for honest dialogue and action. This reporter even shared the experience of protesting from the frontlines in D.C.
Since the nation has been experiencing civil unrest due to the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, VandeHei has been vocal on his thoughts on what CEOs should be doing right now.
“There’s no market for half-assed diversity and inclusion efforts,” VandeHei shared in a note. “This means constant conversation and action internally, including quicker, more decisive moves on increasing the number of people of color at work and in leadership, and taking time to truly understand the perspectives and realities of those who look or think or live differently than you.”
Not all newsrooms are making the shift to support the rights of journalists to exercise freedom of speech. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has banned at least two Black journalists from covering protests, and has removed and censored articles on recent events.