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A look at recent coverage of ride-hailing company Uber is, forgive the expression, like watching a car crash. It's horrible (for everyone, including employees, drivers, passengers, investors, and people stuck in traffic) but hard from which to look away.
And now the venerable Time magazine is piling on, with the cover story for their June 26 issue blurbed as "Uber Fail," penned by San Francisco Bureau Chief Katy Steinmetz and the publication's executive editor Matt Vella.
The report, which dropped online Wednesday, doesn't contain much information unfamiliar to those who've been following the beleaguered company's spiral. That's not a diss, not at all! As a weekly news magazine, it's been Time's job since 1923 to gather the disparate bits of news on a topic into a solid package for mass consumption (one might in fact argue that mags like Time were the original blogs, just printed out onto paper). If your non-urban friends "don't get what the big deal is about Uber" this is a perfect story to send to them/post on their news feed.
It's the cover that, to me, is one of the toughest hits Uber's taken this week -- and this week, Travis Kalanick took a leave, Uber's #2 man bounced, a board member quit over a sexist remark, and a woman who was raped by an Uber driver is suing over that bounced #2's alleged unlawful acquisition of her medical records. (This week! This all happened this week! Christ.)
That's because the news of Uber's many, many failings isn't just the stuff of daily newspapers and blogs, it's now at the supermarket checkout stand, right between speculation on a Jennifer Aniston pregnancy and Scott Disick's latest romantic misstep. To many Americans, it's only when a headline hits the glossy cover seen at a grocery store point of purchase that news becomes "real" and they take notice. It's bad, non-urban buzz like that, my friends, that should make Uber "real" scared.
Update: This afternoon, Uber just sent the following email to...riders? People who've been threatened by drivers? People who wrote mean articles about them today? Anyway, here it is:
As a company, we have faced some hard truths. In expanding so quickly, we failed to prioritize the people that helped get us here. Ultimately, the measure of our success is the satisfaction of our riders, drivers, and employees — and we realize that we have fallen short. After a report of inexcusable workplace harassment surfaced earlier this year, our board and senior leadership took immediate action. They asked former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and experts from the law firm Covington & Burling to conduct a thorough investigation. After four months of review, this week they released their report, which you can read here.
Today, we are ready to embrace radical change. Uber’s board has unanimously accepted all 47 recommendations from the Covington Report and has begun to put them and others into action. We are committing ourselves to the following:
Increasing accountability. Accountability is not a one time thing. We’re creating an Ethics and Culture committee to oversee the actions of our company and our leaders. We have also instituted a 24/7 support line so that any employee can feel safe reporting unprofessional behavior.
Changing leadership. An independent board chairperson will be appointed along with additional independent board seats. The first of which has been filled by Nestle’s former CFO Wan Ling Martello. Liane Hornsey who came onboard in January as our Chief Human Resources Officer has taken on the task of improving our workplace culture while Frances Frei, Harvard Business School Senior Associate Dean, joined Uber as SVP of Leadership and Strategy in June.
Focusing on collaboration and empathy. We’re overhauling our cultural values to reward collaboration and to foster a workplace that is inclusive rather than contentious. We believe empathy is not a goal in itself, but one that will help us build products that put our customers’ needs first.
Empowering diverse perspectives. We’re committing to hiring a diverse workforce and will be appointing a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to oversee new policies.
The past several months have compelled us to redefine who we are and who we want to be as a company. We are proud of our thousands of employees across the globe, who are committed to serving our riders and drivers. As a group, our dedication to our mission remains strong. You can hear from employees in this video.
There is still more work to be done, but we are confident that we are taking the first steps to becoming the company you deserve.
Your San Francisco Uber Team
Read all of SFist's Uber coverage here