Recently there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the managerial practices of Channel Awesome, a website which specializes in video reviews and has been the home site of many popular internet reviewers including Doug Walker (Nostalgia Critic), Lindsay Ellis (Nostalgia Chick) Lewis Lovhaug (Linkara), Alisson Pregler (Obscurus Lupa) and many more. In the past few days I have seen a whole host of videos talking about the controversy and feel that as a onetime supporter of Channel Awesome, and a continued fan of many of its contributor’s works, that I would briefly discuss the controversy and give my opinion on what will likely happen next.
In Mid-March of 2018, 21 individuals associated with Channel Awesome posted a 73 page Google Document outlining the issues they encountered while working on the site. While I will be giving a general overview of the complaints featured in that document I will supply a link to both the original full length document as well as an abridged version. The complaints cover the following points:
- The management of Channel Awesome is incompetent, specifically Mike Michaud, Doug Walker and Rob Walker.
- Mike Michaud can often be aggressive and confrontational
- Three individuals have come forward accusing a member of the managerial staff, who is not named and apparently no longer a member of the site, of sexual assault. These allegations were apparently reported to other managerial staff resulting in very little being done.
- An overall emphasis on the work of Doug Walker resulting in other producers having their work side-lined.
- Production of the last Channel Awesome Anniversary film, To Boldly Flee was beset with issues including poor directing, poor planning, injuries, and a scrip which featured a rape joke which was barely altered despite complaints from cast members involved.
The complaints go on and on, but every producer talks about the incompetence and abysmal managerial skills of the three individuals at the heart of the site; Mike Michaud, Doug Walker and Rob Walker.
Mike Michaud: CEO of Channel Awesome
Mike Michaud comes across as a remarkably incompetent and detestable figure. We’ve all met a Mike Michaud, an individual with limited talent and an immense ego. Michaud is allegedly an aggressive figure whose management style is akin to that of a dictator and who appears to have a misogynistic streak. There are numerous examples laid out in the Google Document asserting that on occasions where a producer has done something to upset him, Michaud will instead confront a female associate of that producer. To me, this reeks of a man who is intimidated by men and is far more comfortable challenging women, regardless of how ineffective a management tactic that is. Michaud is an exceptionally poor manager, businessman and person; he places far more emphasis on Walker’s work than that of other contributors which leads to severe animosity. While the issues with Channel Awesome are not purely on his shoulders, he is certainly the most malicious of those responsible.
Doug Walker: Talent and member of Managerial Staff
Despite having a role as talent on Channel Awesome, Doug Walker has apparently found himself in a managerial role where he essentially has a major say in deciding the future direction of the site. Walker is not a malicious figure; rather he is a remarkably careless and incompetent one. His style of management is to avoid the issue entirely, most evident in his behaviour as director on To Boldly Flee where he responded to complaints about the script by telling cast to just do it his way and barely altering an implied rape scene. Walker has no technical knowledge whatsoever and apparently lacks even the basic knowledge of how a film shoot functions, To Boldly Flee was beset by planning issues and Suburban Knights, a previous Anniversary film, no refreshments were provided on shoot until the second day. Walker also appears to have some sexist leanings and while I am certain this is due to ignorance of the ramifications of his own comments, it is still very prevalent, and the rape joke in To Boldly Flee is a solid example as are many costume choices and immature jokes made throughout many of his videos. Perhaps most indicative of Walker’s carelessness is his decision to retire the Nostalgia critic character without telling any fellow producers, an act which left many concerned about their livelihoods considering the Channel Awesome site is built around the Nostalgia Critic character.
Rob Walker: Managerial Staff
Rob Walker appears to me to be equal parts malicious and equal parts incompetent. The shooting of the anniversary movies was apparently beset by arguments between Robb and Doug over scenes and Robb was keen to write of numerous continuity errors as plot holes, to the point where it became a catchphrase. Rob and Doug are both incompetent film makers, the issues on To Boldly Flee demonstrate that but what is worse is Rob’s apparent remarks about other producers, made behind their backs. On numerous occasions Walker wrote off producers legitimate complaints and labelled them as children, as though they were being uncooperative for the sake of it and is either oblivious or uncaring to their concerns.
Channel Awesome’s Response
After the Google Document became popular and numerous youtubers and commenters adopted the hashtag Change the Channel, Channel Awesome responded with a textbook example of how not to control a PR disaster of this magnitude. Instead of issuing a genuine apology, the managerial staff (although the statement is not signed by anyone) issued a statement littered with empty corporate talk and a non-apology, stating simply “We sincerely regret you felt this way”. In the aftermath of this, more Channel Awesome Producers left the site and their website began to leak subscribers at a steady rate.
What Will Happen Now?
Channel Awesome will never recover from this. If the site were manned by competent individuals then perhaps it could be saved but the statement they released demonstrates very clearly that they have no clear how to correctly deal with a PR disaster of this magnitude. The best thing for them to do would have been to apologise unconditionally for their behaviour, acknowledge that there are severe difficulties, and pledge to reform the site, with some system in place to make sure this happens. That opportunity has no passed them by. The best option available to Doug and Rob Walker is this, they must get rid of Mike Michaud, Doug has this power, he’s the talent, he could say wither Michaud goes or I do, and then pledge that he and his brother will no longer interfere in managerial issues. They won’t though. The Walkers don’t have it in them to be so ruthless. They will continue to lose subscribers for a time until the controversy dies down but by then the damage will be done. Channel Awesome has been exposed and the same issues that caused these problems in the first place, an inability to acknowledge the complaints of its staff and a lack of desire to do anything about it, is the very thing that will kill it. Channel Awesome will live on but as a husk.
What lessons can we learn from #Changethe Channel?
- Treat your staff well, acknowledge their concerns and take them seriously. Push them too far and they will snap.
- Know your limits and accept you cannot be good at everything. The Walkers are talented producers but they are abysmal managers.
- Never be afraid to learn and acknowledge your ignorance. The Walker’s actions during the shooting of To Boldly Flee show that they are not good film makers and ignored every opportunity to address their lack of knowledge.
- Apologise properly and admit to your failings. Had Channel Awesome released a genuine apology then their inevitable fate might yet be avoided but their consistent denial of any real wrongdoing has meant that their subscribers are now seeing the site for what it is.
I urge you all to read the Google Doc listing the complaints in full or failing that to at least look at the abridged version because there’s so much stuff I’ve not mentioned here, from possible fraud, the failure of the game show, the appalling way they treated their HR person, it’s just endless. Once I’d read the full google doc I realised that if I, or indeed, if anyone of the three writers on this site, were a manager of a company the size of Channel Awesome then it would suffer from some of those same problems. I can see the three of us eager to make a film and bungling it totally, I can see myself getting frustrated with other producers; I can see how a deeply flawed management system may emerge. There is one difference though, the three of us would be far more willing to acknowledge our flaws and take a step back, we are capable of apologising, of some degree of the self-awareness so valuable in any management role and yet so completely absent from that of Channel Awesome. It pains me to say it somewhat because without Channel Awesome and their ilk we may not be doing what we do, but Channel Awesome have it coming and they deserve everything they get.