Labeling the organization “a toxic place for working journalists,” two members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced Thursday they were leaving the group, claiming the majority of its members are resistant to efforts to improve diversity and improve ethical standards.
Upheaval over the organization’s historical lack of Black members and questionable relationships with film companies has already led to NBC deciding not to air the group’s signature event in January: the Golden Globe Awards.
In a letter written to the HFPA board and obtained by The Wrap and the Los Angeles Times, Diederik van Hoogstraten of the Netherlands and Wenting Xu of China resigned their memberships and lambasted so-called reform efforts by the organization as all show for the public, while actually accomplishing little behind the scenes.
“The HFPA continues to accommodate a toxic environment that undermines professional journalism,” the pair wrote in the letter. “The bullying of members by fellow members is left unquestioned and unpunished. The badgering of talent and publicists: ditto.”
They describe the culture of the HFPA as one of “insulation, silence, fear of retribution, self-dealing, corruption and verbal abuse.”
The HFPA’s board members issued this statement: “At a time when the overwhelming majority of our members have chosen to be a part of change, it is disappointing that some members have decided to try and splinter our organization and sow division and doubt. While some may have their own agendas, the board and membership of the HFPA share one, common goal — passing the transformational change our organization needs.
“The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is an organization with more than 75 years of history. The amount of change that we have accomplished thus far is only the beginning. This is a crucial time for our organization, and we stand ready to collaborate with our members and outside groups to make this change a reality. We are forever grateful to the members that have decided to stay the course during this historic and trying time to help make this new era a reality for the HFPA.”
The HFPA came under fire this year following a series of Los Angeles Times reports, most notably about the 87-member organization’s lack of any Black members. The reports also questioned ethical practices of the group’s members.
The reports prompted various celebrities, publicists and production houses — including Netflix, Amazon and WarnerMedia — to back away from the HFPA and the Globes.
The HFPA has insisted it is committed to change. In May, its members approved a list of planned operational and structural changes, including the addition of 20 members this year, with a focus on adding Black journalists to the group’s ranks.
The plan also calls for a 50% membership increase over the next 18 months, with an accompanying loosening of membership requirements to open the organization to a wider array of journalists.
The HFPA released an anticipated timeline for implementing the changes, projecting an Aug. 2 completion date, and concluding with the installation of new board members and a new executive team.
In addition to expanding and diversifying membership, the changes also include a series of ethics and transparency measures, including a review of the organization’s press travel and a ban on accepting promotional items.
In their Thursday letter, however, the resigning members questioned the commitment to reform, saying “the majority of the membership resists deep change, despite our lawyers and spokespersons suggesting otherwise publicly.”
“We believe in a welcoming, healthy, respectful place where working international journalists in Los Angeles can develop and thrive,” they wrote. “That place is not the HFPA. After we leave we plan to build a transparent, professional and inclusive organization for the current and next generations of reporters who simply want to work together, without the toxicity.”