Knox ivi—the producer/streamer of original, local Web programming heretofore located on Market Square—is undergoing a sudden restructuring, as founder Joe Dickey and vice-president Susan Ridgell abruptly moved all production and office resources out of the erstwhile Square digs last week into a new location on Henley Street. The relocation and restructuring caught employees by surprise, leaving them wondering if they have a future with the company, but Dickey insists Knox ivi will continue to produce and broadcast original content.
Rumblings did crop up shortly before the move. In a March 8 e-mail sent to fellow employees and shared with Metro Pulse, Knox ivi business-development manager Brent Thompson and production supervisor Roman Karpynec addressed several issues, saying that they are both "ceasing responsibilities… until we get compensated for past due pay," citing a several-week gap since their last, partial check. Advising other employees to move their personal belongings out of the Market Square location promptly, they concluded: "Once (and if) things become more clear, we will communicate anything we learn or know about the future of Knox Ivi with you."
Later that same day, Ridgell issued a cheerful response thanking them for their e-mail. After some notes regarding specific personal items at the old location, Ridgell wrote that a press release about the restructuring was coming, and that employees would be more fully informed about their plans.
Although that press release was not yet issued as we went to press, Dickey says all of the employees have been spoken to individually since those March 8 communications, and the compensation issues addressed. "I think the employees understand what has happened and what will happen," he says. "Whether they're all happy with that, I can't speak for all of the employees."
According to former technical-operations manager Jessie Greene, Knox ivi ultimately ran aground due to poor management. Greene, one of the company's first employees, says she left in July of 2011 after her relationship with Dickey and Ridgell became strained past the breaking point. Greene cites a host of moves—inappropriate equipment purchases, questionable financial decisions, bad programming choices—that her bosses made despite the advice of the team of young-but-experienced media and Internet professionals who were working for them.
"Joe and Susan, neither one had media backgrounds," Greene says. "Joe had minimal understanding of Internet technology. And yet he micromanaged people who did. He didn't trust them to make solid decisions."
Marketing was nearly nonexistent, Greene says. "Joe didn't want to market at all," she says. "He thought people would come to us because we were a media outlet and because of what we did."
And morale has been poor for some time, according to employees. An open letter to Dickey and Ridgell signed by Karpynec and five other employees from May of 2011, also shared with Metro Pulse, reiterates many of Greene's complaints—micromanagement, lack of trust, poor equipment despite staff recommendations, etc. "At this point, employee morale is very low and has been on a downward spiral for the past six months…" they wrote. "We've given our all, been on call like doctors while being paid like janitors but with less guarantees."
As to the future of the company, Dickey says, "We're still producing shows; our real platform is the website," acknowledging that he would "like to" keep the same staff. He mostly defers other questions, referring to the forthcoming press release. (Ridgell and Thompson were also asked to comment for this story, but both declined.)