Channel Awesome is dead. Long live independent YouTube creators?

The YouTube community is known for some vicious controversy, but the revelations that have come out since the start of April 2018 suggest something far more sinister. 


Since Monday 2nd April, the #changethechannel started popping up on the nerdier side of Twitter. And now, just over a fortnight since the start of it, founding member of Channel Awesome, Doug Walker has changed his Facebook profile to say he worked for the site. Past Tense.

The channel in question is Channel Awesome*, a site co-founded by Doug Walker, better known as the Nostalgia Critic. But the site no longer has the power it once had thanks to subscription service Patreon and changing YouTube guidelines. No longer held hostage to the site for revenue, producers have spoken up and shared their story.

And what a story. Over the course of a 73-page Google document ‘Not So Awesome’, over 20 former Channel Awesome producers as well as others listed their grievances, from mismanagement to misogyny as well as more serious allegations.

The first page of the abridged ‘Not So Awesome’ document

To fully understand the controversy, however, you first have to look back to 2008, when YouTube content guidelines were considerably stricter, meaning creators like ThatGuyWithTheGlasses and his ilk were consistently losing content due to the sites rules. It was also almost impossible to monetise.

So, with the help of Mike Michaud, the CEO (at whom most of the grievances are aimed), Walker and his brother Rob started thatguywiththeglasses.com to host videos created on now defunct YouTube rival site blip.tv. But this was a site designed for embeddable videos, and it was difficult to curate a community in the way YouTube allows now.

Thus, Channel Awesome was born.

Bringing in other contributors such as ObscurusLupa (Allison Pregler), Linkara (Lewis Lovhaug) and many, many more, the site created a community of pop culture reviewers on film, video games, anime, comics, music and more.

From the outside and to viewers, Channel Awesome seemed to be one big, happy family of outcasts and pop culture obsessives. But it’s clear from the document that was as much of an illusion as the Nostalgia Critic character.

Many of these grievances are directed at CEO Mike Michaud, accusing him of being generally incompetent as well as misogynistic. Which, given Channel Awesome’s responses, seem to be well founded.

The first, released on April 2 contained that classic non-apology apology phrase “we sincerely regret you felt that way.” No denials, no refutations. Surely a damning indictment then.

Channel Awesome’s initial ‘apology’

Their second response, released a week later, only reinforces this. As Lindsay Ellis, formerly known as the Nostalgia Chick pointed out, Channel Awesome attempted to the experiences of then current female producers of the site to negate the experiences of Ellis, Pregler and Kaylyn Saucedo (Marzgurl).

But these grievances were also accompanied by accusations of grooming and sexual assault. Some of the accusations center around now fired CFO Mike Ellis, whose behaviour as reported in the document is frankly bizarre.

Former Channel Awesome CFO Mike Ellis supposedly sent messages of a sexual nature to producer Sean Fausz

But others are far more troubling. An anonymous contributor to the document (henceforth referred to as Jane Doe) alleged that one of the sites former contributors sexually groomed her when she was 18. At the time of her statement, she claimed that it was a year between her first alerting the management of Channel Awesome and her supposed abusers firing from the site. She also chose not to disclose the name of her abuser.

A reddit user also claimed that the same producer sexually assaulted her while she slept – and these allegations were later confirmed by former Channel Awesome forum admin Holly Brown.

However, the issue has only become more complicated. In their response document, Channel Awesome inadvertently revealed the identity of the alleged abuser due to the dates of the chatlog in which they claimed there were only three weeks between their awareness of the abuse and his firing – and only one producer left shortly after – Justin Carmical. However, a year after leaving the site, Carmical died by self-inflicted gunshot- an incident that CEO Michaud intended to use to gain exposure, according to one of the document contributors.

 

At the time of Carmical’s death, the YouTubers featured in the tribute video were not aware of the alleged abuse – but Michaud was. If the allegations in the document are indeed true, then not only did Michaud intend to profit from the death of a suicide victim, but he also kept quiet about Carmical’s alleged grooming and abuse, allowing, even encouraging members of Channel Awesome to eulogise an alleged abuser.

Carmical also continued to work with other members of Channel Awesome, including Kaylyn Saucedo, who detailed her own thoughts on the revelations on her YouTube channel:

The document and the subsequent allegations have shaken many in the YouTube community – people shocked that figures they looked up to may not be who they thought they were. This even extends to more recent Channel Awesome contributors who have since left.

As it stands, surely it is only a matter of time before the site completely collapses. At the moment it’s still going, but ChannelAwesome.com previously featured over 40 producers. It now features two. And neither of those is Doug Walker: the man who started it all.

That said, while Walker has not been directly accused of some of the more heinous allegations, he arguably remains complicit nonetheless. At the time of writing, he has yet to offer his own response, instead offering up a Nostalgia Critic episode on the terrible Adam Sandler film Jack and Jill. But it seems fans are not so willing to let him off the hook – almost every comment on the video relates to #changechannel in some way.

But if Walker remains silent, then he remains a potential accessory to all of it – as the document states, while officially he was only ‘talent’, time and time again he had a deciding vote in management decisions, including the firing of Brown the day after she had surgery.

While #changethechannel wasn’t inspired by #metoo or #timesup, there’s certainly a similar anger behind some of the more serious allegations. And while Patreon allowed the large majority of producers to step away from the site, perhaps, in the wake of Weinstein, people have started to realise that they do have a voice, and that now, more than ever, we have to hold people accountable for their actions.

We reached out to both Doug Walker and Channel Awesome and have yet to hear a response.

*While some producers on the site only worked for it as thatguywiththeglasses, the article refers only to Channel Awesome for clarity’s sake.

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