Last week, Gawker published a story detailing Condé Nast CFO David Geithner’s alleged attempt to arrange a sexual assignation with a male escort. The story was widely and harshly condemned online, with journalist Glenn Greenwald calling it “reprehensible beyond belief” and Sabrina Siddiqui, a political reporter at the Guardian, labeling it “disgraceful” — to quote but two critics. Roughly 24 hours later, Gawker CEO Nick Denton ordered the post removed, an unprecedented editorial decision that Denton described as a “close call” among his staff.
[jump] Today, Gawker’s executive editor, Tommy Craggs, and editor-in-chief of Gawker.com, Max Read, publicly announced their resignation from the company. Craggs, who edited and approved the Geithner story, sent a memo to Gawker’s staff, saying, “the message was immediately broadcast to the company and to its readers that the responsibility Nick had vested in the executive editor is in fact meaningless, that true power over editorial resides in the whims of the four cringing members of the managing partnership’s Fear and Money Caucus.”
Max Read sent a memo to the managing partnership (led by Denton) that voted to take down the story, stating in part:
That this post was deleted at all is an absolute surrender of Gawker’s claim to “radical transparency”; that non-editorial business executives were given a vote in the decision to remove it is an unacceptable and unprecedented breach of the editorial firewall, and turns Gawker’s claim to be the world’s largest independent media company into, essentially, a joke.
And, for his part, Nick Denton took full responsibility for redacting the story, writing:
This is the company I built. I was ashamed to have my name and Gawker’s associated with a story on the private life of a closeted gay man who some felt had done nothing to warrant the attention. We believe we were within our legal right to publish, but it defied the 2015 editorial mandate to do stories that inspire pride, and made impossible the jobs of those most committed to defending such journalism.
Denton went on to claim that his decision had little to do with advertising (noting that only one advertiser had paused a campaign at the time the story was pulled) but everything to do with preserving the integrity of Gawker's brand.
Wrestler Hulk Hogan is currently suing Gawker for $100 million. Three years ago, the site posted a sex tape featuring Hogan with his best friend's wife. That's the kind of “inspiring” journalism the company needs to get back to.