Gawker editorial: “This isn’t about ethics in journalism”


A few days ago, Gawker posted a controversial and unethical article that outed a CFO who sought consensual sexual relations with a gay porn star. The CFO in question is not a politician with a history of crafting anti-LGBT legislation. Nor is he a renowned pastor famous for his anti-LGBT screeds. Outing someone in those circumstance is warranted. But this guy did nothing immoral or unethical.

In came Gawker’s managing partners who voted to remove the post (which is one reason why this post has no link to it; the other reason being HEY, even though this is the internet and the article has probably been saved somewhere, given the harm done, I’m not going to participate in spreading that tabloid bullshit). This was apparently an unprecedented move, as editorial was under the impression they had the final say on stories and they were pissed that the partners would overrule them. Virtually every member of Gawker editorial leadership protested removing the post.

Instead of being supremely apologetic for posting a sensationalistic piece of tabloid crap that outed a [gay or bisexual] man who was engaged in no wrongdoing, the editorial staff were instead outraged at the removal of their story, which was widely condemned:

The vote to remove the post, which was written by staff writer Jordan Sargent and edited by several other Gawker staffers, comes after widespread criticism from our own readers and other outlets. Along with Craggs, every other member of Gawker Media’s editorial leadership, including Gawker’s editor-in-chief Max Read and the executive editors of Gawker Media’s Politburo, strenuously protested removing the post.

The partners who voted to remove the post were Andrew Gorenstein, who serves as the president of advertising and partnerships; chief operating officer Scott Kidder; chief strategy officer Erin Pettigrew; and chief executive officer Nick Denton, who founded Gawker Media in 2002. Along with Tommy Craggs and Heather Dietrick, they belong to Gawker Media’s managing partnership, which Denton established in 2014 and whose members decide on all major company matters.

“The point of this story was not in my view sufficient to offset the embarrassment to the subject and his family,” Denton wrote in a lengthy statement issued on Friday afternoon. “Accordingly, I have had the post taken down. It is the first time we have removed a significant news story for any reason other than factual error or legal settlement.”

So what’s the response by editorial?
Gawker’s executive editor and E-I-C are resigning. Not because they think they did anything wrong. No, they’re resigning because in their eyes, the interference by the managing partners “represented an indefensible breach of the notoriously strong firewall between Gawker’s business interests and the independence of its editorial staff“:

Here’s Tommy Craggs, the whiny former executive editor:

No one told me the vote was actually happening, by the way. It just … happened, while I was on a plane to California. No one in editorial was informed that Nick had reached what he now calls the point of last resort; no one had explained what other resorts had been tried and had failed in the less than 24 hours between publication and takedown. The final count was 4-2 (with Heather’s nay joining mine, despite initial reports otherwise), and 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.

And here’s former E-I-C Max Read arguing that this is all about editorial interference rather than ethics in journalism:

On Friday a post was deleted from Gawker over the strenuous objections of Tommy and myself, as well as the entire staff of executive editors. 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.

I am able to do this job to the extent that I can believe that the people in charge are able, when faced with difficult decisions, to back up their stated commitments to transparency, fearlessness, and editorial independence. In the wake of Friday’s decision and Tommy’s resignation I can no longer sustain that belief. I find myself forced to resign, effective immediately.

This was not an easy decision. I hope the partnership group recognizes the degree to which it has betrayed the trust of editorial, and takes steps to materially reinforce its independence.

That’s the hill they want to die on? “Waaaah. Our deeply unethical story was removed, but we’re not sorry about that. We don’t give a rat’s ass that we fucked someone over and outed them. We’re mad that we were overruled.” Good riddance to them.

This does make me wonder something.

Do GamerGaters recognize this as a genuine case of ‘ethics in journalism’.

(no, I don’t really wonder that)

Gawker editorial: “This isn’t about ethics in journalism”
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