After Gawker founder Nick Denton unpublished a controversial story accusing the CFO of Conde Nast David Geithner of hiring a male escort, two Gawker editors quit.
Gawker Media executive editor Tommy Craggs and Gawker editor-in-chief Max Read said they are resigning.
Craggs said he warned Gawker Media managing partners he would quit if the story was unpublished. He noted, “This isn’t the place to debate the merits of that story, other than to say that I stand by the post. Whatever faults it might have belong to me, and all the public opprobrium being directed at Jordan Sargent, a terrific reporter, should come my way instead.”
Craigs said Gawker Media’s partnership never had acted to take down a post or even formally voted anything before, and that Gawker was left out of the loop.
Read said the post deletion was “over the strenuous objections of Tommy and myself, as well as the entire staff of executive editors.” He wrote:
“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.”
Gawker posted both Craggs and Read’s announcements as well as a response from Gawker founder Nick Denton. Denton said that the unpublishing of the post “was a decision I made as Founder and Publisher — and guardian of the company mission — and the majority supported me in that decision.”
“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,” Denton wrote. “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 stood by the reporter of the article, Jordan Sargent.
While saying he took the post down because it was inappropriate, he admitted the post take-down did have some business motivations because Gawker would have lost advertisers. He also noted that the story “was pure poison to our reputation” given Gawker is facing a $100 million trial from Hulk Hogan over Gawker’s publishing a sex tape of him.
Denton went on:
“This Geithner story was legal, but it could not be justified to colleagues, family members and people we respect. Nor was there any way to explain it to journalists and opinion-makers who decide whether we deserve the great privilege of the profession, the First Amendment that protects our most controversial work. The episode had the potential to do lasting damage to our reputation as a company, and each of our own personal reputations.”
Denton added that the unpublishing of the Geithner story was “a one-time intervention” and offered severance to anyone who quits over the decision.
Moving forward, Denton called for “a codification of editorial standards” that includes “some humane guidelines.” He also proposed a standard for publishing personal secrets:
“Everybody has a private life, even a C-level executive, at least unless they blab about it. We do not seek to expose every personal secret — only those that reveal something interesting. And the more vulnerable the person hurt, the more important the story had better be.”
Read all the memos here.