On Thursday evening, Gawker published a story from writer Jordan Sargent where he outed an executive from a rival media company who also happens to be a married father. The subject of the story wasn’t a publicly known figure or had a history of supporting anti-gay legislation. Overall, the article didn’t serve any public interest other than pure salacious gossip. Sargent took the word of a gay escort who was apparently trying to blackmail the subject and printed it verbatim. Worse yet, he decided to hide the identity of the blackmailer while outing the subject of the piece.
Gawker’s CEO Nick Denton announced on Friday afternoon that the piece was going to be permanently deleted from the site. This was after Gawker was roundly criticized. And it wasn’t just from other media outlets and journalists. The readers of the site weighed in and let their disgust with the piece be known as the comments section of the article was ablaze with protests and ridicule. Outside of the universal condemnation Gawker received from publishing the piece, Denton and the company are likely looking at a costly lawsuit coming down the pike. (Gawker is currently dealing with a hefty civil suit from Hulk Hogan right now that could severely damage the site if they lose it.)
However, despite the fact that nearly everyone agreed that this piece of shit needed to be shot down so as not to allow Gawker the ability to generate more revenue from clicks, the editorial staff chimed in on Friday with a petulant statement claiming they were severely wronged by the business side. In the one-paragraph post, the editors said that the process was all-important and that they condemned the taking down of the post as it was not made on the editorial side.
It didn’t stop with the defiant statement, though. A number of Gawker editors took to Twitter or the comments section of the staff’s post to weigh in and claim that they were fighting for the greater good. Of course, prior to the post being taken down, editor-in-chief Max Read did the site no favors by vehemently defending the content of the original article with this oh-so-mature tweet.
given the chance gawker will always report on married c-suite executives of major media companies fucking around on their wives
— max read (@max_read) July 17, 2015
On Sunday, the whine was still flowing. Jia Tolentino, a relatively new editor, weighed in with her response. She, like others before her, claimed that the issue was about the ethical breach committed against the editorial staff. By deleting the post against the wishes of the editors, a line was crossed that they were all told wouldn’t be. She further claimed that Gawker’s writers and editors should have the right to be as shitty as it wants as long as what they are saying is true. Below is an excerpt from her comment:
The pressure to take that post down was obviously significant. The post about the Conde Nast CFO was seen as a major ethical breach by what seemed to be a wide majority of readers, as well as what seems to be a decent number of people within the company itself. But the only action that is coherent to Gawker’s rough, aggressive, freeing and occasionally brilliant version of editorial integrity would be to apologize for it—if that had been the decision of the editorial staff. To take it down while Gawker editorial employees unanimously disagree in the strongest of terms removes the foundation of why all of us are here, as well as the backbone of the company’s best, most definitive work.
Everything special about Gawker comes down to the fact that it allows its writers to do whatever we want within a few basic guidelines; everything bad about the site comes down to that too. The whole point, I thought, was that we’d take both in favor of the former. The post that was deleted was shitty and controversial; the stuff that tests the Gawker ethic is always going to be. We should (or so we were told) have the ability to be shitty as long as we’re telling the truth; more importantly, we should have the ability to improve and refine our internal ethical guidelines through an open process that allows mistakes, corrections, apologies, and discussions to stand. This deletion sets a standard that cuts our knees out from under us. It’s frankly depressing as hell.
Much like has been the case with the other editors defending the right for that article to stay up, there weren’t many defenders. While most of the others who posted their principle-defending statements did not engage with the readers, Tolentino did. She also responded to some on Twitter, who let her know that this is probably not the hill you want to die on, considering the content of piece in question and the widespread derision it brought the company.
@markpytlik ok bud, here’s my take on the story: it was bad & I didn’t like it. Still think it should’ve been dealt with much differently
— Jia Tolentino (@jiatolentino) July 19, 2015
@jiatolentino You’re depressed? Did it rub you the wrong way? Gawker’s entire editorial staff should be out on the street. Fucking vile.
— Nick Antosca (@nickantosca) July 19, 2015
Jia also went a few rounds with a regular commenter who gave some legitimate criticisms. While the conversation remained civil from the most part, she ended it in a snit when the commenter compared the situation Gawker is currently facing with Rolling Stone dealing with the fallout of their debunked University of Virginia gang rape story. Of course, the commenter had a point, but it appears the editorial staff only wants to stand on their so-called principles rather than face up to the fact that they are responsible for the current shitshow their site is going through.
The fact remains that grownups had to come in and clean up the mess they created. That’s it. End of story. Stop digging you hole any deeper by complaining about it.
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