Gawker’s Top Editors Step Down After Gay Sex Scandal Backlash

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 4.54.11 PM

Well, it’s safe to say that Gawker won’t be writing about any gay blackmail scandals anytime soon. The online editorial mag which likes to dish the dirt and create it, has seen its top two editors resign after a story was pulled.

The story, about a married top executive at Condé Nast, seen as a rival to Gawker publications, hiring a gay hooker for sex and then ultimately getting blackmailed by the hooker, was ultimately voted to be removed — the first by-choice content removal posting in the company’s history. The controversy that stemmed from pulling the article was ultimately what served as the catalyst for the decision to step down by the two editors. Gawker’s Executive Editor Tommy Craggs and Editor-in-Chief Max Read, according to Gawker’s own coverage of the event, both “strenuously protested” the story’s removal. Ultimately they were outvoted by the governing panel Gawker founder Nick Denton put in charge after he resigned from running the magazine in December.

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 4.55.19 PM

“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,” Max wrote on the matter.

You can read Tommy’s letter, which Gawker published in its entirety here:

I want to give you some sense of what happened within Gawker Media on Friday, and what has happened since, as a means of explaining why I have to resign as executive editor.
On Friday, I told my fellow managing partners—Nick Denton, founder and CEO; Heather Dietrick, president; Andrew Gorenstein, president of advertising and partnerships; Scott Kidder, chief operating officer; and Erin Pettigrew, chief strategy officer—I would have to resign if they voted to remove a story I’d edited and approved. The article, about the Condé Nast CFO’s futile effort to secure a remote assignation with a pricey escort, had become radioactive. Advertisers such as Discover and BFGoodrich were either putting holds on their campaigns or pulling out entirely.
(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.)
That there would even be a vote on this was a surprise to me. Until Friday, the partnership had operated according to a loose consensus. Nothing had ever come to a formal vote, and the only time anyone had even hinted that the partners might intrude on a departmental prerogative was when Andrew Gorenstein wondered openly in a partnership meeting why Sam Biddle hadn’t been fired.
I’d learned of the vote via gchat with Heather Dietrick, who throughout the day was my only conduit to the partners, Nick Denton included. The only reply to my pleading emails about yanking the story was a sneering note from Gorenstein. That is to say, none of the partners in a company that prides itself on its frankness had the decency or intellectual wherewithal to make the case to the executive editor of Gawker Media for undermining (if not immolating) his job, forsaking Gawker’s too-often-stated, too-little-tested principles, and doing the most extreme and self-destructive thing a shop like ours could ever do.
All I got at the end of the day was a workshopped email from Denton, asking me to stay on and help him unfuck the very thing he’d colluded with the partners to fuck up.
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.
Will they ever explain themselves to you? I don’t know. This is from the partnership’s text message thread on Sunday [all is sic]:

Gorenstein: Im getting emails from Keenan at gawker re post vote
Gorenstein: In not dealing with her
Me: Yeah, God forbid you explain yourself
Gorenstein: I’m 1 of 5
Nick Denton: We will all need to be at the office tomorrow morning to talk with Edit. I propose a meeting before at 9am among the Managing Partners. And you can all expect to be asked why you voted as you did at the all-hands.
Gorenstein (still replying to me): Don’t give me that bullshit
Me: I won’t be attending
Me: I would encourage you to meet with all of edit, but knowing you people I doubt you will
Nick Denton: I encourage everybody to do so, also.
Me: So that’s what it sounds like when Nick has my back.
Me: By the way, Andrew, Keenan is a male. You all should get to know the writers you just sold out.
Me: They may not be around for long.

Then Nick accused me of being “self-indulgent” for making it “all about the writers being sold out” and for not being sufficiently attuned to the damage the brand would suffer.
But of course it is all about you, the writers. The impulse that led to Thursday’s story is the impulse upon which Nick himself built Gawker’s brand, the impulse against which Gorenstein sells his ads. The undoing of it began the moment Nick himself put the once inviolable sanctity of Gawker Media’s editorial to a vote
One of the least rewarding parts of this job has been subjecting Max Read to a series of meetings that resulted in the creation of the company’s “brand book,” articulating for advertisers what it is that makes Gawker matter. As it happens, initial copy for the brand book—which you can read here (or here)—was approved on Thursday just hours before Gawker’s Condé Nast post went up.
The brand book was a preposterous exercise. The essence of Gawker has always been what happens when we get out of those meetings and go back to writing and editing the stories you do that no one else can do. You writers are this company. You are funny. You are smart. You are vital. You are honest and righteous and pissed-off and stupid, so galactically stupid, and you commit hilarious blunders and you perform great, honking prodigies of journalism that make me proud to have sat in a room with you. Often you do all these things in the same day. You are this company. Nick forgot that, and I hope he one day remembers it. You are, you will always be, the best argument for a company that no longer deserves you.
I love you all.
—Tommy

This is Max Read, not Tommy btw, I couldn't find any morose pictures of Tommy looking crestfallen at the beach...

This is Max Read, not Tommy btw, I couldn’t find any morose pictures of Tommy looking crestfallen at the beach…

The step by the “news” site to remove the article also goes a long way towards keeping sexual matters private, and getting the quotations removed from the word “news” when referencing Gawker. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend going forward.

 

Share this because it’s a big talking point for media and whether outing people via scandal rags should be a thing.

Comments are closed.