After a horribly received article is taken down, Gawker loses its Editor in Chief Max Reid and their Executive editor Tommy Craggs… but not for the reasons you might think. That’s right, the two most senior people on the Editorial side of Gawker are gone citing damage to “Gawker’s editorial integrity” by the decision to remove an article without their consultation. Once you’re done rolling around on the floor laughing at the concept of Gawker Media having editorial Integrity, take a closer at this mess and you will see the many, many layers of utter failure.
To understand these actions we must first go back to the inciting incident. On Friday Gawker put out an article entitled “Condé Nast’s CFO Tried To Pay $2,500 for a Night With a Gay Porn Star.” The ethical implications of this, frankly disgusting, article will be explained in detail in a future editorial, but for now the facts are that Gawker outed the CFO of a competitor media company as allegedly gay whilst also seemingly aiding in his blackmail. Gawker acting like… well Gawker is nothing new, but this post triggered a backlash from fellow “progressive” tabloid blogs, their readers, as well as their long-time critics.
Gawker took down the offending article the next day, with Nick Denton himself citing the reason it was removed not because it was a baseless attack on a private individual. It just didn’t pass his “Is this interesting enough?” test. Gawker made an egregiously bad article, then Gawker acted out of character and actually removed said article amongst a shit-storm of backlash from their usually complicit readers. Case closed it seemed. Another chapter in the extensive laundry list of their unethical practices.
But nothing is simple or even vaguely competent when it comes to Gawker Media. Turns out the editorial staff were split about whether to take down the article or not. You heard that right; many of them passionately defended this mess and wanted it to stay up feeling that it isn’t dissimilar to Gawker’s usual output. Turns out that decision was taken out of their hands and the business execs on the site hit the panic button and removed the gay-outing attack article as it was rapidly tanking what was left of their brand image. Gawker’s editorial felt wounded and put out this statement condemning the removal in the strongest possible terms, as it is a breach of the editorial firewall.
So we have an attempt to clean up a mess leading to a bigger internal mess for Gawker. That seems to be what has spurred on today’s decision. These two editors have not quit because of the incredibly unethical conduct of the site and shameful behavior routinely exhibited by their writers — that seems to have been all encouraged under their tenure. No, the reason they have quit is because Nick Denton and the non-editorial side of Gawker Media went over their heads and tried to steady the ship.
The resignation statements themselves make amazing reading, with Executive editor Tommy Craggs flat-out saying “I stand by the post” and Max Read going into more detail writing “a post was deleted from Gawker over the strenuous objections of Tommy and myself, as well as the entire staff of executive editors.” Gawker’s editors seem incredulous their blank-check to print whatever they pleased and often cost the company money in the process. Its frankly incredible reading that two men chose an article (that by all decent measures should result in a lawsuit) as their hill to die on. This is a testament to rotten editorial polices in place throughout Gawker’s now rapidly crumbling media empire.
Gawker’s tailspin is still developing but this latest upheaval must surely signal a seismic change at the tabloid blog.
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