Two top Gawker editors have resigned over the deletion of a controversial post on a married (to a woman) Condé Nast executive’s attempt to hire a male escort. Gawker Media executive editor Tommy Craggs and Gawker.com editor-in-chief Max Read announced their decisions on Monday morning, saying that they felt they could not remain at Gawker because the company’s managing partners — which include four business-side employees — had “[breached] the notoriously strong firewall between Gawker’s business interests and the independence of its editorial staff” by voting to remove the story. “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,” wrote Craggs, who was the partnership group’s sole editorial employee. He continued:
I’d learned of the vote via gchat with [president and general counsel] 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 [president of advertising and partnerships Andrew 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.
Craggs wrote that he was on an airplane when the vote took place. He also revealed that “advertisers such as Discover and BFGoodrich” had responded to the “radioactive” story by “either putting holds on their campaigns or pulling out entirely.”
Meanwhile, in a letter to the managing partners, Read wrote:
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.
In a memo sent to Gawker Media’s editorial staff, Denton took responsibility for deleting the post:
The Managing Partnership as a whole is responsible for the Company’s management and direction, but they do not and should not make editorial decisions. Let me be clear. This was a decision I made as Founder and Publisher — and guardian of the company mission — and the majority supported me in that decision.
This is the company I built. 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. 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.
He also called the decision a “a one-time intervention, I trust, which will prompt a debate about the editorial mission, and a restoration of editorial independence within more clearly defined bounds.”
Several members of Denton’s staff shared their thoughts on the situation, as well: