Gawker editorial staffers are speaking out over management's decision to take down a post that outed the CFO of publishing powerhouse Condé Nast. The story, based on an anonymous source, reported that the executive, a married father of three, attempted to solicit a male escort.
The story went up last night. Early this afternoon, a group of 6 managers (including Gawker Media Publisher Nick Denton) decided it should be pulled. By the end of the day, Gawker editorial staffers had condemned the decision in an open letter on the site.
"Our opinions on the post are not unanimous but we are united in objecting to editorial decisions being made by a majority of non-editorial managers," they write. "Disagreements about editorial judgment are matters to be resolved by editorial employees. We condemn the takedown in the strongest possible terms."
At issue was the Gawker managing partnership's 4-2 vote to remove the post. Gawker's executive editor Tommy Craggs and Heather Dietrick, president and chief legal counsel, voted to keep the post up. (Gawker updated this tally on Saturday and explained the earlier 6-1 vote mis-reporting). Gawker founder Nick Denton, COO Scott Kidder, CTO Tom Plunkett, Chief Strategy Officer Erin Pettigrew and president of advertising and partnerships Andrew Gorenstein voted to remove it.
In his note about the decision to pull the post, Denton says the site is not "the insolent blog" it once was. "Gawker has an influence and audience that demands greater editorial restraint."
Last month, Gawker's editorial staffers voted 80-27 to unionize, joining the Writer's Guild of America, East.
"Our union drive has expressed at every stage of the process that one of our core goals is to protect the editorial independence of Gawker Media sites from the influence of business-side concerns," staffers wrote in today's condemnation of the post's removal. "Today's unprecedented breach of the firewall, in which business executives deleted an editorial post over the objections of the entire executive editorial staff, demonstrated exactly why we seek greater protection."
Erin Gloria Ryan of Gawker's sister site Jezebel says staffers there "were rubbed the wrong way by the piece," but adds, "taking something down entirely after publishing—no matter how distasteful—is dishonest."
Another Gawker Media editor who spelled out his objections to Denton's decision was Kotaku editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo.
"Pulling the post didn't solve anything or hide it from existence," he wrote in a comment on the condemnation post. "I would have preferred, if anything, to have seen that article remain online, but surrounded with frank and lively debate by readers and staff."
On Twitter, however, the Gawker editors had plenty of critics unswayed by the editorial staff's objections to management.
That "every member of Gawker's editorial leadership" objected to removal of *that* piece suggests that Gawker needs to hire new editors.
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) July 17, 2015
So Gawker and Buzzfeed mainly differ in that the business side of Gawker has better news judgement than the editors, and vice versa at BF?
— Rusty Foster (@rustyk5) July 17, 2015
Gawker editors: we can print any mean bullshit we want & it's wrong for corporate board to call us on our unbelievable bullshit
— isaac spaceman (@IsaacSpaceman) July 18, 2015
That some Gawker editors are defending their gay blackmail story shows how utterly divorced they are from ordinary morality. Scary.
— Milo Yiannopoulos (@Nero) July 17, 2015
REVEALED: The hill Gawker staff apparently wants to die on. http://t.co/e2VjblN2Xg
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 17, 2015