Univision Executive Explains Logic Behind Gizmodo, Jezebel and Deadspin Deletions

A massive Miami transcript.

It was purely business, insists Univision’s chief news officer Isaac Lee.

In the wake of his company’s decision to delete half a dozen posts from several of its newly acquired Gawker Media properties, following protocol outlined in clause VIII of their acquisition’s WGA East contract, Lee welcomed Gizmodo’s J.K. Trotter to Miami on Sunday Sept. 11 for a lengthy discussion. Also in attendance were Jay Grant, currently serving as interim general counsel for the Gawker properties, and David Ford, Fusion’s vice president of marketing and communications. The gargantuan transcript is divided into nine segments, reflecting the fact that at eight points during the conversation, Lee asked to go off-the-record.

Here is a just brief taste of how Lee explains at several different points the decision to delete the Gizmodo, Jezebel and Deadspin articles, which were viewed by Univision as legal liabilities within the complicated framework of bankruptcy:

“I don’t know if we have made any [editorial] judgment whatsoever. The only thing I can tell you is that they [the posts] qualify as a liability. If you’re going into a bankruptcy proceeding in an auction to acquire an asset where the liabilities are worth more than the assets and the commitment that we had with the company was that we were not going to carry on any liabilities from the past so as long as those posts are considered liabilities we could not take them.” …

“And the two Univision executives [who voted in favor, against John Cook] were not there giving their opinions. They were just executing a mandate.” …

“This was not a regular transaction. This was not the regular course of business. We acquired The Root and nothing like this happened. We acquired The Onion and nothing like this happened. We acquired Fusion, nothing like this happened. This was a very specific case of a company in bankruptcy where we had to go to an auction at the court and buy the assets. If that wouldn’t be the case, the situation would have been different.” …

“I completely reject that statement [that the deletions run counter to Univision’s declared commitment to honest journalism]. I don’t think that a transaction to acquire and save a valuable company with 100 journalists that are brave and deserve better can be counter to defending honest journalism. And if the price that you have to take for that is not to have the company that is acquiring carry dangerous liabilities to the future, I chose to pay that price and the only way that he [question asker Bryan Menegus] can know how we deal with controversy is how we have dealt with controversy in the past.”

Trotter’s “Very Long Conversation” is endlessly fascinating, with the reporter going on to relay to Lee questions from a number of other Gawker Media colleagues. Read; repeat.

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.