In a memo sent to staff on Sunday, Gawker Media CEO and founder Nick Denton declared the beginning of a new era for the bomb-throwing news and gossip site. The memo articulated the new mission statement of a gentler Gawker, after a week of internal and external turbulence for the site following Denton's decision to take down a post allegedly outing an executive at Conde Nast.
The decision resulted in two top editors resigning and an uprising from the remaining editorial staff.
But for Denton, Monday was a new day.
“And now for the second act. As some are already saying: Gawker’s growing up,” Denton said in the memo, which followed an email on Friday that offered severance pay to any staffers unwilling to continue working at a nicer Gawker.
Times Veteran Out
As of Monday morning, there was at least one more casualty: national security editor Bill Arkin, according to an email obtained by International Business Times.
“[I]t all happened on a Friday afternoon, including the throat clearing and cowardly call I got telling me to take the buyout,” Arkin wrote in an email announcing his departure to fellow staffers. Arkin, who previously served as an analyst at the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post, also announced his departure on Twitter.
Arkin’s email was critical of Denton as well as former editors Max Read and Tommy Craggs, who resigned over the removal of the post in a move that Arkin called “impetuous.”
Denton’s memo, meanwhile, made several concrete announcements.
Search On For Editor
On the editorial side, President Heather Dietrick will be leading the efforts to hire an executive editor to replace Craggs. In an effort to resolve internal disputes over the Conde Nast post, Denton also outlined some new procedures to address the “firewall” between business and editorial.
“To clearly define the church-state divide at Gawker Media, I am making the following change: An Executive Editor can only be hired, fired or overridden with the agreement of both the Founder and President,” he wrote. “No business executives will participate in the decision, even in an advisory capacity as occurred this month.”
He added that minutes from the meeting where he and the managing partnership voted to take down the Conde Nast post will be forthcoming.
Tech Officer Joins From Google
Gawker also will be hiring Ian Fette, formerly a product manager at Google, as its new chief technology officer.
The exact details of what constitutes a nicer Gawker remain foggy: On Saturday, a former contributor to the site used his old log-in to poke fun at the idea with a satirical piece announcing that the site would be renamed, “The Ultimate Nice Website."
— leon (@leyawn) July 25, 2015
But Denton has made at least a couple statements indicating what is in and out of bounds going forward, telling the New York Times on Sunday that the downed-Conde Nast post will remain a “litmus test” in hiring newsroom leaders.
Denton has also made it clear that moves like publishing Hulk Hogan’s sex tape, currently the subject of a $100 million lawsuit brought by the ex-pro wrestler, are still fair game at the new Gawker.
“We will continue to publish stories like that and we will continue to defend stories like that,” Denton told CNN’s Brian Stelter on “Reliable Sources” on Sunday. He said that Gawker would still out any public figures who deal in hypocrisy or make their personal lives known.
When Stelter asked about the concerns of his staff about Gawker’s editorial independence following the removal of the Conde Nast post, Denton said his company remains free of meddling from the business side.
“We will never and have never taken down a story because of an advertiser’s pressure precisely because that’s what attracts our audience, that’s what people come to us for,” Denton assured Stelter.
“And the advertisers who come to us, they come for that audience,” he added.