Two top editors at Gawker Media resigned Monday, blasting the company’s managing partnership for breaching the firewall between business and editorial when the partners voted to take down a widely-criticized post accusing Conde Nast's CFO of soliciting a gay escort.
Editor-in-Chief Max Read and Executive Editor Tommy Craggs both stepped down in memos to the partners, published on Monday by Gawker’s gossip reporter J.K. Trotter.
“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,” Read wrote. “In the wake of Friday’s decision and Tommy’s resignation, I can no longer sustain that belief.”
In his memo, Craggs echoed Read’s reasons for leaving and also posted a sample of profanity-laced group text messages between him, Founder and CEO Nick Denton and President of Advertising Andrew Gorenstein.
“The impulse that led to Thursday’s story is the impulse upon which Nick himself built Gawker’s brand, the impulse against which Gorenstein sells his ads,” Craggs wrote. “The undoing of it began the moment Nick himself put the once inviolable sanctity of Gawker Media’s editorial to a vote.”
— Megan Hess (@mhess4) July 20, 2015
The post in question went up Thursday, alleging that a Conde Nast executive had solicited sex from a former gay porn star. Following pushback from the site's readers, other journalists and within Gawker, the partnership had an impromptu vote to scrub the post from the site. The comments section of the post remains.
The vote was 4-2, with Craggs and President Heather Dietrick dissenting to take down the post.
Gawker Chief Operating Officer Scott Kidder and Chief Strategy Officer Erin Pettigrew told Trotter that their votes to take down the post were in support of Denton. Gorenstein did not comment on his vote to take it down but was singled out as “sneering” by Craggs in his resignation memo.
Craggs also called the decision part of a creeping violation of the “sanctity of Gawker Media’s editorial,” along with a “brand book,” which according to Craggs was a manual “articulating for advertisers what it is that makes Gawker matter.”
On Friday, the Gawker editorial staff released a statement objecting to the vote and offering similar grievances as Read and Craggs.
The scandal comes at a precarious time for Gawker Media, which is defending a $100 million lawsuit filed by Terry Bollea -- better known as Hulk Hogan -- for publishing a sex video of the onetime professional wrestler with the wife of a friend and local DJ Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.