The executive board at Gawker Media voted Friday afternoon to take down a story published Thursday outing a corporate executive’s alleged efforts to pay a gay porn star $2,500 to spend a night in a Chicago hotel.
The story had been bashed almost universally for invading the executive’s privacy and for collaborating in the porn star’s effort to blackmail him.
According to Gawker, the decision was made after a 5-1 vote by Gawker’s managing partnership. The only dissenting vote was executive editor Tommy Craggs, who contributed to the story’s editing pre-publication. (RELATED: Exclusive: Interview With The Gay Porn Star Behind That Terrible Gawker Article)
Nick Denton, Gawker’s editor in chief, wrote a statement explaining the decision.
“Yesterday evening, Gawker.com published a story about the CFO of Conde Nast texting an escort,” Denton says in the statement. “It was an editorial call, a close call around which there were more internal disagreements than usual. And it is a decision I regret.”
Denton argues that the story involved “extortion, illegality, and reckless behavior,” which he says was enough to justify publication in a tabloid. He also defended the story as completely true.
“But the media environment has changed, our readers have changed, and I have changed,” he continues. “Not only is criticism of yesterday’s piece from readers intense, but much of what they’ve said has resonated. Some of our own writers, proud to work at one of the only independent media companies, are equally appalled.”
Denton’s post had a defiant edge, as he never actually apologizes or acknowledges any moral failings in the decision to publish the story. Instead, the post acknowledges that with Gawker’s greater prominence it no longer could enjoy absolute freedom in what it wrote.
“Gawker has an influence and audience that demands greater editorial restraint … It does important and interesting journalism about politicians, celebrities and other major public figures. This story about the former Treasury Secretary’s brother does not rise to the level that our flagship site should be publishing.”
Simply taking the post down is unlikely to assuage media critics who blasted Gawker’s original story as unethical. Some have already continued the drumbeat of criticism.
That fact that VOTE was required to take down this post is 1) frightening and 2) depressing: http://t.co/hTzEo2jxh7
— Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb) July 17, 2015
Uh, I don't think this is going to prevent Gawker from being sued into the Stone Age: http://t.co/FDr3UROeod
— Jason Rosenbaum (@jrosenbaum) July 17, 2015
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