"Gawker Grows Up"

GawkerAfter big executive news last week, Gawker CEO Nick Denton wrote a long message to staff. Gawker's executive editor and the editor-in-chief of Gawker.com resigned after an article, which revealed that a high-ranking magazine executive was texting a gay escort, was removed from the site after a board vote. Denton explained the decision in a post, including, "The point of this story was not in my view sufficient to offset the embarrassment to the subject and his family." 

The executives' perspective, reflected partly in a message from Max Read (editor-in-chief) to Gawker writers, was about the faulty separation between editorial freedom and business (my paraphrase):

"On Friday a post was deleted from Gawker over the strenuous objections of Tommy and myself, as well as the entire staff of executive editors. That this post was deleted at all is an absolute surrender of Gawker's claim to 'radical transparency'; that non-editorial business executives were given a vote in the decision to remove it is an unacceptable and unprecedented breach of the editorial firewall, and turns Gawker's claim to be the world's largest independent media company into, essentially, a joke." 

In his message to staff, CEO Denton discussed these issues and announced management team changes. Part of his post addressed controversy about the removed story: 

"My professional life is committed to a free press and open discourse. While the reputation of our media brands remains a proper concern of the company, we do not and will not make story decisions based on advertiser feedback. Our credibility with both readers and advertisers depends on strong, incisive and independent journalism.

"I will put the company on the line rather than cave to legal pressure from the subject of a story, no matter how powerful. I will preserve Gawker Media's reputation for fighting press freedom cases that other media companies would settle.

"In regards to the recent story about a media executive blackmailed by an escort, I've explained extensively I ordered this misjudged exposé removed because it was not in line with the editorial standards I believe Gawker.com should maintain. And yes, it was also damaging to the brand of Gawker.com and the reputation of the company that shares the same name."

Denton ended his message, "Gawker grows up." 

Image source.

Discussion Starters: 

  • Explain the executives' and the CEO's positions on the removed story in your own words.
  • How is this story relevant to business communicators? 
  • Assess Denton's message to staff. What works well, and what could be improved in the organization, tone, writing style, and so on?