Let me be very clear: I am in no way commenting on the topic or the post that this op-ed surrounds, as I didn’t receive all of the information about the David Geithner scandal. I’m not even touching whether or not the post should have been cleared in the first place. I wasn’t included in the emails. I didn’t have the discussion on the edit floor of Gawker about the pros and cons of running the story or killing it. I wasn’t involved in the vote.
What I do have a right to is my opinion about whether or not the Gawker Founder Nick Denton and the Gawker higher-ups acted in the best interest for their (already problematic) website when they removed the controversial post — which with a little savvy searching you can still find on the interwebs, FYI.
The most frustrating part of this whole story is that the media (save for CNBC) is kind of missing the point. This isn’t about the story itself. It ran. It’s over. A decision was made and the “Publish” button was pushed. On a story like this one, there is no coming back from that. The real point here is that, after Tommy Craggs, now former Gawker Executive Editor, and Max Read, now former Gawker Editor-in-Chief, made a judgement call based on information they received, an unfortunate decision was made by Denton and Co. to remove an already published post, stating reasons for which he fell on the opposite side of not one month ago.
On June 12, Nick Denton wrote an article titled, “The Free Price of Journalism,” in which he stated, “Being a tight community of free writers, independent as a company and committed to putting out the real story, Gawker Media can bear a higher level of uncertainty than most. I believe it’s more likely than not we emerge tested and stronger, clear in our responsibility to readers and the values of our writers’ profession.” In that same post, he continues, “there’s widespread distrust of the spin put out by celebrities, publicists, and the media they largely control — and an appetite for the real story, the story behind the story, which is Gawker’s specialty.”
One month later, Denton is removing a PUBLISHED article from the site and stating that the story itself just isn’t enough and that it “defied the 2015 editorial mandate to do stories that inspire pride.” So you’re inspiring pride and writing about bunny rabbits and kittens or are you telling the story behind the story and the unspun truth? I’m confused. Or is it that controversial articles are only acceptable when Denton is the one to write them? Food for thought.
The hypocrisy is mind-boggling. Gawker has quickly become a company based on politics, instead of delivering the truth, regardless of fall out and topic. And as for this “new approach” to Gawker’s reporting practice, it didn’t seem to come into play when he discussed the cost of free journalism not more than one month ago in the above mentioned article.
Craggs and Read were so against removing this post and standing behind the article, regardless of missteps, that they RESIGNED from their positions at Gawker. When Denton forced the team to remove the post, it set a precedent. And one I’m not all too comfortable with from a journalistic point of view. No one actually LIKES the truth. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have every right to deliver it. They didn’t sit on it or wash out some of the truth. They didn’t color it so everyone came out smelling like roses in the end. They shared the truth they were given. The fall out from that is what it is and one Gawker has to own. I don’t see how removing the post has, at this point, helped them in any way shape or form.
Instead, Gawker management did the exact thing they were trying to avoid: Bring double the amount of attention to something they intended to sweep under the rug. It’s the Internet, people. Nothing is dead here. It all lives somewhere and it’s just a matter of who digs deep enough to find what they’re looking for.
I’m not saying that Gawker hasn’t made some questionable calls in the past. I’m not even saying that they’re the poster child for what’s right in journalism or that posting this article was a good call. What I will say is that removing the post was absolutely the wrong call.
It seems to me that the point to remove the post is clear. In hoping to do damage control, Gawker thought they would satiate the public’s outcry and eradicate any damage done pertaining to Gawker’s advertisers. This was in no way done to protect their own “journalistic code” or follow some “Brand Book.” Since when did backlash and public opinion dictate whether one does or does not report something? If Craggs and team believed what they had was credible, and I believe that they did, then they had every right to report on it.
Ultimately, I walked away with two conclusions. The decision to remove the post only made the situation worse and Nick Denton may just be the most hypocritical man on the planet.