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2 top Gawker editors resign after controversial post is removed

By Business Insider     Jul 20, 2015 in Internet
This has been a tumultuous few days for the gossip website Gawker. And now two of its top editors have decided to part ways with the company.
Late last week it posted a story in which it said the CFO of Condé Nast had sought out a male escort. Following a public outcry, Gawker decided to pull the story a day later.
Some in the editorial department disagreed vehemently with this move, claiming business interests trumped editorial freedom.
Now, both editor-in-chief Max Read and executive editor Tommy Craggs announced they were leaving the company.
Craggs' and Read's internal memos were posted on Gawker earlier Monday morning.
Read writes in his memo that the post's deletions was "an absolute surrender of Gawker's claim to 'radical transparency.'"
Craggs, in his note, mentions that the post was taken down because of heat from advertisers including Discover and BFGoodrich.
The shake-up underscores the current tribulations faced by one of the pioneers of the new breed of online publications that are challenging the established media for scoops and readers.
Founded by Nick Denton and Elizabeth Spiers in the early 2000s, the website positioned itself as one of the first digital-only tabloid-like publications taking aim at anyone and everyone in power. But Gawker has now transformed into a media powerhouse, which has put its editorial practices under heavy scrutiny.
Craggs, in his note, also lambasts the company for not keeping him updated on the controversy. According to Craggs' description of events, he was given limited information about the vote to remove the post. He writes, "None of the partners in a company that prides itself on its frankness had the decency or intellectual wherewithal to make the case to the executive editor of Gawker Media for undermining (if not immolating) his job, forsaking Gawker’s too-often-stated, too-little-tested principles, and doing the most extreme and self-destructive thing a shop like ours could ever do."
Both Read and Craggs blame their departure on a lack of trust in their superiors. Read writes, "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. In the wake of Friday’s decision and Tommy’s resignation I can no longer sustain that belief. I find myself forced to resign, effective immediately."
Gawker CEO Nick Denton posted a Google Doc defending his decision. "This was a decision I made as founder and publisher — and guardian of the company mission — and the majority supported me in that decision," he wrote. He went on, "That post wasn't what Gawker should stand for, and it is symptomatic of a site that has been out of control of editorial management."
Denton went further to say that this ordeal was an exceptional case, and one that should be a wake-up call to Gawker writers. "This is a one-time intervention, I trust, which will prompt a debate about the editorial mission, and a restoration of editorial independence within more clearly defined bounds," he wrote.
The CEO added that he believes the site now needs a "codification of editorials standards beyond putting truths on the internet."
This isn't the first time advertisers balked at stories Gawker posted. Last year Gawker ran a series of posts about the Gamergate movement that reportedly resulted in advertisers including Adobe and Mercedes-Benz tempering their ad dollars.
Additionally, the company is also in the midst of a high-profile lawsuit with Hulk Hogan over another controversial post it wrote about a leaked sex tape of the wrestler. This suit could cost Gawker as much as $100 million.
As of now, Gawker has yet to announce who will be filling Read's and Craggs' roles.
This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2015.
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