Top Gawker editors resign following removal of controversial story

Two of Gawker’s top editors resigned Monday after a managerial-editorial debate resulted in the removal of a controversial post from the website.

The managing partnership voted 4-2 to remove a story exposing a New York City media executive’s alleged negotiations about a tryst with a male escort, who’s also a porn star, who then allegedly tried to blackmail him. The vote was not endorsed by any current editorial staff.

Tommy Craggs, the executive editor of Gawker Media, said in a memo to the editorial staff, which was published on Gawker Monday, that he had told the partners on Friday that “I would have to resign if they voted to remove a story I’d edited and approved.”

Max Read, the editor in chief of Gawker.com, also resigned Monday.

The post included an apparent selfie of the media exec and screenshots of the conversations between the two, which included a lewd picture. It was widely decried as “Gay-Shaming, Not Journalism,” as described by Huffington Post senior editor Gabriel Arana.

The vote occurred on Friday afternoon, which Craggs alleged happened without his knowledge until Gawker Media president Heather Dietrich alerted him.

“Until Friday, the partnership had operated according to a loose consensus. Nothing had ever come to a formal vote,” he wrote in a memo published on Gawker Monday, saying, “The only time anyone had even hinted that the partners might intrude on a departmental prerogative” was when advertising president Andrew Gorenstein commented on a writer.

“…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,” he wrote, “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.”

Read sent a similar letter to the partnership, saying their decision “turns Gawker’s claim to be the world’s largest independent media company into, essentially, a joke.”

The resignations were met by mixed reaction online, but former Cragg employee and Deadspin writer Tom Ley had something to say on Twitter: “Tommy Craggs is the best boss I’ve ever had. He’s the best boss I will ever have.”

Jezebel editor Jia Tolentino called the dismissal of the editorial staff’s opinion an “ethical breach,” saying “having the non-editorial side of this company overrule the editorial side is inconsistent to everything Gawker wants to be.”

Gawker founder Nick Denton released an statement Monday, standing by the decision to remove the post, calling the situation “a breach of everything Gawker stands for, actually having a post disappeared from the internet. But it was also an unprecedented misuse of the independence given to editorial.”

He added that he respects “the strength of your convictions,” and that the resigned employees will be “subject to severance.”