Gawker’s Top Two Editors Resign After ‘Gay-Shaming’ Article Removed

July 20, 2015 12:02 p.m.

Gawker’s two top editors, Tommy Craggs and Max Read, announced Monday that they were resigning from the news website after a story about a media executive was removed from the site last week, according to Gawker.

Gawker chief executive Nick Denton announced Friday afternoon that the website would remove an article that sparked widespread accusations of “gay-shaming” and blackmail of a publishing executive. The post’s deletion was decided by the managing partners of Gawker Media, despite protests from editorial employees.

In notes to the editorial staff, Craggs and Read wrote they could no longer effectively guarantee the editorial freedom of Gawker.

Craggs’ resignation letter painted a picture of a company in chaos as the article caught fire on the Internet. He said he told the managing partners on Friday that he would be forced to resign if they voted to remove the post. But he thought that unlikely because, as Craggs wrote, “Nothing had ever come to a formal vote.”

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The letter was scathing on how the vote and post removal took place and the role of Denton.

“No one told me the vote was actually happening, by the way. It just … happened, while I was on a plane to California. No one in editorial was informed that Nick had reached what he now calls the point of last resort; no one had explained what other resorts had been tried and had failed in the less than 24 hours between publication and takedown,” Craggs wrote.

The vote among the Gawker managing partners to remove the piece was 4-2. Craggs dissented as well as Gawker Media President Heather Dietrick. It was reported Friday that Craggs was the sole “nay.”

Craggs’ resignation letter suggested advertisers such as Discover and BFGoodrich were in talks to halt their advertising with Gawker Media. In a letter to Gawker’s staff posted on the website on Monday, publisher and CEO Nick Denton said one advertiser was “pausing” at the time the post was deleted.

Denton, whose letter to the staff said he “was thinking in the broadest terms about the future of the company,” said the original post about the chief financial officer of publishing company Condé Nast was an “unprecedented misuse of the independence given to editorial.”

“If the post had remained up, we probably would have triggered advertising losses this week into seven figures. Fortunately, though, I was only aware of one advertiser pausing at the time the decision to pull the post was made; so you won’t be able to pin this outrage on advertising, even though it is the traditional thing to do in these circumstances,” Denton wrote.

Read’s letter to the managing partners was much shorter and said the breach of editorial by business executives has turned Gawker into “essentially, a joke.”

After what Read called an “absolute surrender of Gawker’s claim to ‘radical transparency,’ ” he resigned.

Gawker has championed a culture of transparency. In one example, staffers of Gawker Media’s feminist site Jezebel criticized their parent company’s lack of action to remove anonymous commenters form posting violent pornography gifs under stories. After the public shaming, the company temporary disabled media uploads across the sites and now all sites have a pending comment system.

From Read’s resignation letter:

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.

This was not an easy decision. I hope the partnership group recognizes the degree to which it has betrayed the trust of editorial, and takes steps to materially reinforce its independence.

In a separate letter to the staff, Read urged Gawker employees to demand accountability as it moves forward with creating a labor union for its staff.

“Practically in the sense that the future of the site, and in most ways the company, is now in your hands. Collectively, you have the ability to demand from management the editorial protections you deserve, and I hope you organize this week to do so. I still believe Gawker can be great,” Read wrote in an email.

This post has been updated.

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