Two editors at Gawker resigned on Monday in protest at the online media group's decision to pull a story about a married male media executive seeking to pay for sex with a gay escort.
Tommy Craggs, executive editor of Gawker Media, and Max Read, editor-in-chief of Gawker.com, told staff and management in memos published on Gawker that the story's removal violated editorial independence. The move, taken on Friday after a 4-2 managing partners' vote, has been assailed by editorial staff, who called it an unprecedented instance of interference from the group's business side.
Read said "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."
The story posted Thursday night unleashed a wave of criticism that Gawker, the popular website about Manhattan media news and gossip, had overstepped the bounds of decency by reporting on the activities of a private citizen.
Gawker founder Nick Denton said on Friday the post's removal was "the first time we have removed a significant news story for any reason other than factual error or legal settlement."
"We are proud of running stories that others shy away from, often to preserve relationships or access," Denton added. "But the line has moved. And Gawker has an influence and audience that demands greater editorial restraint."
Craggs, who edited and approved the story, said in his memo to staff that he stood by the post and took issue with Denton's tack.
"The impulse that led to Thursday's story is the impulse upon which Nick himself built Gawker's brand," Craggs said, adding "the undoing of it began the moment Nick himself put the once inviolable sanctity of Gawker Media's editorial to a vote."