Truth is, Denton had every right to fire them–which he didn’t– and did the right thing. “This is the very, very worst version of the company,” he told the Gawker staff last Monday. “This is not the company I built,” adding, “I don’t want some guy blowing his brains out and that being on our hands.”
Yet Denton is being hoist on his own petard. He is responsible for creating these monsters. In the name of editorial freedom and the pursuit of “snark”–a quality he once praised me for showing early in my blogging career– he encouraged a freewheeling traffic-driven environment where writers and editors were trained to feed the appetite of their readers for breathless click-bait headlines, breaking news, scandal, gossip and stories not necessarily based on fact. (Better to get the traffic attending a juicy speculative tale and amend it later than wait for the truth to be confirmed.) These people even go after cancer patients for being too nice! All in a day’s work.
Denton compared Gawker to Vox and Ratter in an internal editorial memo:
“If you’re wondering whether a more explicit editorial policy will turn us into some generic internet media company, I’d say no: I see Gawker Media occupying a space on the online media spectrum between a stolid Vox Media and a more anarchic Ratter; close to the edge, but not over it.”
Perhaps he does protest too much. Check out this memo to Jezebel’s Jessica Coen last year:
If the author believes this, she’s working at the wrong place. And should be guided to a more congenial work environment. We’re truth absolutists. Or rather, I am. And I choose to work with fellow spirits.
(He quotes from the link above)
“Issue two is the reporting on the trans status of the subject. This is much clearer: Don’t out someone who doesn’t want to be out. The end. Everyone has a right to privacy when it comes to their gender identity or sexual orientation, and beyond this, the trans status is not relevant.”