Gawker Media's Executive Editor, Editor-in-Chief Resign Following Controversial Post

Nick Denton, left, speaks during a 'GOSSIP' panel discussion hosted by Standard Talks, at The Standard High Line Room in New York, Jun. 18, 2012. Craggs and Read, two of Denton's Gawker Media employees, resigned in the wake of Denton's decision to remove a post from the news site, a decision some have considered a threat to the publication's editorial mission of transparency. Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc/Sipa USA

Updated | Executive Editor Tommy Craggs and Editor-in-Chief Max Read resigned from Gawker Media on Monday morning. Their decision follows the removal from the site of a controversial story Gawker published last week about the sex life of a Conde Nast executive.

The story said the executive is married to a woman and allegedly attempted to purchase the services of a male escort. Gawker said the escort provided the publication the text messages it published purporting to prove the incident after the executive allegedly declined to help the escort with a legal matter. The executive has denied any association with the escort or the incident.

The story was vilified online and criticized widely by journalists, including some employees of Gawker. The post was removed after the managing partnership voted to do so on Friday afternoon. According to Craggs, this is the first such formal vote the partnership held.

A text message conversation reproduced by Craggs shows that one member of the managing partnership, Andrew Gorenstein, president of advertising and partnerships, was outspoken about taking down the post.

In one instance, it seems Gorenstein did not know the gender of Gawker's media writer, J.K. Trotter, texting in a group message that he is "not dealing with her." In what was seemingly a texting feud, Craiggs pointed to Gorenstein that Trotter is a man: "By the way, Andrew, Keenan is a male. You all should get to know the writers you just sold out."

Gorenstein is the only member of the partnership who did not offer comment to Trotter for an article about Gawker's decision to take down the post. He did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

Craggs wrote in a memo to the editorial staff of the publication: "The only reply to my pleading emails about yanking the story was a sneering note from Gorenstein. That is to say, 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."

This is the first post Gawker has removed for such reasons. At least two advertisers threatened to end their relationships with Gawker as a result of the post.

Read offered this statement on the matter:

On Friday a post was deleted from Gawker over the strenuous objections of Tommy and myself, as well as the entire staff of executive editors. That this post was deleted at all is an absolute surrender of Gawker's claim to "radical transparency"; 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.

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.

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.

Nick Denton, who founded the company, released a five-page letter he sent to the editorial staff of Gawker following Read and Craggs's resignations. Denton said the managing partnership, which voted to remove the post, "should not make editorial decisions" and that it was he who made the primary decision to take down the post. He said a majority of the partnership "supported me in that decision."

Denton added: "This is the company I built. I was ashamed to have my name and Gawker's associated with a story on the private life of a closeted gay man who some felt had done nothing to warrant the attention. We believe we were within our legal right to publish, but it defied the 2015 editorial mandate to do stories that inspire pride, and made impossible the jobs of those most committed to defending such journalism."

Denton did note that there were "absolutely" business concerns in the take down of the story. "If the post had remained up, we probably would have triggered advertising losses this week into seven figures," he wrote.

Replacements for Craggs and Read have not been announced. Before Craggs resigned, he posted a photo to Instagram showing he had recently charged a $546 lunch at Balthazar to his corporate credit card.