Responding to the resignations of two top editors on Monday, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton acknowledged that "business concerns" contributed to pulling down a controversial article last week.
Mr. Denton's previous explanation focused on the pointless cruelty of the article, which exposed the alleged secret sex life of a Conde Nast executive, and an audience that now "demands greater editorial restraint." Gawker Media Executive Editor Tommy Craggs charged in a staff memo explaining his resignation, however, that there was more to it than that:
Advertisers such as Discover and BFGoodrich were either putting holds on their campaigns or pulling out entirely.
A spokesman for Discover confirmed that the brand had pulled its ads from Gawker. He declined to elaborate.
A spokesman for BFGoodrich said the brand decided over the weekend not to alter its advertising plans after all.
The managing partnership's four-to-two vote to take the article down, Mr. Craggs went on,
... immediately broadcast to the company and to its readers that the responsibility Nick had vested in the executive editor is in fact meaningless, that true power over editorial resides in the whims of the four cringing members of the managing partnership's Fear and Money Caucus.
In his response today to the editors' departures, Mr. Denton said advertising wasn't the overriding issue, citing among other problems Hulk Hogan's ongoing lawsuit against the company for posting parts of a sex tape:
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.
No, I was thinking in the broadest terms about the future of the company. The choice was a cruel one: a management override that would likely cause a beloved editorial leader to resign on principle; or a story that was pure poison to our reputation just as we go into the Hogan trial.
Mr. Denton tried to put a bow on the situation, arguing that the site's writers will have to get used to publishing not only truths but truths that are interesting and worthwhile. But it's a mess for the short term, not least because the original article could be removed but can't really ever be "unpublished."