A comprehensive timeline of Gawker’s internal breakdown

Thursday, July 16, at 8:26pm — Gawker staff writer Jordan Sargent authors a post on a media executive who, the headline states, “Tried To Pay $2,500 for a Night With a Gay Porn Star.” The story outs the publishing bigwig, who is married to a woman and exchanged text messages with a male escort to arrange a meetup that eventually fell through. Gawker Media Executive Editor Tommy Craggs contributed editing, and Heather Dietrick, president and chief legal counsel, cleared the post for publication, according to Gawker reporter J.K. Trotter.

Later that night — Sargent arrives at a cocktail party hosted by Gawker Founder and CEO Nick Denton, where he is congratulated on the post by some Gawker staffers, observed party guest Peter Sterne of Capital New York. Other editors are “glued to their phones, checking Twitter and Chartbeat to stay up to date on the angry tweets from other journalists.”

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Friday, July 17 in the morning — “Criticism of Gawker’s decision to publish the story was swift and mighty,” notes New York Magazine’s Jessica Roy, while Gawker.com Editor in Chief Max Read continues to defend publication. As Craggs later puts it, the piece “had become radioactive. Advertisers such as Discover and BFGoodrich were either putting holds on their campaigns or pulling out entirely.” Craggs warns corporate leadership that if the post is deleted, he may resign.

Friday at 2:30pm — Denton releases a statement soon after Sargent’s story is removed:

“The point of this story was not in my view sufficient to offset the embarrassment to the subject and his family. Accordingly, I have had the post taken down. It is the first time we have removed a significant news story for any reason other than factual error or legal settlement.”

Gawker Media’s managing partners had voted 4-2 to pull the post, with Dietrick and Craggs, the sole editorial representative, dissenting.

Then, at 5:55pm — Gawker Media editorial staff, who unionized in June, release a statement in which they “condemn the takedown in the strongest possible terms.”

Saturday, July 18 — Read announces that if Craggs quits, he will, too. “I obviously would be gutted if Tommy left,” he writes in an email to Gawker.com staff, “and am desperately hoping he can be convinced to stay, maybe if we can make assurances of editorial protections in a union contract, or some other kind of ironclad guarantee that his power will not be diminished. I will be calling him all weekend and begging him to reconsider.”


Monday, July 20, at 11:05am —
Craggs posts a receipt on Instagram from Balthazar, a ritzy French restaurant a few blocks from the Gawker office. The tab, with tip, was more than $500 — paid to his Gawker American Express card.

A photo posted by Tommy (@tcraggs22) on

Monday, July 20, at 11:55am — Craggs and Read resign. In a memo to Gawker Media editorial staff, Craggs writes:

“The message was 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.”

Within half an hour — Denton sends another memo to editorial staff, which states:

“The insistence the post remain up despite our own second thoughts: that represents an extreme interpretation of editorial freedom. It’s an abuse of the privilege. And it was my responsibility to step in to save Gawker from itself, supported by the majority of the Managing Partners.”

That afternoon — Publishing halts on Gawker.com and Jezebel, another gossip and news site under Gawker Media.

Tuesday morning, July 21 — Jezebel and Gawker resume publishing.


At 11:22am —
Gawker writer Rich Juzwiak recalls his decision not to out an NFL player. Of the deleted post, he writes, “The story, in my view, wasn’t anti-gay, but it was inhumane,” adding, “Ultimately, I would rather work at a place that’s bold enough to fuck up than one that is too afraid to ever risk it.”

Tuesday at 12:30pm — The managing partners hold a staff meeting at Gawker’s Manhattan office, where they explain, “This was not a vote. This was support for a decision that Nick made that Nick has the absolutely right to do” (per Capital New York). Tensions boil over when advertising interests versus editorial freedom come up. “Make this into an advertising company then! Say what it really is! It’s not a place for journalism!” Features Editor Leah Finnegan reportedly says to Denton.

Then, at 2:26pm — Denton tweets, “Confused about the culture clash at Gawker? Here’s an explainer.” He links to a January article by Finnegan, “Zoe Saldana Gives Birth to Hipster Scum.” Denton had commented on the post, “I know you’re joking, but to anybody but your hardcore fans, this is just nasty. You’ll regret writing that headline.” Responded Finnegan at the time: “I never regret speaking my truth and criticizing a poor celebrity naming choice, Nick.”


Wednesday, July 22 —
Denton meets with Gawker.com staff for the third consecutive day, this time at a bar in Brooklyn to discuss the relaunch of the site the following Monday. A staffer in attendance tells Capital New York that Denton wants the new version to be “20 percent nicer” than the previous model. He later modifies that goal to “10 to 15 percent.”

Sunday, July 26 — Denton sends a memo to staff outlining Gawker.com’s “second act.” He reforms the process for editorial override, underscores his regret that “ we would ruin the home life of a largely private individual with such a flimsy rationale,” and invites writers who “may not embrace even modest constraints in publishing and discussion” to consider buyouts.

Monday, July 27 — The New York Times publishes an interview with Denton. “I bear responsibility for dodging a real debate about the purpose of Gawker,” he says. “The one good thing to come out of this misbegotten story is that we are finally having that discussion about editorial standards.”

Monday at 3:19pm — Finnegan announces her departure.

Tuesday, July 28, at 10:03am — One of Gawker’s most popular writers, Caity Weaver, reveals that she also accepted a buyout.

Thursday, July 30 Denton announces John Cook will temporarily replace Craggs, according to IBTimes. Leah Beckman will take over Read's position, with Hamilton Nolan taking on the deputy editor role.

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Danny Funt is a former CJR Delacorte Fellow. Follow him on Twitter at @dannyfunt