Former Gawker Writer Slams Retracted Report, Says Site Is Now "Short of Grownups in the Room"

Something is rotten at Gawker.
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Something is rotten at Gawker.
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(Photo: Adam Weinstein)

Adam Weinstein is one of Gawker's smartest and most talented voices. For the past couple of years he's written largely about national security under the "Fortress America" side-blog, bringing real depth and insight to the usual Gawker snark and creating a space within the site that rivals dedicated political outlets (which makes sense given that he used to work for Mother Jones). Weinstein never pulls punches and is a pro at breaking down complex issues and calling out bullshit -- which is why it really sucks that, in fact, he isn't with Gawker anymore. Turns out he was fired last month.

In an extended post at his personal Tumblr today, Weinstein walks readers through what happened to him, explaining Gawker's dismissal policy, which apparently involves keeping a firing secret if the sacked employee agrees not to talk about it publicly. The idea is that if somebody loses his or her job at Gawker, that person will have some time to find new employment and will then just appear somewhere else without any official word given and without any kind of embarrassment. Weinstein seems to have been within that period of silence but has now chosen to break it and talk both about what happened to him and about the problems he sees as Gawker these days. And while self-effacing and respectful, he doesn't hold back. What he has to say is tinged with bittersweet nostalgia for what the site used to be and disapproval for what it is now.

Weinstein's post is pegged off of the now-retracted and heavily criticized story Gawker ran yesterday which claimed that the CFO of Condé Nast attempted to solicit a gay escort and was eventually blackmailed by him. Gawker publisher Nick Denton wrote an uncharacteristically contrite piece explaining why the decision was made to go with the story and what went into the choice to ultimately pull it. Considering that outing gay people simply because its titillating has been a trend at Gawker over the past couple of years, some good might actually come of Denton's apology and promise of editorial discretion in the future. But according to Weinstein, there are bigger fish to fry at the house that Denton built. He claims that the entire atmosphere at Gawker is different these days -- and not different as in better.

Weinstein laments recent Gawker items that are "looser, less-well vetted and justified, a more cynical and malign simulacrum of the site’s past." He points to the Condé Nast piece as an example of that, surmising that a lack of conscientious editorial oversight was to blame for green-lighting something so petty and irresponsible.

I definitely feel that the latest incarnation of Gawker is short of grownups in the room to exercise some kind of non-holistic, non-shitty editorial and tonal judgment. The drawback of Gawker’s flat, wide-open editorial structure – what Nick Denton has recently called a “writer’s collective” – is that it’s only as good as the writers who run it. And my personal view is Gawker’s usual surplus of talent and insight is being undermined by a couple of people running things who’ve made it very small, very mean, and very jerkily gossipy without an intermediate process of reflection. So my view on what happened last night is that it was a symptom of that deficit.

To his credit, Weinstein doesn't throw any of his coworkers specifically under the bus and he defends a great many things about Gawker, particularly its writers -- again, he believes there's an editorial decision-making problem at play rather than a writing issue -- but the bottom line is that he still comes right out and says,"On the whole, this current Gawker is not an incarnation I can endorse and defend vigorously. It’s not a Gawker I’ve been comfortable contributing to for awhile." You can call this sour grapes or a "disgruntled former employee" kicking his old bosses when they're down, but anyone who's read Gawker for an extended period of time can't really argue with anything he says. There's a lot to respect and appreciate about Gawker and its media group, but the kind of thinking that would lead anyone to believe that outing an average person for no good reason is a good idea isn't one of them.

As for Adam Weinstein, good luck to him. Wherever he turns up next, I'll be reading.