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Gawker Internal Memo Offers Buyouts to Staffers Against ’20 Percent Nicer’ Site

Site founder Nick Denton wrote his staffers 1,600 words on Sunday reiterating a buyout offer to those uncomfortable with the site’s softer approach

The newer, “nicer” Gawker moves to new Fifth Avenue offices on Monday, and site founder Nick Denton wrote his staffers on Sunday reiterating a buyout offer to those uncomfortable with the site’s softer image.

In a 1,600-word memo titled “Gawker’s Growing Up,” Denton again justified his decision to delete a controversial post about a media executive’s private exchanges with a gay escort, and defended his decision to make Gawker “20 percent nicer” than the no-holds-barred reputation upon which his empire was built.

“This is an opportunity to be seized, our best shot as an independent media company supporting the freest journalists on the web,” Denton wrote.

He also reiterated his vow to offer full severance to employees who are “accustomed to broad license” and “may not embrace even modest constraints in publishing and discussion.”

“At Gawker Media, it is not enough for a story to be true; it has to be true and interesting,” Denton wrote in efforts to define the site’s editorial standards more clearly. “It should be interesting not only to an in-house editor, but to our reader communities. And that interest should be worth the hurt inflicted.”

He did not clarify who would decide whether something was “interesting” in future.

The memo also announced a new company rule: an executive editor can be “fired or overridden with the agreement of both the Founder & President. No business execs will participate” (Gawker’s seven-person management team was involved in the decision to take down the Conde Nast gay porn story).

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Getty Images

Tommy Craggs, the former executive editor who resigned in protest Monday, declined Brian Stelter’s interview request Sunday, saying, “Wouldn’t want to interrupt Nick’s victory lap.”

Denton also restated his disappointment in his site’s editors for running the story: “While journalists have a natural preoccupation with their professional freedom, I remain ashamed that we would ruin the home life of a largely private individual with such a flimsy rationale.”

“Everybody has a private life, even a C-level executive,” he continued. “We do not seek to expose every personal secret — only those that reveal something interesting enough to warrant publication.”

Denton concluded the memo by restating why he started Gawker, what it stands for and what a “second act” will look like.

I was a journalist at the Financial Times. Whenever you work at a newspaper, particularly a newspaper with high standards, you’re struck by the gap between the story that appears in the paper the next day and what the journalist who wrote that story will tell you about it after deadline. The version they tell over a drink is much more interesting. It may be legally riskier, sometimes more trivial, and sometimes it fits less neatly into the institution’s narrative. Usually it’s a lot truer. A journalist will ask another journalist who has a story in the paper, “So what really happened?”–now, just think about that question. It’s a powerful question. It’s the essence of all meaningful gossip.

In this second act, some things will change. Gawker Media is growing up. But the essential purpose remains constant. Get the real story. That’s the company mission that should guide our journalism. And it’s the essence of the unique appeal of Gawker and the company’s other properties.

 Pamela Chelin contributed to this report