Gawker ethics 101: Blame the source

Nick Denton is saving Democracy, one pubic hair at a time.

Nick Denton is saving Democracy, one pubic hair at a time.

Gawker Media's latest sex stunt has backfired.

Hot on the heels of its success with the Brett Favre penis sexts, Gawker went to the well one too many times and dredged up a not-very-lurid tale about Christine O'Donnell sleeping in bed with (but not having sex with) a younger dude. The website paid "low four figures" for the story, which is perhaps the sleaziest detail of all.

After a backlash from all the internets, including its sister site Jezebel, Gawker has published a mea culpa, though its more of a mea did nothing wrong.
In a lengthy, over-serious post--the likes of which Gawker would more typically mock if it appeared in other media-- Nick Denton "The staff of" tries to claim the moral high ground on a story that took great glee in describing O'Donnell's unkempt pubic hair.

Perhaps the most duplicitous part of this meandering, mendacious screed is where Gawker throws their "anonymous" source under the bus:

A good deal of the reaction to the piece was governed by revulsion at the voice of Anonymous, who certainly comes off as a dick. So yes, we will grant you that the 25-year-old guy Christine O'Donnell drunkenly pursued, and bedded, on Halloween night three years ago is not a gentleman. We wish she had better taste in guys. But our publication of his account wasn't intended as a celebration of his character.
Gawker conveniently elides the inconvenient truth that Nick Denton himself has already bragged about how a Gawker staff member ghost wrote the post (we're guessing the ghost goosed the pubes description):

From: Nick Denton
Date: October 28, 2010 3:52:52 PM EDT
Subject: Getting out of the way of the story

This Gawker scoop is an example of brilliant packaging. The composite image that shows up on the front is good; the pull quotes; etc.

But, best of all: the story was written in the first person. The journalist is a ghost-writer. The account is much more compelling as a result. As is the headline.
This is the exact same playbook used during the fallout from the Favre saga. If you'll recall, I asked Nick Denton why he burned a source to publish pictures of Favre's penis. Then, as now, he claimed the moral high ground.

@panopticon13 Our ethics policy? To publish the real story, the one that so-called sports journalists have spent their careers avoiding.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

The only difference is at least then he had the cajones to put his name on it.