Gawker's Nick Denton claims moral high ground on Brett Favre penis post

Deadspin, the sports gossip site run by Gawker Media, last week published a controversial post claiming the existence of photos of Brett Favre naked except for Crocs.

Yesterday, the Poynter Institute, the leading journalism ethics institution, called out Deadspin editor in chief A.J. Daulerio for violating his source's confidentiality in pursuit of page views.

I wrote about the controversy in a post entitled Deadspin defends Brett Favre naked in Crocs story. Apparently,  the editors of Deadspin don't take criticism as well as they give it, because they immediately took to Twitter to call me a moron and a fuckhead.

So I decided to ask Gawker Media founder and owner Nick Denton if his minions' behavior reflected his blogging empire's ethics policy. Surprisingly, he responded.

Nick Denton goes by @nicknotned on Twitter, so I asked my question to him directly:

@nicknotned: Response to statement of @Deadspin media ethics policy as articulated by @AJDaulerio? than a minute ago via web

Denton's response:

@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

It seemed as if Denton was arguing that Deadspin had a moral imperative to reveal the existence of Brett Favre penis photos because it is a "real story" that "so-called sports journalists have spent their careers avoiding."

Let's analyze that.

Certainly, if Deadspin was exposing a serious crime committed by Brett Favre, or an ongoing pattern of misconduct that put innocents at risk, we could understand the moral imperative, even if it meant burning a source.

But in this case, we're merely talking about a sexy story calibrated to get page views. And in order to publish it, Deadspin editor in chief A.J. Daulerio betrayed his confidentiality agreement with his source, humiliating her.

For this transgression, Daulerio will see extra money in his paycheck, because Gawker famously pays bonuses based on page views.

Is this story important enough that it requires breaking one of the basic tenets of ethical journalism? Does Gawker Media advocate burning sources? Since Denton had managed to ignore the meat of the ethical issue, I decided to ask him again:

@nicknotned At all costs? Does Gawker Media advocate burning sources? Please respond to specific ethical question. Thanks.less than a minute ago via web

So far, Denton has not responded to the substantive criticism of Deadspin's post. If he does, we will update this post with his answer.

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