[UPDATED] Gawker editorial director’s memo: ‘I don’t want to tell you what to tweet, but…’

Memo from Gawker Media’s editorial director:

From: Joel Johnson
Date: Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 6:55 PM
Subject: Misunderstandings
To: All Staff

I don’t want to tell you what to tweet. But I do want you to think about how your tweets can be perceived without context. I’m as guilty as anyone about using Twitter as a place for absurdity and trolling among friends, but the last couple of days have made it clear how people are willing to conflate personal tweets as official company statements. If it’s willful conflation, then there’s nothing to be done. But try to keep in mind when a tweet could be innocently misinterpreted—and then don’t tweet.

I’ll be thinking about our need for an official policy about tweeting, including possibly determining that we still don’t need one. But the fact that I’m sending this email should indicate the degree to which errant joke tweets have become a pain in the ass.

Of course, this applies everywhere. This isn’t about cottoning to the fallacy of our age (ask Slackbot for details). This is about making sure that people can’t use our own ideas and words to undermine the truth of what we’re trying to say. That obviously applies to our own sites; increasingly, it seems that applies to everywhere we speak on the Internet.

* Gawker refuses to denounce their advocacy of bullying (theralphretort.com) | @sambiddle; 10/16; 11:30AM | @sambiddle; 10/16; 11:31AM



On Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 8:07 PM, [Deadspin editor] Tommy Craggs wrote:
As someone who is both drunk and responsible for the worst Gawker Media fuckup of the week, I probably don’t have any right to say this, but: this is shitty.


On Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 8:14 PM, Joel Johnson wrote:
That’s not very specific. But noted.


On Sat, Oct 18, 2014 at 12:52 PM, Tommy Craggs wrote:
Specifically, I was drunk on Johnnie Walker Red Label, my fuckup was this, and the memo was shitty because it broadcast the message that we can be cornered into a pious/CONTINUES disavowal by a plainly disingenuous troll campaign ginned up by some of America’s most prolific masturbators (can I say that?). I understand that a certain amount of realpolitik is necessary for maintaining cordial relationships with our advertisers, and that it’s easy for me to be righteous when for the most part I’m cosseted from any hard considerations,GAWKER but the memo and the apology – over what amounted to a few half-assed jokes of the kind my site specializes in – seemed to cross some sort of editorial Rubicon. I don’t think you believed a word of what you wrote, and I’m certain that Biddle didn’t believe a word of his apology, and it seems in all like a really bad move for a company supposedly dedicated to the proposition that we put true things on the internet.

And those tweets DID get at the truth of what we’ve been trying to say about Gamergate: that it’s an unserious and contemptible movement that deserves nothing more than half of Sam Biddle’s ass.


From: Joel Johnson
Date: Sat, Oct 18, 2014 at 1:52 PM
Subject: Re: Misunderstandings
To: Tommy Craggs
Cc: All Staff

In a vacuum, I don’t care for ever having to worry about public criticism. And while advertisers are too skittish—I just spent a week in SF talking to marketing people about why they shouldn’t care if they get a few knocks on posts or in comments, unless what we write is actually incorrect—we have to pick which hills to die on. Making a silly tweet about bullying during National Anti-Bullying Month gave a bunch of people with no clear agenda besides generating chaos a lot of easy ammunition. Especially when we’d been leading the conversation on our sites over the last couple of weeks.

I meant what I wrote. It grates on me personally, because like you, I don’t like anyone ever proscribing what I can or can’t say—especially dumb jokes. But this company is for all of us, and when it’s a choice between not tweeting a joke (or apologizing for it to show we can be gracious to even those that aren’t gracious or even rational) and I’d rather shrug it off and put our effort against what we actually do, which is to write pieces that can’t be misconstrued as saying something they are not. This is a concession, no doubt. But it’s not without a consideration of a longer view. I don’t think this one was worth fighting for.

Maybe I’m wrong, though. Maybe they’re all worth fighting for. But hewing to ideological stricture hasn’t always served me well, and I’m trying to figure out how and when to just walk away.


From: Nick Denton
Date: Sat, Oct 18, 2014 at 3:17 PM
Subject: Re: Misunderstandings
To: Joel Johnson
Cc: Tommy Craggs, All Staff