Even the Internet has its limits, and Web tabloid Gawker found one of them Thursday by apparently outing a married father of three whom you've never heard of.
On Thursday night, Gawker published a string of text messages between a male escort and a man it claims to be David Geithner, an executive at media giant Conde Nast and brother of former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The not-famous David Geithner arranged a one-night rendezvous for the pair, mailing half of the encounter's $2500 price tag in the process. But he backed out after the escort discovered his identity. So the disgruntled escort went to Gawker, which went with the story.
The website has garnered huge readership since 2002 by continuously redefining political correctness online. It serves up juicy gossip and haymaking opinions along with a side dish of more traditional news reporting. In 2012, it published a sex tape starring professional wrestler, reality TV star and full-time cartoon character Hulk Hogan (government name: Terry Bollea), who proceeded to sue Gawker for invasion of privacy. He's seeking $100 million in damages, a sum that could put the Web pioneer out of business.
Where's the outrage
Though the Twitterati shrugged off or even defended Gawker's decision to publish Hogan's sex tape, they led a pitchfork-wielding mob of social media users on Thursday. The sentiment was widespread and nearly unanimous, jumping from social to mainstream media overnight.
Man on the street
"Gawker, I would be very happy if Hulk Hogan beats you over the head with a foreign object and then takes all your money."--former New Republic editor Franklin Foer on Twitter.
Every member of Gawker's editorial leadership protested the post's removal, according to reporter J.K. Trotter, but management overruled. Editor Max Read defended the story on Twitter, saying that Gawker would "always report on married c-suite executives of major media companies" who cheat on their wives. Good thing there were grownups in the room. As founder and CEO Nick Denton described the post's removal: "[T]his can be seen as a capitulation. And perhaps, to some extent, it is. But it is motivated by a sincere effort build a strong independent media company, and to evolve with the audience we serve." He may also be thinking about the next lawsuit.
Lesson from Mom
Think before you publish.