The Gawker Controversy

Brett Favre can't seem to catch a break. Whether people are complaining about his play and saying he should be benched or whining that his injuries are keeping him off the field too much, he can't seem to do anything right - and that's just on the field. The ongoing saga of his alleged lewd behavior with a Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger is certainly notable for potential repercussions within the league, but much more so for the interesting question of ethics in journalism it raised.

Deadspin (a subsidiary of the Gawker group) was the news outlet to break the big story in the first place, coming forth with descriptions of the pictures and messages between Sterger and Favre. City Pages reports that in an interview, Gawker founder Nick Denton stated that they paid 12,000 dollars for the records of the texts and pictures in question. This raised ethics concerns on its own but was overshadowed by Gawker's "next big scoop."

Gawker then tried to create controversy and scandal when they published a story about former Republican Senate hopeful Christine O'Donnell sharing a bed (not copulating) with a younger man.

Gawker is not necessarily perceived by the public to be entirely reputable. Their stories have been called "skeezy and scuzzy" by The New York Times David Carr and other equivalent criticisms from a number of sources. What they didn't expect was Gawker returning criticism for their alleged ethical breaches by burning their anonymous source in the matter.

From a Gawker post in response: "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."

The other stories aside, this seems the bigger picture here. Any news organization has a basic responsibility to uphold the integrity of the craft, regardless of how trivial of stories they choose to publish. Burning the source shows Gawker's true colors more clearly than their story choice ever could.

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This page contains a single entry by Chris Cooper published on December 9, 2010 7:23 PM.

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