FAILURE TO LAUNCH
Gawker 2.0 Implodes as Its Only Reporters Quit
The new site’s only two full-time writers exited Wednesday in protest of editorial director Carson Griffith’s offensive remarks about everything from race to penis size.
Gawker 2.0 is blowing up on the launchpad just two weeks after the site’s first group of new staffers came aboard.
On Wednesday morning, the site’s only two full-time writers—former Vanity Fair writer Maya Kosoff and former Cosmopolitan writer Anna Breslaw—announced in a statement to The Daily Beast that they have left over concerns about Carson Griffith, the recently hired editorial director.
“We’re disappointed it ended this way, but we can’t continue to work under someone who is antithetical to our sensibility and journalistic ethics, or for an employer [CEO Bryan Goldberg] who refuses to listen to the women who work for him when it’s inconvenient,” Kosoff and Breslaw said.
The two reporters said they decided to leave the new Gawker after Bustle Digital Group—which bought the shuttered Gawker.com domain and its archives in a mid-2018 fire sale—refused to oust Griffith over offensive workplace comments about everything from poor people to black writers to her acquaintance’s penis size.
Kosoff and Breslaw said they met with human resources to complain of several instances in which they felt personally uncomfortable working with Griffith.
In particular, Kosoff—a former colleague and personal friend of this reporter—described to human resources an incident in which Griffith forwarded an unsolicited chain email showing the editorial director’s friends boasting they knew the penis size of a prominent businessman.
“My one good memory from the...trip (besides meeting carson) is him in a swimsuit,” one of Griffith’s friends wrote, according to a copy of the thread reviewed by The Daily Beast.
“Hung?” another friend asked.
“Ha! Omg I feel like that is a question Carson would know :),” Griffith’s friend responded.
The two reporters also relayed to human-resources instances in which they believed Griffith—who holds a management role at the site—expressed an uncomfortably negative attitude on issues related to workplace diversity.
In a Slack message reviewed by The Daily Beast, Griffith seemed to brag to Gawker staff that she had gotten them out of a company-wide diversity training session, though neither Kosoff nor Breslaw had asked her to do so. The two ended up attending.
During one of Breslaw’s interviews for the job, Griffith mentioned the snack selection at the office, and noted that she had a snack saved in her pocket.
“That’s so poor person of me,” she joked.
Kosoff additionally told HR of an exchange in which Griffith took a dismissive stance towards the recruiting of a writer who identifies as non-binary.
Kosoff, who was tasked with recruiting some new editorial staff, wrote in a Slack message that she was going to meet with a potential staffer “who is a person of color and nonbinary (uses they/them pronouns).”
When she returned from the meeting two hours later, Griffith initially laughed off the preferred pronouns.
“lol is [name redacted] a girl?” Griffith asked.
The two also told HR that they were particularly disturbed when Griffith commented in the small Gawker office that it may be difficult to hire writers of color because, in her estimation, people of color prefer to only write serious pieces about race.
In addition to the internal communications, Kosoff and Breslaw were concerned about tweets Griffith had posted in the past which were dug up by Splinter.
In a story last week, Splinter reported that Griffith used gay slurs, invoked bizarre racial stereotypes about Asians, and made derogatory comments about celebrities she perceived as overweight.
The tweets rattled the small new Gawker staff, the duo said, and caused an internal stir among other employees at BDG, a collection of digital publications that aims to create “impactful conversation around the interests and issues engaging women today.”
According to multiple sources, the tweets caused at least two potential new hires to express strong, newfound reservations about working with Gawker.
“It grew increasingly difficult for Maya to pitch writers and editors on the job, and she no longer felt she could recruit people to work under Carson in good faith,” the statement said.
In their statement, Kosoff and Breslaw said that after presenting human resources with these complaints—in addition to Griffith’s offensive tweets—the company told them that Griffith would remain in her role.
“We take all claims seriously and will continue to review,” a Gawker spokesperson said in a Wednesday statement.
The two reporters told The Daily Beast that they then refused BDG’s offer to be moved to other websites within the company, and also refused a severance package that included a non-disparagement agreement.
Aside from its controversial hires for the new Gawker site, BDG has recently faced criticism for how it has handled several others sites that Goldberg purchased at bargain prices.
Last week, The Daily Beast reported that former Mic.com editorial staffers were furious that BDG hired writers to complete articles partially written by the unionized staffers who were fired en masse shortly before Mic’s sale to Goldberg late last year.