Gawker Media has named interim executive editor John Cook as executive editor.
Cook, a former investigations editor, had been asked to take the helm temporarily in July, after Tommy Craggs left the company. Craggs, who served as executive editor at the time, quit along with Gawker editor in chief Max Read, in a very public dustup that was linked to a controversial story concerning the sexual escapades of a senior publishing industry executive.
Gawker founder Nick Denton had ordered the story to be taken down from the site even though the decision was not supported by the majority of the staff. Denton’s decision was widely publicized through a series of company memos and an all-staff meeting, which was live-tweeted by a staffer, who later was offered a buyout to depart.
At the time, in a staff memo, Denton, who is openly gay, said he was “ashamed” of the decision to publish “a story on the private life of a closeted gay man,”and that the world has changed since he started the company in 2002.
“The company promotes truth and understanding through the pursuit of the real story — and supports, finances and defends such independent journalism. That is and remains its mission, and this story was in violation of it,” he wrote to staff.
Since the summer, Denton has been vocal about changing the tone of Gawker to be slightly nicer and less acerbic. He named Cook interim editor and then-deputy editor Leah Beckmann as interim editor in chief. (An editor in chief has yet to be named). Inside the company, there have been changes, including the recent departure of Andrew Gorenstein, president of advertising and partnerships.
Cook’s appointment as executive editor is largely viewed as a way to generate stability at the volatile media company. Cook served as Gawker’s editor in chief from 2013 to 2014 before departing for First Look. He then returned as investigations editor earlier in the year.