Deadspin Mocks New Owner Univision By Cleverly Reposting Deleted Mitch Williams Story As New Story About The Lawsuit

from the funny-how-that-works dept

Right, so remember how over the weekend the spineless execs at Univision decided to delete six articles from various Gawker properties? The reasoning made very little sense. The company claimed that since it had only agreed to acquire the assets of Gawker, but none of the liabilities, it felt that it needed to delete the six articles that were part of existing lawsuits (they also changed an image in one that was the subject of a copyright dispute). As we (and basically everyone else) pointed out, this was ridiculous on multiple levels. First, due to the single publication rule, any liability likely would be only for that initial publication. But, more importantly, the lawsuits in question were all pretty obviously bogus.

Univision has been trying to go into damage control mode, including a long interview with JK Trotter at Gizmodo, answering a bunch of questions from angry Gawker reporters. Univision continues to stand by the line that this was solely and 100% about the terms of the transaction, in which they were not acquiring any liabilities, no matter how ridiculous those liabilities might be. They insisted there was no editorial analysis or First Amendment analysis -- it was just about the liabilities. Gawker's reporters are still not happy and have apparently discussed the possibility of a walkout. They've also directly posted their unhappiness about the decision.

But Timothy Burke at Deadspin (one of the former Gawker properties) took things one step further. Somewhat brilliantly, he's written a brand new article about the latest happenings in a lawsuit involving former Major League Baseball pitcher Mitch Williams. If you don't know, two of the articles that were taken down were about Williams, and he had sued Gawker over them. Of course, the court had already tossed out the claims against Gawker, since the statements made in the earlier Deadspin articles were all either substantially true or protected opinion. But the overall case continues. Williams is suing MLB Network, which fired him after Deadspin's original posts. So, in this new article about the lawsuit against MLB Network, Burke uses the opportunity to effectively repost every bit of content that was taken down by Univision management. And this is why it's clever: he's not just reposting it, but reposting it from the lawsuit. For example:
According to the lawsuit, Deadspin posted a follow-up article five days later titled “Witnesses: Mitch Williams Called Child ‘A Pussy,’ Ordered Beanball.” Here is that article as presented in Williams’s complaint (a transcribed version appears beneath it for readability):
You can go to that article to see the images and the transcription, if you'd like.

Now, normally being too clever on something like this could backfire. Courts, especially, dislike people trying to game the system in this manner. But here, this is a pretty savvy move. After all, the statements in the article have already been declared protected speech and not defamatory. And Univision insists that it would actually defend reporters on any new stories. So, if there was a lawsuit over this new article (which seems unlikely anyway) it would be an opportunity to test Univision management on whether or not they'd really stand up for these kinds of stories.

Now, let's see if the other Gawker properties who had those other stories taken down figure out ways to do something similar...

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  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 14 Sep 2016 @ 10:50am

    So what is the countdown to management being outed on any number of things.
    Every weasle has a stash of stuff they hide.

    Or have them all defect to The Register where biting the hand is a given.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2016 @ 10:58am

    I'd hate to be their boss

    This is a problem on two fronts for their boss.
    1. Univision has an actively rebellious employee specifically going around their superior's order to remove a story by using a technicality. There is also a contingent of old Gawker writers who are spreading out over other Gawker network sites, like the Concourse, who are trying to turn those subsites into Gawker 2.0. So how does this boss respond to a group of writers who do not want to listen, are openly going against orders and have been trained to do what they want?

    2. How does that same boss also protect and encourage their journalistic freedoms?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 12:59pm

      Re: I'd hate to be their boss

      1. Orders and threats don't seem to work, so firing them(assuming they don't walk out first) is probably the only thing left.

      2. It's pretty clear that Univision doesn't much care for the whole 'journalistic freedoms' thing or protecting any journalists they employ. The company comes first, if that means muzzling the journalists to appease anyone who might threaten a lawsuit they're all for that.

      Of course with the shift to a PR firm I'm not sure why they'd bother employing journalists anyway, so probably best for everyone if all the journalists left and looked for jobs elsewhere, so Univision can replace them with proper PR people.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      rebrad (profile), 15 Sep 2016 @ 5:13am

      Re: I'd hate to be their boss

      The answer is easy and not a left or right issue. Fire those that defy your policy. Writers are a dime a dozen. The boss then hires those that want to do the job you want. Writers have all sorts of rights but those rights are personal. No one can deny them that but an employer doesn't have to provide them the media for personal issues.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2016 @ 5:21am

        Re: Re: I'd hate to be their boss

        For them not as easy. They are Unionized. I don't know the details of their contract, but I would bet it is safe to assume they can't be let go for things related to writing. Hopefully they can let them go because they specifically defied orders.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mark, 14 Sep 2016 @ 11:01am

    I agree that Univision acted cowardly, but from a risk management perspective, even if the lawsuits "were obviously bogus," that doesn't mean it wouldn't cost millions of dollars to prove that they're obviously bogus.

    The Hulk Hogan lawsuit has put the fear of God into media companies, and while you can (and should) argue that, as a matter of ethics, media companies shouldn't surrender to the chilling effect of lawsuits, as a matter of corporate prudence, that's exactly what they do. The Hulk Hogan lawsuit appeared "bogus" at its inception, but look what happened. Moreover, what is "bogus" to you or me is irrelevant, because the ultimate determination of bogosity gets made by 12 randos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 12:53pm

      Money is replaceable, a reputation not so much

      If publishers aren't willing to stand up to bogus threats then they might as well drop the pretense of reporting news at all, as they become little more than PR stooges for whoever wants to use them at the time.

      If a company makes it clear that simply threatening a lawsuit is enough to make them drop a story, as Univision has done here, then the idea that they might ever report on or cover something that might upset someone(whether company or individual) becomes laughable.

      At that point they're just publishing what people want them to, and that's not news, that's public relations, with the difference being that usually people have to pay PR firms, not just threaten them into working.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Manabi (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 2:29pm

      Re:

      If Univision is that scared of getting sued over news articles, they should get out of the news business entirely. That's the only way they can eliminate that particular risk. Also, they shouldn't have bought the Gawker Media sites. That's sort of like killing someone on a busy street and hoping no one saw you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 14 Sep 2016 @ 5:45pm

      Re:

      I agree that Univision acted cowardly, but from a risk management perspective, even if the lawsuits "were obviously bogus," that doesn't mean it wouldn't cost millions of dollars to prove that they're obviously bogus.


      Yeah, but the lawsuit remains against Gawker, the company, not Univision. Could they update the lawsuits to include Univision? Yes, but Univision should be able to get those tossed because of the first publication rule.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2016 @ 11:30am

    Clever mocking related to lawsuits has gone very well for Gawker in the past, of course.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2016 @ 1:49pm

    So when will they re-up the Shiva Ayyadurai story?

    I mean we all know he's a liar, a con artist, a scammer, and a general dirtbag who invented NOTHING but his own ridiculous and completely discredited story: so will someone there please do the world a favor and shine a bright light on this filthy cockroach again?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 16 Sep 2016 @ 5:38am

      Re: So when will they re-up the Shiva Ayyadurai story?

      Erm, that's not entirely true; at the age of fourteen he invented a form of email that was not adopted outside of the group that was using it.

      He is not a filthy cockroach but he does exaggerate.

      That he whinges (and files lawsuits) when called out for the exaggeration is worthy of much mockery but let's not make a martyr of him, okay?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2016 @ 5:44am

        Re: Re: So when will they re-up the Shiva Ayyadurai story?

        I disagree. He's damaging the Internet by trying to take credit for the hard work of others -- including some who are now dead and can't rebut his entirely baseless claims. He's a slimeball who's trying to exploit the gullible in order to profit. He's a bully. He's a coward. He's one of the most despicable people on the planet, right up there with Trump and Shkrell. He should be mocked, belittled, and insulted at every available opportunity.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 14 Sep 2016 @ 3:15pm

    You forgot to add... and everyone is open carry and has exceptional aim.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2016 @ 5:50am

    Not how Single publication rule works...

    You realize that the single publication rule holds Univision to be a separate publisher than Gawker, right? Because of that, the single publication rule does not bar victims of Gawker's defamation from suing Univision if they keep defamatory stories up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2016 @ 8:23am

      Re: Not how Single publication rule works...

      *allegedly defamatory.

      Especially since I believe that no one (including Hogan) has won a defamation judgement against them yet.

      And since the articles wouldn't be re-published (especially not in a significantly altered/updated form), that may not re-start the statute of limitations clock either just cuz ownership changed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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